Nov. 18, 2015
Jeremy Kozler is a senior majoring in finance in the Eli Broad College of Business from Livonia, Michigan. He is an incoming investment banking analyst at Barclays and an active member of branded.me's Campus Leaders program.
The 13-hour flight seemed daunting as I prepared for my departure to Amsterdam. Born and raised in the Midwest, I felt unprepared and anxious to take my first international steps in the city so known for its waterways that it earned the nickname “The Venice of the North.”
As a 21-year-old who prides himself on never taking a set of stairs into a pool, it should have been just as easy for me to “jump in” to a study abroad program that was designed to put students outside their comfort zones and force them to conquer the fear of the unknown. My semester abroad ended up being a greatly valuable, transformational experience for me.
Here are three benefits of study abroad programs that drastically outweigh any initial hesitations:
1. Cultivate your academic skill set in a diversified learning environment.
Depending on the structure of your study abroad program, your coursework will be completed at either an international university (that teaches in English) or with a professor from your own university. My program involved multiple presentations from European businesspeople who were able to explain the operational differences between running a business in the United States and running a business in Europe, a unique way of conveying the material that students at my home university would have learned but not experienced.
There was much more of an emphasis on class participation than in my business classes in the United States. The speakers and professors valued us as people, not just as students. They wanted to hear our thoughts on both the coursework and on the challenges that we faced as students in a foreign country. It felt like a more personal learning experience, which encouraged me to put more effort into the class.
2. Develop a core group of friends who will grow with you on your international journey.
I rarely had trouble communicating with the people that I met on my study abroad because English is the most spoken language in the European Union. This made conversation easy, whether it was asking for directions or talking to a local at a pub. I was surprised at how often I could start a real conversation with someone that I had never met — a task that would be difficult in the United States.
It seemed like Europeans (particularly students) were genuinely interested in getting to know me even if there was no immediate or direct benefit to them besides conversation. European culture is less transactional than it is in the United States; building relationships is very important. I still keep in touch with some of the people that I met overseas (with the help of social media, of course).
3. Differentiate yourself from large pools of undergraduate talent.
Perhaps the most underrated benefit of taking part in a study abroad program is how the experience differentiates you from other job seekers.
Business culture is vastly different in the United States than it is around the world. Each country has different expectations for scheduling meetings, communicating ideas and negotiating contracts. I learned that showing up late to a meeting in Germany is the equivalent of not showing up at all. I learned that the Japanese tend to be very risk averse and prefer to have a longstanding relationship with someone before agreeing to do business. My experience abroad has given me the awareness to consider how someone overseas might react to something that is common in the workplace in the United States.
I keep my study abroad experience at the top of my resume under the education section so that it catches a recruiter’s eye. As I have been interviewing, my study abroad experience has been a main talking point.
In today’s increasingly global world, employers love to see and hear about experiences that demonstrate your ability to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Some of the most lucrative rotational programs for both recent hires and senior managers require time spent abroad, and employers will be confident that you can handle the social differences with ease if you already have that experience.
Reprinted with permission from branded.me