Making the most of study abroad

The Truman State University Career Center and Study Abroad office partnered up to teach students how to market their study abroad experiences to future employers.

The workshop began with career ready coach Kara Levery asking everyone about their experiences studying abroad or if they had an intent to try. After talking about their experiences, Levery asked students to write a reflection on what they learned while they were away.

Students were asked to write about who they could talk to in order to learn more about the study abroad experience, and how they could use it to its full potential through relations and connections with anyone in the professional world. Connections are some of the strongest media for applying for a position in any area. It’s also important to understand what a student wants out of their career. It helps the student become much more marketable to career paths in their future.

After writing, the group began to make 30-second commercials to communicate their experiences to have the greatest impact upon a listener using the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action and Reaction. This section taught how to make a great first impression to an interviewer. Students learned the proper way to give a handshake and spoke to one another about who they were, what they majored in, their strengths, goals, accomplishments and how they can be a benefit to an organization.

The event wasn’t just a way to learn how to market study abroad experiences — it was a way to learn how to get through an interview. Giving a proper handshake and making appropriate eye contact are key to meeting an interviewer. It’s best to try and keep statements brief, concise and purposeful. This was an extremely important section for anyone who gets nervous about interviews.

Levery said she wanted to teach this workshop because she enjoyed her own study abroad experiences when she was a student.

“I graduated from Truman in 2009 and I studied abroad in 2007,” Levery said. “I did the Costa Rica summer study abroad trip with faculty members and with Truman Peers, which was actually a big group that year. I came back not only with having had that personal growth opportunity, built language acquisition, and skills, but also with some really strong friendships. Not only with folks that I got to meet that still live in Costa Rica, but also with my classmates.”

The presentation was also given last November after the study abroad office reached out to the Career Center. Levery said the Career Center is always available to help students with moving on to the next step into a career field and that this is just one area they wanted to utilize.

“This is the best time in your life to study abroad,” Levery said. “It’s very rare that you’re going to have another three or four months and just split to do really in-depth activities like study abroad and have a transformational experience. Even if you have to go through a few storms, figuratively or literally, you’re always going to come back as a more developed person.”

The study abroad office is always open to help students with their choices as well. Student worker Matt Buchheit said the office advisers can walk anyone interested through the process of studying abroad with tips and guides. The office hangs up posters, puts on workshops and hosts the Study Abroad Fair for anyone interested. He said studying abroad is a way to be totally immersed in a new culture, which provides new ways to think about problems and solutions.

Buchheit said the experience is something that isn’t for everyone, but that perspective on things bigger than Kirksville can’t be learned anywhere else. He said the best time to try studying abroad is sometime early in the college career to take classes that can transfer back to Truman.

“Studying abroad is an experience that can test you — just like any other experience in life, things that don’t kill you help you grow as a person,” Buchheit said.

With cooperation from the Career Center, the workshop is just one of the resources offered to anyone interested in using their experience for the professional world. Buchheit said the event is always a united effort and the Career Center is always great to work with.