International education is more accessible now than ever before, yet still only a fraction of North American students pursue this option. Other than it having the obvious benefits of fun and new experiences, how valuable is it to a student’s educational and careers goals?
I work with high school and post-secondary students to create strategic educational plans and career goals. One of the key points I emphasize for students is that after high school, they are in fact beginning to build their professional résumés. The education they pursue, the work experience they gain, and the skills they develop will be reflected in their résumé and will therefore directly impact their career opportunities. Students need to be strategic in their post-secondary education and pursuits. They need to give careful thought to how their education and experience will reflect their skills, abilities, and knowledge.
One of the main questions students need to consider is: What will make them stand out from other job candidates? What education, experience, and skills can they list that will give them an edge above others? And this is where international education plays a significant and impactful role. Whether it’s a course, a semester, a year, a degree, or an internship abroad, the benefits to a student are substantial.
From a career opportunity perspective, listing international education on a résumé will undoubtedly make it stand out from the rest. It signifies some key skills employers look for, including the ability to challenge oneself, seek out new opportunities, step outside one’s comfort zone, have improved communication, and acquire global knowledge.
In a 2013 study, AIM Overseas identified the following skills that employers identify and value in candidates with overseas experience:
- Cultural awareness
- Leadership qualities
- Global perspective
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Cultural understanding
- Independence (autonomy)
- Teamwork skills
Technology has created an interconnected and globalized world. We live in a global knowledge-driven economy. It is a key area of focus for many industries, government, and corporations. Employers therefore place increased value on international education and experience.
“International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st century education,” said Institute of International Education (IIE) President, Dr. Allan E. Goodman. “Studying abroad is one of the best ways undergraduate and graduate students gain the international experience necessary to succeed in today’s global workforce. And studying in another country prepares students to be real contributors to working across borders to address key issues in the world we share.”
From a personal growth perspective, the benefits of an international education experience are significant.
A large scale survey was conducted by the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) to determine the significance and impact that studying abroad had on student’s personal, academic, and professional life. Results showed that 97% said that studying abroad served as a catalyst for increased maturity; 96% reported increased self-confidence; 89% said that it enabled them to tolerate ambiguity; and 95% stated that it has had a lasting impact on their world view.
An international education is not merely a “fun experience” but more importantly a key strategic decision toward building a marketable and valuable skill set.
Maria is an educational consultant and founder of iSolve Consulting, specializing in educational and career planning for high school and post-secondary students. Her focus is to help students identify their interests, understand program options, and create a strategic plan for their future.