I've always believed that the money I put towards studying abroad was an investment in my future. The independence, global awareness and problem-solving skills that I learned will help me no matter what career I decide to pursue.
It's important to know how and where to place your study abroad experience on your resume. Only listing the program and years will not cut it. Explain to future employers exactly why your semester or year abroad makes you perfect for this position. Highlight keywords and skills listed in the job description and work those into your summary of the program.
The number one skill learned during study abroad programs is a second (or third) language. Especially if you studied in a Spanish-speaking country, this skill alone can mean the difference between you and someone else landing the job. I, unfortunately, left France knowing only the most basic of French phrases...and every possible term on a menu. Don't think about lying and saying that you are fluent in a language if you are not. Avoid that awkward moment when a hiring manager asks you a question in the language you claim to be fluent in and you are left with the most blank and confused look on your face.
Other common skills learned include:
1//Adaptability: One of my favorite stories from the semester was trying to travel from Paris to London as cheaply as possible. The best flight was on RyanAir out of Tours, which is a two hour train ride out of town. Obviously we wanted to make sure we arrived in plenty of time for our flight only to find out that our flight was the only one that day and the airport was closed until then. As our taxi driver drove off with a smirk on his face, we were stranded at the Tours airport for three hours. But we made the most of the time, caught up on back episodes of Downton Abbey and made a very interesting friend, who we called Al.
And then there was the time that one of our trains broke down and we were shuffled to a bus that took us to another station that would ultimately connect us to our destination. This occurred on the Italian-Swiss border so all of the information was given in a number of languages, none of which I spoke, so when in doubt, follow the masses and try not to get left behind.
2//Problem-Solving: When you don't splurge for an international data plan, you become an expert at either a) finding free wifi or b) reading a map and asking for directions. Also, navigating the Paris metro system for the first time is a giant, tangled problem unto itself.
3//Decision-Making: Before the trip, I had never planned more than a weekend trip by myself, let alone a weeklong country-hopping extravaganza. Yes, my travel bucket list was a mile long, but the logistics of getting there and where to stay was daunting.
4//Intercultural Communication Skills: While I may only be fluent in French cuisine, I did learn to understand and appreciate their communication styles. Compared to the American South, the French seem cold and indifferent. However, if you had to deal with thousands of thousands of foreign tourists gawking at your hometown while you are trying to go about your daily life would be frustrating.
Get the most out of your semester abroad, even after you have returned home and make your best vacation work for you.
For more advice on including study abroad experience on a resume, read here.