• Focus On: Travel Abroad

    Living, Working Overseas Enhances Employability

    By Janet Mizrahi
    Newsletter Editor

    Whether it's a study abroad program, a post-graduate volunteering stint, or a do-it-yourself backpacking trip, the experience of travel helps students build the confidence and skill sets they need to land jobs.

    Travel abroad used to be for the privileged. But today college students from across all socioeconomic strata in the U.S. are finding their student status is a cost-effective way to learn about foreign cultures. In some cases study abroad programs cost less than study at home because living expenses may be cheaper overseas.

    Many young people wait until after college to travel. Projects Abroad, an organization that puts together international volunteer programs specifically geared to students and graduates, has seen an uptick in its applicants in recent years. As students defer their job searches due to the recession, they reason that travel abroad trumps competing in a tight labor market.

    Tom Pastorius, vice president Projects Abroad, says that traveling and working abroad round out a résumé while teaching young people about different cultures. "Whatever job you're doing, you are building fairly universal skills," Pastorius says. This in turn makes the young graduate more attractive to a future employer.

    Many young people find that landing a teaching job abroad is the best route. One graduate whose firm in the U.S. closed its doors looked at her unemployment as an opportunity to travel. She ended up teaching in Korea, where the economic downturn was less significant. Programs such as the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program are similarly popular. After living and teaching in another country, young people have learned the importance of flexibility and adaptability. They've also gained practice speaking another language.

    Some graduates don't bother signing up for a specific program. They buy a one-way ticket to a destination and then look for work. One young grad chose Rome first and sought a job there second. She wanted to spend time in a country whose language she had learned while in college. Her first job in Rome was teaching English, but now she is working as a production assistant for an Italian film company.

    Students who study abroad universally agree the experience was not just worth the time—they say they wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

    Source: Schiavone, K. (2011, Aug. 7). The places you'll go. Los Angeles Times, p. B4.