5 reasons why a year abroad benefits your CV
Chris Hitchen studied German and History at the University of Glasgow and spent a year of his degree as an Erasmus student at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg, south-west Germany. Using the language skills he acquired and improved upon during his year abroad, he now works in Berlin for Idealo UK. Here are his top five reasons why a year abroad will benefit your CV...
1. It looks good.
What better to have on your CV than the proof that you have lived abroad and sampled a far away culture? Even if it's not so far away, at least you have the bottle to live and study abroad. This is a big feat in itself, especially if you choose to go somewhere where none of your course mates decide to venture.
You get to study at another university, with a generous Erasmus grant if you're on an exchange within the EU, and get to pursue subjects which aren't offered at your home institution - or maybe you're a Language Assistant or have found work experience in a field you are interested in. Either way, you get to study a year longer, which gives you an extra summer to gain additional experience prior to entering the job market.
2. It separates you from the field.
If you find yourself competing in a very competitive market, and with the youth unemployment rate in the UK currently around the 22% mark, you will see a lot of able students with similar degrees and grades chasing a finite number of jobs.
Have a think about it from a graduate employer perspective; you get 100 applications landing on your desk and the vast majority have got a 2:1 in an Arts-related subject. To filter out which ones get to the next round, it regularly comes down to what those graduates have achieved outside of their normal university studies. One that is always going to stand out is time spent abroad – especially as British students are relatively less likely than their European counterparts to do so.
Furthermore, it's quite likely that as a result of being abroad you'll get involved with other language-related extracurricular activities at your home university. Activities such as a language meet-up, organising the leavers' ball or extolling the virtues of the year abroad to fellow language students, will all further boost your curriculum vitae.
3. When it comes to interviews, it gives employers (and you) a topic to break the ice.
If there is one thing I noticed during my interviews at assessment days for graduate schemes and graduate roles in general, it was the frequency those interviewing asked questions about what I had done on my year abroad, whether or not I had a found it beneficial, the challenges faced and if I would recommend it.
Not only is it something that you can use to break the ice as it were, but because often it is a defining period in your life, it is something you are able to talk about effortlessly and fluently. I had one interview where the majority of questions related to my Erasmus year!
4. The skills you gain from a year abroad are very useful.
Best of all, the skills you gain from your experience are transferable. Be it studying in a foreign language or having to fight through reams of beaurocracy to register in the country you've decided to call home for a year, it sets you apart from a lot of other candidates. Even often overlooked aspects, such as finding yourself outside your comfort zone (though you might doubt it at the time!), can be invaluable when it comes to giving a presentation to future employers at a graduate assessment day or during a particularly tough interview.
On top of this, doing a placement abroad shows you are able to adapt to your surroundings and with the ever-increasing globalisation of business and large companies with offices in a plethora of countries, you may well find that you have the upper hand for roles that involve travelling or working in foreign climes.
5. Multilingual candidates can earn more than monolingual candidates.
Aside from the great benefits generally of having a year abroad on your CV, this final aspect might be the clincher. According to research, graduates who use their language skills in employment are able to command a higher salary (between 8-20% more) than their monolingual counterparts. So not only are you in many cases able to use a language which you are passionate about regularly, but you also could well find that your salary stretches further than you thought!
Fun further reading...
Here are 25 examples of very creative CV designs Using a QR code in your CV: