Attention college students: Want a job when you graduate? Then participate in a study abroad program. That’s the message from a 2013 survey by StudentUniverse which has been helping college kids travel the world since 1999.
What is Study Abroad
Most study abroad programs in the U.S. are affiliated with universities and offer a wide range of courses from art to literature or sciences. It can take weeks or months, but semester-long programs and summer sessions are most popular.
Study abroad stints in Europe were the overwhelming favorite of U.S. students responding to the StudentUniverse survey, with London, Paris and Madrid topping the list. Beijing and other cities in Asia also made the top 10 destinations, and China is expected to becoming increasingly popular in the future.
Survey Says, Study Abroad Students Find Jobs
Not so long ago, graduation ceremonies were immediately followed by the kids heading off to new jobs. Today, more and more head home with mom and dad to look for a job – which makes these survey numbers especially intriguing:
- 75%* claimed their study abroad experience influenced their career path
- 94% put their study abroad program on their resume
- 88% said it helped them gain employment
*Figures have been rounded
That last number is the eye opener, but here’s another from a 2012 survey by IES Abroad, which calls itself “the leading not-for-profit provider of study abroad programs” for U.S. students.
- Nearly 90% of IES Abroad study abroad alumni “found their first job within six months of graduation, as compared to only 49% of respondents in a recent survey of the general college graduate population who had found work within a year of finishing school.”
Does that mean all study abroad participants get great jobs immediately? Of course not. But there are other intangibles, plus you learn something (we hope).
“Studying abroad in China was a great opportunity to deepen my intercultural awareness and understanding. Throughout the semester I not only learned to speak beginner Mandarin, but also was able to take Chinese calligraphy lessons. I forged many new friendships with my fellow students and people I met while studying abroad.
Overall, my experience in China served as a capstone of my educational experience as a college student.”
-Claremont College graduate student, Jordan Myint, working with the Chinese.
Practical Tips for Study Abroad Students
If you’re interested in studying abroad, the time to plan is now. Program slots are limited so talk to your school and think about where you’d like to go. Then, the planning begins:
Check airfare prices about five months ahead. Try to make your purchase no later than six weeks before departure.
Winter is the cheapest time to fly to Europe. Spring and fall are relatively cheap too, but summer is peak season (with prices to match).
Don’t overpack. Airline fees for excess and/or overweight bags can run in the hundreds of dollars. Pack light.
Budget for additional travel. You’ll want to see more than the city you’re based in. Getting around by air can be a good deal, especially in Europe which has several discount airlines to choose from including EasyJet, Wizz Air, Ryanair and others (warning: these discount carriers love to pile on the fees for any and every extra).
Have fun. But don’t forget to do some studying.
Find travel tips and savings at FareCompare.com.
Studying Abroad was Hard but Worth it
By Bayla Pidgeon | Contributor
I studied at Sciences Po University in Paris, France for the fall semester of my junior year of college. As an undergrad at Georgetown University majoring in International Politics and International Security Studies, it was pretty much a given that I would be spending some time abroad. Georgetown helped me with my semester transfer, but I was directly enrolled in the university in Paris. This meant that all five of my courses were completely in French. Since I studied French for eight years before college, I figured I would be alright. It definitely took a lot of adjusting, but I did do alright in the end. Mostly, I LOVED living in Paris. I had heard all the amazing stories about study abroad, and I can truly say that my experience lived up to it. There are a few things, though, that I wish someone had told me before I left:
- Don’t bring too many clothes and extras! I ended up hating everything I brought and basically bought a whole new wardrobe to fit my new “Parisian” lifestyle, which meant I came back with WAY too much and had to pay ridiculous fees.
- Work on speaking the language as much as you can. Since I was in class speaking French all day, it was often a relief to speak English with my American friends. But I know that my French would have improved MUCH more if I had made a pact to speak French with them as well (like many people I know have done).
- Going abroad is HARD. For everyone. It is a huge adjustment for anyone to be completely immersed in a new culture. There are rough days. You might cry. But at the end of the day, this is something that everyone goes through and looking back, you really will only remember the good parts.
- And some practical advice: Get a credit card with a chip in it (available from all major credit card companies if you ask for it). Most European places only take cards with the chip, and if you don’t have one, it’s a dead giveaway that you’re a foreigner.
I also learned a ton of lessons overseas that made my experience amazing:
- I learned the art of being alone, and I loved it. When you’re abroad, especially if you are living in a home-stay type environment where your friends aren’t necessarily always around, you spend a lot of time going places by yourself. For many people (myself included), this is a difficult thing to do. But being able to explore a new place and see such beautiful things is sometimes better when you have the freedom to go at your own pace, set your own agenda, and reflect on life, love, and the spectacular things around you.
- It’s ok to take risks! Take a quick trip because the fares are cheap. Go on a date with a cute guy who asked you out at a café. Ride a bike down a crowded street (note: not for the faint of heart). Go on a hike. See a place you never thought you’d see. Try a new haircut. Change your style. Eat a million new foods. Personally, this was the first time I really felt like I could do anything. I cut eight inches off my hair (for the first time in my entire life), I hiked on a Portuguese island, and I forced my friends to visit the chatêaus of the Loire Valley in the freezing cold off-season with no plan whatsoever except our train tickets to and from Paris. Without these little risks and a good dose of spontaneity, my experience wouldn’t have been as amazing as it was.
- Finally, I learned that things aren’t always as bad as they seem, and if they are, it’s a learning opportunity. I struggled to adapt when I first arrived in France, I had a weird home-stay situation, I had professors who literally told me I was an idiot, and I had days where I didn’t think I could stick it out. Not only did I get through the hard times, but more importantly, I learned how to handle these challenging situations on my own.
My last word of advice is to take every available opportunity to travel around Europe. My friends and I went to a few places, but we put off our travels until it was too late, and it is something we all regret. With cheap flights available on discount European airlines and low-fare train passes, there really is no excuse. On the bright side, it gives me another reason to go back (as if I needed one).
All in all, I wouldn’t trade my study abroad experience for anything in the world. I made the best friends, saw some really beautiful things, took some risks, experienced a new culture, and greatly improved my French. Being But more than anything, I learned what I love, what I hate, and what I can handle. Study abroad gave me the kind of knowledge you can’t possibly get in a classroom, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Bayla, (middle) pictured with fellow students in Paris, is a graduate of ESD and currently a junior at Georgetown University.