Career Skills Gained Abroad: Emily’s Experience

May 8, 2024

API would like to introduce you to API Ambassador  Emily Aleckson. Emily spent a semester abroad in Ireland during the Spring 2023 term, and returned to share the insights from her journey, specifically career-related skills gained abroad. Read on to learn more! 

Before I left to go abroad, I heard countless people say that studying abroad changed their lives and that I won’t be the same person when I return. They were right! Going abroad pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow. I built and strengthened various skills, many of which will help me in my future career. Here is a list of 5 specific career skills I gained abroad!

career skills gained abroad

Career Skill #1: Independence

For many people, going off to college is the first time they are away from home. This was the case for me; however, my college is not terribly far from home. Going abroad gave a whole new meaning to the idea of independence. Though I had plenty of  support from fellow students, on-site staff, and my host university, I recognized that I was the one ultimately responsible for myself. If I had questions, it was my job to reach out and learn more. It was my responsibility to grocery shop for my meals, figure out transportation, and remain organized with my plans and studies. 

I didn’t have my family nearby, and the time differences certainly impacted my communication with them. If you haven’t gone abroad, this probably sounds intimidating! However, I am so thankful for this experience because it made me much more confident in myself. Many employers look for individuals who can take initiative and work independently. The opportunity to go abroad certainly improved my confidence, and in turn, my ability to take initiative.

Career Skill #2: Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking 

I am definitely the type of person who likes to have a plan, eliminating as many unknown variables as possible. When I left to study abroad, there were some things I knew, but many things I didn’t. While abroad, I learned that although I may not have all the answers, I will find them. There were many times when I was in a position where I didn’t know what to do. 

I didn’t know how the metro worked in Paris, or what to do when someone didn’t speak the same language as I do. These situations strengthened my critical thinking skills and taught me a lot about problem-solving. Again, employers seek out these skills in employees because of the important role they play in any position or career. If I’m in a position where I don’t know what to do, at least I know I’m capable of figuring it out. 

Career Skill #3: Communication

Although I studied in an English-speaking country, communication is still much different in other countries. From understanding accents and slang to piecing together differing customs or attempting to speak a world language, it’s more difficult to do simple things—even ordering a croissant at a bakery. I never had difficulty communicating with others before going abroad because everyone was just like me. 

Learning how to overcome these obstacles and connect with others despite differences was an inevitable byproduct of studying abroad. In my career, I can work with people from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life. These skills have equipped me to bridge the gap created by multicultural challenges. 

Career Skill #4: Organization and Planning 

I often look back on my study abroad experience and wonder how I did it all! Despite having fewer responsibilities than I am used to at home, I was very busy during my semester abroad. I think this is a common experience for anyone who wants to make the most of their experience. All my adventures took lots of organization and planning. 

For one weekend trip, we had to book our flights, figure out transportation to and from the airport, seek accommodations, schedule excursions ahead of time, calculate our budget, and more. Coordinating all these things was challenging, but now I can apply these skills to my future career. Whether it be organizing my tasks or planning events and travel, I feel prepared to succeed.

Career Skill #5: Adaptability 

Adaptability is the name of the game while studying abroad. As soon as you board the plane, you can’t be sure what to expect when you land. Things change constantly, and you have to go with the glow if you want to make the most of your time. The key is to have an open mind and try new things!

If you go to a restaurant and they only have a certain type of food, you have to adapt to the circumstances and try it out! This skill is one of the most valuable that you can have in your career and personal life. Plus, being adaptable takes away a lot of the pressure to make sure everything is perfect, and allows you to enjoy things more!

It’s Your Turn to Go Abroad!

Emily’s experiences highlight the transformative power of studying abroad and the impact it can have on one’s confidence, adaptability, and other valuable skills you can apply to your career. If her takeaways resonate with you, it may be time for your own international adventure. For more information about studying or interning abroad in locations across the globe, explore more on our website!


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