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Get an edge and step out of your comfort zone by studying abroad

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 13:10

With today’s tough economy, many students are worried about finding full-time jobs after graduation. So what is one thing all students can take advantage of that will help boost their resume? The answer is studying abroad.

When one applies for a job, employers often ask behavioral questions during the interview. For example, we have all heard some variation of “Describe a time in which you were faced with a difficult situation.” According to Yana Cornish, the University of Northern Iowa director of study abroad programs, students often do not have the experiences necessary to answer these questions. However, studying abroad can help.

“The study abroad experiences, 99.9 percent (of the time), always give students these kinds of things to talk about ... To me, that’s what makes or breaks a student’s application,” Cornish said.

Studying abroad can also demonstrate versatility. Being immersed in another culture pushes one toward becoming flexible and accepting, and in an increasingly diverse world, this is important to future employers.

However, it is not enough to simply go abroad. Getting involved in clubs and organizations and connecting with the locals is what gives students experiences to relate back to future employers.

Cornish said that if a student does not get involved during their time abroad, they are just “always a visitor.”

“Through the study abroad center, about 600 (UNI) students take part in international experiences throughout the course of the year,” Cornish said.

Considering all the benefits of studying abroad, this is a surprisingly low number.

Two of the major reasons students choose not to study abroad are cost and the believe that they must speak the primary language of their country of choice. Neither of these, though, should stop a student from studying abroad.

In terms of cost, it is relatively the same or even cheaper than at UNI. Current financial aid can apply to studying abroad, scholarships are available and UNI tuition applies to many of the programs.

It’s true that speaking the primary language of your place of study is beneficial in terms of immersing yourself in the culture. However, this is not a necessity, as the majority of UNI programs are English-based.

However, if you can’t or simply don’t wish to be away for a semester or a year, there are other options. There are several summer study abroad opportunities and there are now also short-term programs being offered over winter and spring breaks. Several of the short-term programs planned for this year include service activities.

While all study abroad experiences seem to lend greater maturity and independence to participants, programs with service activities especially “gives tremendous results ... for an individual that really shapes and somehow impacts our students to a greater length ... of a greater depth,” according to Cornish.


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