The number of American students participating in study abroad programs has more than tripled over the past two decades. In the 2009-2010 academic year alone, approximately 270,600 students immersed themselves in foreign culture while studying at host institutions outside of the United States (Institute of International Education, 2011). This noteworthy increase in study abroad participation might in part be due to institutions like Goucher College and Arcadia University, who have pioneered programs requiring students to obtain some academic credit abroad in order to be eligible for graduation (Fischer, 2008, June 20). Statistics related to study abroad participation will continue to increase, especially in light of the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program’s goal of sending one million American students to study abroad annually by the 2016-2017 academic year (BaileyShea, 2009).
Why such a big push for study abroad, you might ask? Well, quite frankly, because it can often end up changing just about everything for those who participate (Chapman, 2011). First, study abroad participation often leads to interest in new vocational options as well as the unanticipated desire to pursue graduate study or careers abroad. However, as only a few participants typically study abroad with career goals in mind, students often find themselves unprepared for the many career development opportunities available to them abroad and often only recognize missed opportunities retrospectively. Second, study abroad participation often supports significant multidimensional growth, including (among other outcomes):
These are all qualities that could be highly marketable to future employers, and the wealth of meaningful experiences could prove valuable during interviews. Sadly, students often struggle to put words to their experiences and fail to “give meaning to their experiences in a way that employers could identify” (Collegiate Employment Research Institute, CERI, 2008, p.4).
A need therefore exists for career services professionals to assist study abroad participants as they prepare for the foreign study experience, while they explore themselves and careers abroad, and upon their return home. Strategies to best meet the unique career development needs of these students follow.
Pre-Departure Assistance and Career Center Programming
Career Assistance While Abroad
Career Services Upon Return from the Study Abroad Experience
Study abroad participants benefit greatly from targeted career development programming because most are not focused on career outcomes as they prepare for the adventure ahead. Fortunately, career services professionals are in the unique position to purposefully insert themselves into the pre-departure planning, abroad experiences, and readjustment of participants to help ensure that meaningful career development takes place.
BaileyShea, C. (2009). Factors that affect American college students’ participation in study abroad. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation.) University of Rochester, Rochester, NY.
Chapman, V. V. (2011). “Beyond the bubble:” Study abroad and the psychosocial and career development of undergraduates (Doctoral dissertation). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Database (AAT 3461273).
Collegiate Employment Research Institute (2008). Unpacking your study abroad experience: Critical reflection for workplace competencies. Research Brief 1(1). Retrieved April 9, 2011 from http://ceri.msu.edu/publications/pdf/brief1-2008final.pdf.
Fischer, K. (2008, June 20). All abroad! Overseas study required. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(41), A1.
Gardner, P., Steglitz, I., & Gross, L. (2009). Translating study abroad experiences for workplace competencies. AAC&U Peer Review, 11(4), 19-22.
Institute for International Education (2011). Open Doors 2011 Fast Facts. Retrieved April 29, 2012 from http://www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors.
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Vera V. Chapman, Ph.D, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor currently practicing as a Career Planning Specialist at The University of Mississippi while also teaching in an Adjunct capacity. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, a study abroad experience to Clemson University in turn led her to The University of Mississippi, where she pursued graduate degrees in Counseling and Higher Education. She finds great purpose in empowering others toward becoming the most extraordinary version of themselves – something she likes to call, “chasing your fire.” Vera actively shares career success strategies through Twitter (@VeraVChapman) and blogging (ChasingYourFire.com). She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.