With approximately 60 percent of University of Richmond students studying abroad each year in increasingly diverse locations, many students are looking to correlate their international education with employability.
Representatives from Richmond's Office of International Education and the Career Development Center have recognized the importance of applying international experiences to employment opportunities and on Monday, Oct. 6, hosted a joint forum on "Marketing your International Experience."
The program was organized by Katybeth Lee, assistant director at the CDC, and Catherine Orr, events and publications coordinator.
Lee said the program had been directed toward students looking to take their international education in a few different directions, including students interested in working abroad as well as those who wanted to incorporate components of their time abroad while working in the United States.
"It's not just going abroad that matters," Lee said. "It's also important to be able to relate and discuss your experience." Lee also said employers had generally been curious to see whether an applicant had grown from his or her time abroad.
According to a handout from the CDC, spending time abroad is a sign of intercultural competence that is appealing to both potential employers and graduate schools.
"But it is important to be able to translate your experience into desirable skills that would apply to the workplace," Lee said.
A segment of the Oct. 6 meeting involved having students identify skills and qualities they had gained from being abroad that they felt would distinguish them in the job market. Skills discussed included adaptability, achieving goals despite obstacles, self-reliance and the ability to learn quickly.
The next step in marketing international experience involves finding a way to incorporate these qualities onto a resume, Orr said. It is important that the study abroad program's location, the subjects studied and the amount of time spent abroad are identified as part of the "Education" section of a resume.
It is also important to highlight your study abroad experience in an interview, she said.
"Using your international experience is not only applicable if you want to do something international," Orr said, citing that only half of the students at the meeting wanted to work abroad; the other half were people who planned to work in the United States.
An increasing number of students have also become interested in taking a gap year, Lee said. According to a handout from the CDC, a gap year is a term used to define the year students might take off school between high school and college, or between college and graduate school or career employment. Some gap-year programs include short-term and seasonal work, volunteer service opportunities, fellowships such as the Fulbright Grant and teaching English abroad.
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It is important that students considering a gap year set goals for themselves about how they would like to spend the year and what they want to achieve from their experience, said Joslyn Bedell, assistant director at the CDC.
"Come to the CDC to meet with an adviser to set some planning goals and a timeline for how to chart a course of the most enjoyable and productive gap year possible," Bedell said.
Orr also said Richmond faculty would be one of the best resources on campus for students seeking temporary or permanent employment, adding that the alumni office and CDC would be helpful in locating alumni and making connections.
"Be creative in how and where you search for your gap year experiences," Bedell said. "The possibilities are endless."
Richmond alumna Emily Tiernan said that during her semester abroad in Hong Kong, she had become interested in taking a gap year in Asia.
"I loved the Asian culture, traveled to many countries in Asia and identified South Korea as a country that I could see myself living and working in," Tiernan said. "It was well-developed and a lot of people spoke English.
"Marketing my experience in Hong Kong definitely helped me get a job in South Korea because employers knew that I had already been exposed to Asian culture. They knew I had visited South Korea and were confident I wouldn't decide to leave after a few weeks."
Tiernan also said that although she had not yet applied for jobs in the United States, she planned to reinforce her international experience.
"I think the knowledge I have gained here and my international perspective will be very marketable and beneficial when I return to America," she said.
Many students have identified international education as an important part of their college experiences, Orr said.
"Your international experience doesn't end when you get off the plane," Orr said. "Don't miss the opportunity to make that work for you because it will"
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