If you’ve worked with a student who has studied abroad, whenever the question is asked, “tell me about your experience abroad,” you’ve likely said/heard typical responses such as: “it was amazing,” “transformational,” or, my personal favorite, “it changed my life”! While such responses are well intentioned, they are void of anything concrete that conveys the relevant competencies and skills that are gained from a global experience, particularly as it relates to career development. Understandably, it is a challenge to comprehensively sum up such an experience into a singular sentence; however, with demands to demonstrate the value of college from external stakeholders, we must shift our approach to better help students who study abroad to focus on more marketable and tangible outcomes.
If you’re struggling with this issue at your institution, you should know that there is a trend growing in the international education field called “Career Integration,” which began largely through the innovative work occurring at the Learning Abroad Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Career Integration largely focuses on creating intersections between study abroad and career development, and implementation can/should occur before, during, and after study abroad. The implementation varies based on the specific needs/priorities of an institution, but I’d like to share how my institution is approaching career integration.
At DePauw, we’ve launched an integrative service model under The Hubbard Center for Student Engagement, which merged our existing Career Services, Off-Campus Programs, and Fellowships and Awards offices into one experiential learning center. As a team, we work together to provide advising and programming in both career development as well as international education. I joined the team last July on the study abroad side, but because my background has been in career services, I have been able to work side by side with my career services colleagues to collaborate on career integration for study abroad in a number of ways.
First, we ask students to identify a career goal to achieve in their study abroad application, for which most students seek us out to discuss prior to submitting their application. Second, I created a short presentation on the employment value of study abroad, which includes data from IES Abroad’s Alumni Survey and NACE’s Job Outlook Survey that I give to outgoing students during their pre-departure orientation. Lastly, we launched a re-entry Career Integration program that invited alumni/employers who have studied abroad back to campus to discuss how to market study abroad in the job search, which was made possible through collaborating with my Employer Relations and Career Services colleagues within our center.
Admittedly, Career Integration takes a lot of concerted effort, but it generates so many important outcomes for our students who study abroad. Even though we are uniquely structured at DePauw, it all starts with collaborating with your respective study abroad or career services offices. Employers will thank you for it because your students will be better versed at identifying skills and competencies gained while abroad. Respond below to continue this conversation. Good luck!
February focuses on global career services. Find information on international perspectives to interviewing, best practices for partnering with campus international programs, and serving international students.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at email@example.com.