This is a tough time for graduates: the job market is struggling and recent figures from the Office of National Statistics have shown that one in three graduates is currently employed in a low skilled job. “At least they’ve got a job” – many will say, but what about those who don’t? The three years of hard work at university suddenly seems worthless. But this doesn’t have to be the case. There’s one very prominent way in which students today can get ahead of the pack – and that’s to grab their bags and head for foreign lands. There’s nothing quite like studying overseas to broaden your horizons and, importantly, your CV.
Current figures show there are around 22,000 UK students dotted across the globe doing exactly this, not to mention 400,000 international students studying here in the UK. International departments at major universities across the UK are noticing a spike in the num
ber of applications they get from overseas students every year – I work with these departments regularly in my role as Director of Only Student Concierge. One thing most report back to me is that employers are increasingly on the lookout for foreign language skills and familiarity with different cultures in their future employees. Being an international student – whether you’re in the UK, USA or Europe – is daunting and many can find themselves in a sticky situation with unscrupulous landlords or dodgy visa companies. Even seemingly simple tasks like setting up a mobile phone or a bank account can suddenly become very confusing. But, with the right support network in place, studying abroad will allow you to stand out from the crowd when it comes to entering the job market. Employers will be impressed with your strong independence from such a young age, your ability to stand on your own two feet, your experience of a culture different from your own, and grasp of a foreign language if you chose to study in a country where the spoken language is not your own. I would encourage students to study overseas – whether that is encouraging international students to come here to the UK or British students to up sticks and jump across the pond.
Here are just a few reasons why students should consider studying overseas:
• It will enhance your CV: when applying for graduate jobs the common denominator is everyone will have a degree. The life skills picked up while studying abroad will set you head and shoulders above your competition. Being adaptable to new surroundings and cultures are lessons you will not learn in a classroom, but traits you will pick up when living and studying overseas. This sort of flexibility is vital to many employers.
• It will improve your language skills. In today’s world of global commerce knowing how to express yourself in more than one language is becoming an ever-increasing necessity. The ability to be able to pick up the phone to a client in France, Spain, Italy or Russia and effortlessly converse with them is priceless to an employer. It may seem unnerving at first, but nothing beats learning a new language in the country of its origin, being forced to speak it day in, day out.
• You will master the digital world: blogging and tweeting about your travels may seem like a fun, easy and cheap way to keep in touch with those at home, but it could also set you on a direct path to your chosen career. O2 recently published research showing that the unused digital skills of one million young people in the UK are estimated to be worth £6.7 billion. That’s a lot of iMacs. Today’s companies value web and social media know-how on a par with new business development and customer acquisition abilities – suddenly that blog doesn’t seem so daft and trivial!
• It will test your strength of character. For many students, studying abroad may be the first time they have been so far away from home. Arriving in a foreign land alone is an intimidating prospect but without even realising it those who take on the challenge will see their confidence and self-reliance grow and grow.
• Studying abroad will change your outlook on life – the modern workplace is a diverse and ever-changing realm. Immersing yourself in a new culture and way of life will allow you to adapt to new situations with pace and undoubtedly make you mentally stronger and wiser.