With Brexit on the horizon I regularly find myself thinking about how lucky I was to participate in the EU funded Erasmus scheme. Studying a semester of my degree in Austria has only helped me post graduation, in finding a job and feeling like I’ll be able to do that job well. Studies show that students who study abroad are 20% less likely to be unemployed six months after graduation. But why does studying abroad make you more employable? And what will happen to UK students post Brexit? If the involvement in the Erasmus programme isn’t confirmed soon, the best we can hope for is continued funding for studying abroad and the negotiation of new exchange programs with countries in the EU.
Universities UK have launched a campaign urging the UK government to commit to continue funding study abroad options for UK students in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Currently the government has no plan in place for the 17,000 students at risk of missing out on opportunities to study abroad next year. This is despite their plan for a ‘Global Britain’ post Brexit. You can read more about the Universities UK campaign on their website and do your bit to support their aims.
WHY DOES STUDYING ABROAD MAKE YOU MORE EMPLOYABLE?
Employers look for globally aware, experienced people with second languages being a huge plus. Research by the CBI has found that 39% of employers are dissatisfied with graduates’ intercultural awareness and 49% of employers are dissatisfied with graduates’ language skills. They also point out that seven out of ten small and medium sized enterprises believe that future executives will need foreign language skills and international experience. So the research speaks for itself. But there are many other ways studying abroad makes you an amazing candidate for employment. It helps you develop key skills needed for life generally! For me, there are five main points that I think made me more employable.
STUDYING ABROAD MAKES YOU MORE INDEPENDENT
It’s likely that your study abroad semester or year will be the first time you have lived abroad. Therefore, the whole experience is a steep learning curve. You are far away from home, even more so than moving to halls at the start of university. So, you have to learn to fend for yourself and start making decisions independently. In a situation like this, you naturally become more independent and this is something employers like to see. Someone who can use their own initiative.
AND A BETTER PROBLEM SOLVER
Inevitably complications will arise while you are abroad, be it with accommodation, university courses or just navigating a new city. You have to start solving problems on your own. It’s even more pronounced when you’re in a country that speaks a different language to your own. I didn’t know shops close on Sundays in Austria. Unfortunately I timed my arrival on a Sunday, expecting to be able to go out and buy food and bedding. I was forced to sort this situation out on my own and the experience made me a better problem solver for it.
YOU ARE ABLE TO ADAPT WELL TO NEW SITUATIONS
Universities work differently abroad as do many regular situations you find at home. But being able to settle in well to a new environment, make friends where ever you’re based and being able to thrive in a place that isn’t what you’re used to are such valuable life skills. They also happen to be skills that make you way more employable.
AND POTENTIALLY SPEAK ANOTHER LANGUAGE
Speaking another language is one of the main skill gaps highlighted by the CBI’s research. Now, don’t get me wrong, my German is far from fluent. But having a solid grounding means that if I were to move to Germany, I know I’d pick the language up quickly. And it’s a nice feeling to have that option. Usually, on Erasmus you take a language course as part of your semester credits so it’s inevitable that you’ll speak a bit of the new language by the end of your exchange.
IT SETS YOU APART FROM YOUR PEERS WITH THE SAME DEGREE
I’ve found that having a semester abroad on my CV has caught the interest of many employers. It sets you apart from the thousands of other graduates with the same grade and degree. Your horizons are naturally broadened and I think this is one of the main advantages of studying abroad. It serves you well in interviews, showing you have life experience. You also end up with lots to talk about compared to your peers.