Highlighting your Experience

Many universities and employers recognize the value of a study abroad program. As you sit down to write your college essays and construct your resume, you may be wondering how to encapsulate your whole AFS program in just a few words. Below is a guide to help you represent your AFS experience.

Before you begin writing your college application essays or resume, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why did I choose to study abroad?
  • What were my expectations?
  • Were my expectations met? Why or why not?
  • What was the most important thing I learned about myself while abroad?
  • What did I learn by living with my host family, attending school, making international friends, and learning a language?
  • What did I learn about my host country?
  • What did I learn about my own culture and country?
  • How has my AFS program impacted my perspective on the world?
  • How has it affected my future?

Study Abroad Outcomes

While each AFSer’s experience is unique, there are common outcomes and insights among study abroad participants. Which of these statements sound like something you’ve learned?

Increased intercultural awareness and communication skills

  • I have a greater capacity to accept differences in others and to tolerate other people’s actions that may be vastly different from my own.
  • I have learned to improve interpersonal communication through increased abilities in listening well, speaking clearly, and paying attention to nonverbal cues.
  • I am more tolerant of ambiguous situations that are confusing and open to different interpretations.

Enhanced world view and global perspective

  • I have a greater awareness of political, economic, and social events occurring around the world.
  • I value human diversity and respect others from a variety of backgrounds different than my own.
  • I have greater sympathy for the struggles of international students and immigrants as a result of my experience.

Personal growth and development

  • I understand more fully my own strengths and weaknesses.
  • I am more confident and assertive when facing new situations.
  • I am more able to ask for and receive help from others.
  • I am more aware of opportunities in life that are open to me.

A greater understanding of home culture

  • I see my own cultural values more clearly and understand how and why they differ from others.
  • I have both a greater appreciation for American culture and a clearer sense of its limitations.
  • I am sensitive to subtle features of my own culture that I had never seen before.

Tying it all together: College Essays

Now that you have reflected on the impact your AFS experience, the key is to relate that to your future experiences. How did your program prepare you to be a successful college student? Think about the admissions staff reading hundreds of essays. Here is your chance to stand out and illustrate your readiness for success.

  • Read the essay questions carefully. Decide which question(s) will provide the best opportunity for you to share the impact of your time abroad on your upcoming college career.
  • Make an outline to answer the essay questions. From there, start composing your essay. Remember to tie it back to the objective of your readiness for college.
  • Based on the questions, think of a specific time or story during your program which illustrates a time you were challenged.
    • What skills did you use to overcome any barriers?
    • How did your problem resolve?
    • How would you apply what you learned to ensure success at school?

Resume Writing Tips

  • Reflecting on your AFS program, what skills did you gain that relate to the jobs for which you are applying? Consider problem solving, leadership, dealing with ambiguity, communication, working in teams and independently, and being flexible.
  • When writing a resume, focus on the skills which will benefit your future employer.
  • If you write a cover letter, relate your experience and the skills you’ve acquired abroad to the job in which you’re applying. Consider sharing a challenge you encountered abroad, how you navigated that challenge, and how these problem-solving skills will make you a great employee.