Employment Guide: Study abroad provides global experiences

By Emma Kilcup

Adventure, people, travel: These are all reasons to study abroad.

Not enough? College credit,…

Courtesy of Emily Welsh

Emily Welsh works in front of Buckingham Palace while interning at CBS London.

Adventure, people, travel: These are all reasons to study abroad.

Not enough? College credit, funding, language skills: These add further incentive for the hesitant. Now, consideration of future interviews adds to the growing reasons to study abroad. The experience enhances a resumé.

For some, studying abroad turns into a semester-length party, but the experience helps to develop a student’s resumé in an approach alternative to internships and paid jobs. Global experience significantly boosts a resumé, and future employers look for students with an edge over the competition.

Mike-Frank Epitropoulos, a sociology professor at Pitt, is also the director of Pitt in Greece and Pitt in the Aegean. He accompanies students to Greece for a summer session during which students earn credits while exploring the country. According to Epitropoulos, studying abroad is a testament to one’s ability outside the United States.

“Studying abroad shows that someone is able to travel and function abroad in a different culture,” Epitropoulos said. “People can melt down and not be able to handle it.”

Director of the Study Abroad Office Jeff Whitehead agrees.

“It shows transferrable skills: problem solving, adapting, experiencing world culture,” Whitehead said. “It shows that you’ve done something independent and challenging.”

Epitropoulos and Whitehead stress the importance of having experience in a different country.

According to Epitropoulos, studying abroad is a learning experience.

“Most importantly, it teaches people to be global citizens,” he said.

This idea of being a “global citizen” is why Pitt encourages studying abroad. The University Center for International Studies provides support for the Study Abroad Office. It assists in developing more internationally aware students.

“It’s important to be able to connect to the world; it’s very important in today’s global economy,” Whitehead said.

Besides knowledge, being a “global citizen” requires the ability to live and work abroad.

“As states become weaker, the ability to adapt and move is more important than ever,” Epitropoulos said.

Pitt makes this possible, offering students the ability to study abroad in more than 100 countries, either through Panther Programs or independently found programs from which Pitt will accept credits. The Panther Programs­ ­­— which Pitt faculty have developed to work as an even exchange with university curriculum — have classes that affect students’ GPAs.

The Panther Programs align directly with courses at Pitt, but Pitt-recognized study abroad programs have independently structured courses that outside organizations design and develop. Students’ grades from these programs do not directly affect their GPA — unlike Panther Programs — but they do transfer if Pitt advisers approve the courses in advance.

Bridget Kane, a junior anthropology and environmental studies major, was part of the first ever Pitt in Ghana this past spring. For her, Ghana offered a chance to adapt to a very different culture. For those studying in places that offer less culture shock, the experience can be equally as helpful.

“The reason it’s helpful is that you have to adapt to situations you’re not used to and learn to live with and be part of a different culture,” Kane said.

Sarah Simkin, who graduated from Pitt last spring and is currently attending Boston University for graduate school, studied abroad through Pitt in London. There, she was able to do an internship in public relations for the company Murad UK.

“Study abroad was amazing for a lot of reasons but career-wise definitely gives me an edge having that in my resumé,” Simkin said.  “It’s always a conversation point in interviews.”

Kane would agree about this effect of study abroad.

“I was in a group interview earlier today, actually, where the hiring manager went out of his way to bring up the fact that I had studied abroad. It’s both a topic of interest and a really useful tool in a number of situations.”