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Studying Abroad May Help or Hurt Your Resume, Depending on Where

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“A recent study found that students who spent a year in Europe received less callbacks from interviewers than students who did not study abroad at all. The opposite applied for those who studied in Asia.

A recent study from the University of Arkansas found that “resumes that list study abroad experience in Europe for one year are 20 percent less likely to receive any callback” than resumes with no study abroad experience. This finding may be surprising to students, parents, and educators alike who view that an educational experience in Europe would provide a leg-up when applying for employment. However, students who studied in Asia see an advantage when applying for jobs.

Studying abroad is a common rite of passage among students at various colleges and universities. The practice has become so popular that colleges, which are involved in a fierce competition to attract large pools of applicants, promote their study abroad opportunities as an integral part of the student experience.

From the Harvard College website:

“Study abroad is transformative. Through international study, you will become a more informed global citizen and gain important skills that you can apply in the professional world and throughout your life.”

Study Focused on a Specific Subset of Students and Employers

The authors of the study created fake resumes listing educational and work experiences that a typical undergraduate studying a business-related area would have. From the study:

“Our aim was to create the archetypal recent graduate in business who was applying for an entrylevel job near their alma mater. Specific degrees included those in business administration, marketing, supply chain management, accounting, or information systems.”

The types of jobs these resumes were sent to employers seeking an employee for a business-focused role. The authors of the study write that all job postings:

“…sought candidates who possessed business-related degrees, namely, jobs that preferred candidates with degrees in business administration, marketing, supply chain management, or information systems. Examples of job titles in these postings included sales and marketing specialist, office administrator, account manager, executive assistant, and outreach coordinator.”

Studying Abroad in Europe

The study finds that students with resumes indicating year-long study abroad in Europe face a notable disadvantage when applying for jobs. The authors write:

“Resumes that list study abroad experience in Europe for one year are 20 percent less likely to receive any callback and 35 percent less likely to receiving a call back for an interview, relative to resumes that do not list study abroad experience.”

However, students who studied abroad in Europe for only two weeks had minimal effect on likelihood of receiving a callback:

“Conversely, callback rates are two percentage points higher for resumes that list two-week point.”

Studying Abroad in Asia

The authors find the opposite effect for studying abroad in Asia. Across the board, having study abroad experience on an applicants resume helps, regardless of the duration of the program.

“Compared to resumes that list no study abroad experience, resumes that list study abroad experience in Asia regardless of length are about 20 percent more likely to receive a callback for an interview if the resume studied. The differences in rates increases to 25 percent when comparing resumes without study abroad experience to those that list two-week programs in Asia.”

Why Is Europe Not Favorable to Employers but Asia Is?

As China and other countries in Asia become increasingly important players in the global economy, it may not be surprising that students who have experience in those countries would be viewed favorably by potential employers. The authors hypothesize:

“Given the rise of international business in Asia… we predicted that there would be stronger benefits to having study abroad experience in Asia.”

As for why students who spent an entire year in Europe were viewed less favorably, the authors hypothesize that the students may have lost the opportunity for valuable internship or work experience, and the benefits of being in Europe did not outweigh these costs. The authors write:

“Although one year abroad might signal the acquisition of valuable skills that employers desire, it may come with substantial opportunity costs. For example, studying abroad for one year may mean that the job candidate has one fewer year of an internship or work experience that may also be valued by employers. Indeed, we find suggestive evidence that job candidates who spend a year in Europe may incur some of these costs.”

As with all studies, these findings should be further examined and scrutinized before any formal conclusions can be drawn. However, this may be a helpful finding for students who study business and are deciding their study abroad destination

This article was amended on February 27th, 2020 with additional background information about the study.

One thought on “Studying Abroad May Help or Hurt Your Resume, Depending on Where

  1. this is not really surprising. Expanded horizons lead to questioning the status quo, and our society is not interested in that. We reward students for becoming nice little cogs in the machinery that brings money to the shareholders instead.

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