Studying abroad: does it help you get hired?

In today’s global economy, studying abroad is often believed to be a valuable asset to your resume. But a new report shows that spending a semester abroad doesn’t actually help you get hired – at least not in the Netherlands. Only 10% of Dutch employers is interested in study abroad experiences.

Studying abroad as part of your university experience can be a great way to broaden your horizons, build an international network and increase your cultural awareness. But does it also help you land a job after you graduate? According to a new analysis carried out by the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI), an overwhelming majority of Dutch employers don’t take study abroad experiences into account when hiring someone.

Surprising

Tilburg University encourages its students to study abroad as part of their degree. Around 550 TiU students are going abroad this academic year, the International Office reports. The European Union has also increasingly promoted student mobility over the past decades, as it is generally believed that graduates who have studied abroad are better prepared for the globalized, multicultural job market. But according to the recently published NIDI report, “little empirical evidence supports the idea that study abroad would lead to employment gains”.

The report shows that only 10% of Dutch employers value a study period abroad. Overall, employers place higher value on internships abroad than study periods abroad. In the Netherlands, 17,4% of employers take international internships into account when they search for new recruits. But consider the general beliefs about the benefits of foreign experience, this is still a surprisingly low number.

Southern Europe

Compared to other countries, the Dutch stand out when it comes to indifference towards foreign experience. NIDI looked a total of 7036 companies in 31 countries: all EU member states, Iceland, Turkey and Norway. The report shows that Dutch employers value abroad experiences less than employers in most other countries. Only in seven countries employers place lower importance on studying abroad. If you want to work for a company that appreciates your international study experience, it’s best to look for a job in Southern-European countries. Turkey and Luxembourg also place high importance on study experience in a foreign country.

Skills matter

The report concludes that the European Commission and universities should promote the benefits of going abroad more effectively. Many employers don’t view foreign experience as important, because they are unaware of the skills that can be acquired abroad – such as language skills, intercultural competences and independence.

In addition, students should mention these specific skills when they apply for a job. For an employer, concrete competences weigh heavier than the fact that an applicant spent a semester overseas. Don’t just tell a potential employer that you took courses at the University of Bologna or that you had a great time at Universität Innsbruck, but explain why that experience makes you the right person for the job.

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