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So I Studied Abroad... What Now?

When returning from a study abroad trip, students often find themselves with a wealth of information to reflect upon their overall experience. There are many transferable skills gained through a study abroad experience that can be valuable assets to your resume. It is crucial to identify these skills in order to strengthen them and leverage them to your advantage in the workplace.

This summer, I had an enlightening experience studying abroad alongside 12 other communication studies majors at JMU. The program was titled 'Public Relations in Northern Europe' and took us on a journey throughout Sweden and Denmark. Throughout the program, I gained valuable insights into public relations and communication theory in a European context, as well as a better understanding of what it would be like to pursue a job abroad. However, after my abroad program came to an end, and I returned to the United States, I found myself asking, "What's next?" I knew I had learned a great deal about myself as an individual, but I was unsure how to translate my newly acquired skills to benefit my job search in America.

One of the major skills I gained during my experience was adaptability. Immersing yourself in a new culture and lifestyle automatically requires you to be flexible and capable of adapting to any situation you encounter. Along with adaptability comes patience. I learned that when things go wrong, whether it's taking the wrong train or discovering that none of the buildings you're staying in have AC, it's essential to pause, reassess, and move forward. This is an extremely important skill to have in the workplace, especially in a public relations career. We must be able to deal with and assess changes in the appropriate way while maintaining a positive attitude. The ability to work with someone who has a problem-solving mindset will be a significant asset to both your clients and your team.

Additionally, I was able to gain and strengthen my intercultural communication skills throughout my time in Europe. Having the opportunity to interact with and learn about people from different backgrounds in their own countries is the best way to develop an understanding and respect for different cultures, histories, and daily practices. This skill is highly valued in the workplace, as it demonstrates that you have experience and are capable of working with people from diverse backgrounds, as well as empathizing with them.

So, if you have just returned from a study abroad trip or are planning to participate in such a program, I highly recommend taking the time to reflect on your experience and translate the skills you gained abroad into your work life in America. Studying abroad is one of the most rewarding and invigorating experiences you can take advantage of, and it will leave a lasting impact on you.

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