I returned home from my semester abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, with enough stories to fill a novel. I love to talk about the incredible places I explored, the delicious food I tried, and the extraordinary people I met. My stories come so easily in casual conversation with friends or family. Yet, when it comes to sharing my experience in an interview, I find it quite challenging to condense my entire semester into just a few minutes.
It may be challenging, but I think it is important to share your study abroad experiences while interviewing. It helps a potential employer get to know who you are and how you will succeed in a job or internship position, particularly using the skills you expanded upon while abroad. I use the following three points in interviews with potential employers to get to the essence of my semester abroad:
Everyone decides to go abroad for a reason. I ask myself, why did I decide to study abroad? I studied abroad to improve my French language skills, so I emphasize that I took four French courses during my time abroad. Did you want to travel, intern abroad, learn about their government and international relations, or go simply to immerse yourself in another culture or language, or complete a service project? However you define it, use it. Explain your motivation and share what you did to fulfill your purpose.
The skills acquired while studying abroad are unique to each experience. Think about your semester or summer and reflect on what you learned throughout your time abroad. How did you change from the day you arrived until the day you departed? Did you learn to be more organized, outgoing, independent, adaptive, or accepting? Employers want to hear from you information they cannot glean from your resume. Utilize your strengths to show that you are a strong candidate.
Finally, explain how your study abroad experience will lead you to success in the workplace. How will you use your skills to be an exceptional intern or employee? Will the confidence you gained from traveling allow you to be a self-starter in the office? Show that your passion and skills will serve as assets in your professional life.
My few months in France not only made for one of the best semesters of my college experience, but it was also a time of challenge and growth. I began with the goal of improving my French language skills, but by the end of the semester, I achieved that goal and gained so many invaluable life skills in the process.
I always try to highlight my study abroad experience in an interview, as it exemplifies my passion, skills, and potential. And it never fails to give me something interesting to talk about.
Brigid Nealon is the Fall 2018 Alumni Ambassador in Aix en Provence, France, and is currently studying at James Madison University.