Study abroad experience can help flesh out your education details and make your resume more attractive to employers. It’s especially useful to feature if you’re a new college graduate or your relevant work background is limited.
But that doesn’t mean you should give every detail about your study abroad program. Providing too much information about studying abroad can clutter your resume and make it less appealing to recruiters and hiring managers. For this reason, you need to look closely at your study abroad details and filter out any information that doesn’t speak to your target job.
Complete the below exercise to make your study abroad experience a strong part of your resume.
Step 1. Brainstorm Details
You can’t review and filter your study abroad information without generating it first. So, your first step is to brainstorm.
Open a new blank document on your computer and save it as “Study Abroad – Brainstorming.” In this new document, write down the general details and things you’re proud of about the experience. While jogging your memory, don’t worry about the order, relevance, or organization of details yet (we’ll get to that in steps 3 and 4). Just write down whatever positive thoughts immediately come to mind. For instance, maybe you:
- Gained and applied strong foreign language skills
- Explored interesting new subjects through your selected courses
- Adapted to different exam schedules and academic standards
- Earned academic honors or a high GPA for the semester
- Navigated the city or town where your study abroad program was based
- Traveled to other cities or countries in the region
- Adapted to and learned a different culture, language, or currency
- Built strong, long-term relationships with a host family
- Visited local museums or cultural landmarks
- Developed positive traits like open-mindedness, curiosity, and cultural sensitivity
Step 2. Clarify Your Goals
1. Scroll back up to the top of your document.
2. Here, type out your goals for your job search, such as your target job title, duties, leadership level, industry, and company size. You may be undecided or indifferent in some areas.
3. If so, write that down as well. For instance, if you’re open to industry, write “Industry: open.”
Step 3. Delete Irrelevant Details
Save the document, and then save it as “Study Abroad – notes for [Target Job Title].” (So, if your target job title is Editorial Assistant, save it as “Study Abroad – notes for Editorial Assistant.”) You’ll be working on this new document for the rest of the exercise.
Now, here’s your most important task. Review your study abroad notes in light of the goals you’ve identified and delete any details that don’t hold relevance. This can be challenging at first. Take it one detail at a time. For each point, ask and answer the same critical question: Does this overlap with the type of work you’ll be doing in your next job? If your answer is no, you can safely delete that detail.
If you brainstormed a lot of details in step 1, consider using Microsoft Word’s “Split Window” feature to keep your goals literally in view as you scroll down and assess each point. You can quickly activate this feature on a PC by pressing Ctrl + Alt + S.
Don’t worry if you end up deleting a lot or even most of the information you brainstormed. The point of this exercise is to discover which study abroad details add value to your job search and to leave any/all other information on the cutting room floor. (Also, keep in mind any info you delete may still be relevant to a future version of your resume targeting a different goal. Hence the value of drafting and saving your master “Study Abroad – Brainstorming” document.)
Step 4. Organize What Remains
Now that you’ve filtered out all but the most relevant details, you’re in the best position to add study abroad experience to your resume. In most cases, this means simply adding the phrase “Study Abroad:” or “Study Abroad Program:” to your Education section, then listing out basic details and bullet highlights as you would a typical job description. For example:
Bachelor of Arts (BA) – English / Hispanic Studies, University of Syracuse, Syracuse, NY | May 2022
3.8 GPA | Magna Cum Laude | Distinction in English
Study Abroad Program: Institute for the International Education of Students, Barcelona, Spain (Spring semester 2021)
- Coursework included extensive research on major Spanish artists, including Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró
- Explored 20th Century Spanish history, with a focus on the politics underlying the Spanish Civil War
- Gained and applied advanced proficiency in Spanish and working proficiency in Catalan
You’ll need to take a different approach for any relevant study abroad details that fall outside the scope of your program academics. For instance, say you’re applying for a position as Travel Writer. Any trips you took to other cities during the program would likely be highly relevant to this position. But they weren’t a formal part of the semester, so they don’t belong in your Education section. What to do? Place the information in a separate “Cultural Experience” section on your resume. For example:
Barcelona, Spain | January 2021 to May 2021
- Learned and adapted to a different city, culture, and currency during study abroad program through the University of Syracuse
- Built strong relationships with host family, speaking primarily in Spanish and Catalan
- Explored other major European cities, including Paris, France; Vienna, Austria; and Prague, Czech Republic
In addition to the Education and Cultural Experience sections, you can feature study abroad in your resume’s Profile summary. Only do this if your study abroad experience is a major selling point for your overall candidacy for your target job. See our resume summary article for examples and detailed instructions on writing a great Profile summary for your resume’s introduction.
The Bottom Line
If you’d like to add study abroad experience to your resume, you should focus on its relevance to the job you’re seeking. Through this strict focus on relevance, you’ll avoid putting off recruiters and hiring managers with details that don’t speak to their needs. Follow this exercise, and you can be sure your study abroad experience adds a rich and interesting new dimension to your overall resume.