How to Take Ownership of Your Personal and Professional Development Abroad

Dec 6, 2018 11:43:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Let’s be honest: studying abroad is an incredible experience, but it’s not an automatic ticket to landing a job when you graduate. Yes, listing an international internship, for example, can make your resume stand out in an inbox full of applications, but it’s not until you learn how to talk about your experience in a meaningful way that your future employer’s ears will really perk up. And it’s not until you take ownership of your experience—by learning how to recognize, pursue, and nurture the skills that are key to your personal and professional development while you’re abroad—that you’ll be able to do that.

One of CAPA’s five Student Learning and Development Outcomes(SLDOs), set for those studying abroad in all of our cities, is a focus on personal and professional development.

SLDOs - Personal and Professional Development

Our programs are designed specifically to help you rein in some core skills while you’re abroad. These are skills that will be useful for your future, whether personal or with a specific goal of career preparedness in mind. Some are hard skills, some are soft. All are not only useful, but important, no matter where your next step takes you.

Photo from our field trip to the Bunkers

They include but are not limited to: independence, initiative, and self-confidence; networking; communications; remote collaboration; global perspective; enhanced cultural awareness and understanding, empathy, and respect for diversity; organization, time management, and prioritization; problem solving and analytical thinking; adaptability and patience; goal setting; and other more specific career-based or vocational skills.

And once you’ve had the opportunities to work on these skills—through your internship, classes, exploration of the city, and the challenges of navigating life in another country—CAPA’s team will help you take those skills you’ve developed to the crucial next level: by ensuring that you’ve learned how to communicate them in a meaningful way that will tie them directly into your career goals. You’ll also learn how to present real evidence of your achievements and development abroad to your home campus faculty, graduate school admissions, or future employers.

Outside the Supreme Court in Sydney

If you’re participating in an internship (highly recommended, not to mention included in your program fees!), you’ll attend a Global Internship Workshop class alongside your placement. You’ll start to analyze and contextualize your experience here.

This will include master classes, mentoring, and career preparedness workshops. You’ll complete reading and writing assignments, build an e-portfolio, develop an “elevator pitch” presentation, complete mock interviews, work on your professional online presence, conduct industry field research, give a final presentation, and more.

Internship Site

Outside of the Global Internship Workshop, there are many other ways that you can make a conscious effort to take ownership of your development abroad.

Perhaps one day you’re out exploring the city on your own and you stop for a coffee or a break somewhere that you’ve spotted a great view. Spend a bit of time thinking about what success looks like to you and how you could personally make the most of your time abroad toward the goals that will get you there. Think about your strengths and what you enjoy. Depending on where you are in your time abroad, reflect on what you’ve done so far and whether there are any positive changes you could make. Revisit your “why”—the reason you wanted to study or intern abroad in the first place.

Driving through the Countryside and Spotting a Sheep in Middridge

Take notes, videos, and photos that will help jog your memory of key moments when you return home, perhaps even jotting down anecdotes you may wish to recall during interviews that will help demonstrate some of the skills you’ve learned abroad. Make notes of your challenges as well as your successes - you may find that by the end of your time abroad, those challenges turned into successes. These will make some of the best stories. Keep a journal, even if only in the notes app on your phone or the descriptions of your Instagram images.

Don’t forget to take advantage of your surroundings and the city itself.  Join in on local cultural events. Most global cities have amazing programs of career or industry-related talks, networking events, or workshops that are free or cheap to attend, and you’ll have some of the world’s best museums, galleries, theaters, libraries, media, and other collections at your fingertips. Meet people making a mark in your industry abroad. See exhibitions and attend shows and other events. Look beyond your usual interests and explore something new. Embrace the possibility that comes from trying different experiences.

Sun Over a Wall

Be engaged as much as possible while you’re abroad: during your internship, your travels, the time you spend interacting with a host family, and, of course, your classes. Make an effort to get to know a diverse group of people and learn as much as you can about the culture through the locals who call it their own. Take initiative and responsibility in your work. Set personal and professional goals for yourself. Think about ways you can make an impact. See if you can find a mentor.

Challenge yourself. Be present.


Topics: London, England, Dublin, Ireland, International Education, Sydney, Australia, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Shanghai, China, Study Abroad, Internships Abroad, Barcelona, Spain, Professional Development