At whatever stage you’re at in your studies, the thought of your future career is always at the back of your mind. Deciding what you want to do and how to go about doing that is difficult enough, but thinking about how you, as an applicant, can stand out amongst thousands of other graduates can seem impossible. Sometimes you need to think outside the box and be a little creative when trying to give yourself that edge because, let’s face it, everyone seems to have good grades and work experience and the gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. In order to get that dream job you need a little something extra; studying abroad might just be that something extra.
Once upon a time getting a 2:1 or above was enough to get you a good if not great graduate position. However, according to the Higher Education Statistics Authority for 2011/12 graduate leavers, 68% of UK students achieved a 2:1 or higher in their degree. With most students getting a strong degree mark, it is clear that academic prowess doesn’t always make you stand out from your classmates, and being totally reliant on your grades might put your dream career in jeopardy.
However, if we look at British students who have any international experience either studying of working, the numbers are surprisingly low. It is believed that, according to last year’s Bologna process ministerial conference, only 2% of British students have any international experience. These numbers are shockingly low, especially when NUS have stated that there is a direct link between international study and employability. It’s clear that studying abroad can give you something extra that 98% of graduates won’t have.
If you study abroad it is clear that you’re going to learn something in the classroom whether you’re there for a semester as part of an exchange or doing a two years master’s course. Studying abroad gives you the chance to experience a different university, perhaps a different style of teaching as well as new knowledge on the course you’re taking. Knowledge is power, and knowledge can also lead to a better career.
Equally, it’s important not to forget that studying abroad offers a whole host of other opportunities that you might not have access to at home. For example take up a sport such a skiing in a Nordic country, something that you wouldn’t have such easy access to as in, say, London. And, of course, learning the language of your chosen country is a worthwhile lifelong skill…
We native English speakers often lie to ourselves as we are convinced that everyone speaks English. This is certainly not true. Despite the world becoming increasingly globalized and the general language of business is English, not everyone speaks English and therefore having a second or even third language can help you get that job. For example, if you want to work for a company in the UK who deals with a lot of Spanish clients, and you can speak fluent Spanish, you might have an advantage over other applicants who do not speak a second language. Learning another language also shows that you have great commitment to a long and difficult project, and it also shows that you can adapt and learn new skills when needed; all skills that are desirable to employers. The best way to learn a new language is by immersing yourself, i.e. going to live in that country, and you can do that whilst you’re studying.
Everyone knows that going to university is a life-changing experience. For most people university helped them to mature and grow as people. A mature, confident person who has had some exciting experiences can be attractive to employers too. Studying abroad can help you do this too albeit on a more extreme level. A lot of hard work and commitment is needed just to get to your foreign study destination; you have to deal with foreign public bodies to arrange visas, find somewhere to live etc.; all things that force to exert your independence away from the comfort of your home and familiar surroundings.
During your studies abroad you will also grow a lot as a person. Between making friends from all over the world, trying new foods, and having the time of your life, you will also learn about new cultures and really have to depend on yourself. Hopefully you’ll come back with some worldly knowledge that can help you stand out in the application process and interviews on the road to your new career.
Deciding to study abroad is a big commitment which takes a lot of time and effort to fulfil. Be that as it may, the benefits are rich as it will not only help boost your career chances, it will leave you with some amazing memories and experiences. Finally, above anything else, it will completely change your life and your view of the world.