7 ways students can build in-demand skills while studying abroad

An Institute for International Education (IIE) study finds that studying abroad can change students' perspectives—and their job prospects, Laura Ascione reports for eCampus News.

Researchers from IIE identified 15 of the most in-demand technical and soft skills, then surveyed more than 4,500 college alumni about the degree to which they were able to develop those skills while studying abroad.

Based on the report, Ascione identifies seven key ways study abroad helps students prepare for careers.

1: Building soft skills. Of the 15 skills, respondents were most likely to say that study abroad helped them build soft skills such as adaptability, communication, problem solving, and self-awareness. Soft skills like these are in high demand among employers—a 2015 Wall Street Journal survey of 900 executives found that 89% struggle to find candidates with the right soft skills.

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2: Learning about new careers. Respondents said studying abroad helped them discover new career options they didn't know about or hadn't considered before. They also said the experience led them to set more ambitious career goals.

3: Advancing faster in all careers. More than half of respondents said they believe studying abroad helped them get a job offer or a promotion.  Longer programs were more likely to career advancement than short programs.

4: Improving communication skills. The longer students stay abroad, the more they improve communication and foreign language skills, the study found. But surprisingly, shorter programs had better outcomes for students' ability to work effectively with teams.

5: Giving STEM students a career boost. Around 47% of science majors who studied who studied a non-science program said it helped them get a job, and 28% of science majors who studied within the sciences said it helped them get a job.

6: Getting outside their comfort zone. Respondents who studied in a less familiar location were more likely to say the experience helped them build new skills and advance in their careers.

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7: Achieving their goals. Respondents who had a sense of what career path they wanted to pursue prior to studying abroad were better able explain how the experience related to their skill development and career progress  (Ascione, eCampusNews, 11/29). 

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