Expert Career Advice from IES Abroad Alumni

ies abroad logo
IES Abroad
May 3, 2018

Studying abroad can be a career-defining experience. After immersing yourself in a new culture, you walk away with skills that set you apart in the job market. Don’t take our word for it! Hear from employers their advice for making the most of your intern or study abroad experience.


janet napolitano
Janet Napolitano
President of the University of California, and former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
IES Abroad London, Spring 1978

Show You're Adaptable

“Many employers are international, and if you’ve had a semester or some time abroad that’s a good thing. It will show that you can operate and do what you need to do in a different environment. There is virtually no academic field that we have at the University of California—and we have every academic field—that doesn’t relate or couldn’t benefit from some time abroad.”

adam romanow
Adam Romanow
Founder & President, Castle Island Brewing Co.
IES Abroad Barcelona, Fall 2005

Identify the Skills You Develop Abroad

“The ability to communicate effectively is by far the most valuable skill I brought home from my time abroad. In Barcelona, the language barrier created challenges. In running a business, you’re constantly up against communication breakdowns with suppliers, distributors, accounts, customers, stakeholders…the list goes on and on. But the ability to clearly, concisely, and effectively communicate with these partners on a daily basis is key to running a successful business, and I cannot imagine doing what I do without it.”


brittany lo
Brittany Lo
Founder & CEO, Beautini
IES Abroad Paris, Fall 2012

Take Courses Relevant to Your Future Career

“At IES Abroad, I took Introduction to Luxury Brand Management that is, to this day, one of my absolutely favorite courses I have ever taken. Building a lasting brand takes a ton of well-thought-out strategy, and I gained a new perspective on branding from this course. To be a successful businessman or woman, I think understanding different cultures and having an open mind is key. Having the chance to live abroad encourages someone to step outside of their comfort zone, and see things from a different perspective.”

kurt stache
Kurt Stache
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Loyalty, American Airlines
IES Abroad Freiburg, 1987-88

Learn Another Language While Experiencing Other Cultures

“To be successful in our increasingly interconnected global business world, my advice to students is to take advantage of any opportunity to experience other cultures, be it via study abroad programs, international travel, or hosting foreign exchange students here at home. Learning foreign languages is integral to that process. The more students can broaden their college experience by interacting with people from other parts of the globe, the more prepared they will be for the global business world.

Electing classes that address international topics and getting involved in international clubs on campus is another way to increase exposure to the world beyond the United States. In my experience, however, the best way to truly gain a global perspective is to live abroad. It is difficult to gain a truly global mindset unless you leave your familiar and comfortable surroundings and immerse yourself in a foreign country.”

Sophie babcock
Sophie Babcock
Associate, Golin
IES Abroad London, 2014

Prepare How to Professionally Speak About Your Study Abroad Experience

“When returning home from a whirlwind semester, summer, or stint abroad, the simple question ‘How was your study abroad trip?’ often proves itself to be complex when answering to your parents, friends, or teachers. After all, summarizing an experience that likely left you speechless a time or two isn’t easy. So on you go, rattling off memories of good food and laughter, captivating sites, and interesting new people.

And while your best friend is eager to hear all of your exciting stories, considering how you may present your experience to a future employer in an interview is important. Here are some tips for marketing your study abroad experience professionally:

  • On your résumé, showcase your soft skills. While you may not have realized it at the time, living and studying or working in a foreign country requires stepping out of your comfort zone, problem solving, managing money, and practicing constant cross-cultural communication. Don’t be afraid to show that off on paper.
  • In an interview, be prepared to elaborate on experiences that shaped you. While not every moment abroad is life-altering, you likely learned a lot about yourself that time you got lost on the Metra and ended up in an unfamiliar place, or discovered your passion for cinema after signing up for a class on a whim. Taking the plunge to study abroad is a big deal, and future employers will appreciate a candid and thoughtful response on how you grew from the experience.”

Get ready to launch your career with study abroad, and read more career advice in our e-book, Making the Most of Study Abroad: A Guide for the Career-Minded Student.

IES Abroad News

Read More

IES Abroad regularly publishes news stories, articles, student stories, and other helpful study abroad content. Stay up to date on the latest from IES Abroad by reading our recent posts.

View All IES Abroad News