Studying Abroad: Truly Giving Students a Leg-Up?
With a widening range of locations and financial aid packages, the growing trend of study abroad can now be a reality for nearly any student.
“The trend is that for incoming freshman, study abroad is a plan,” said Shannon Ackeret, the Carroll College assistant director of Education Abroad. “The question is not if, but when.”
But do such study abroad programs truly give students a leg up in the job market after graduation? Or might students actually lose out by possibly giving up an internship opportunity to go abroad?
Nisan Burbridge, internship coordinator at Carroll College, doesn’t see it as an either-or question.
“Do everything—internships and study abroad,” she said. Firm in her belief that both study abroad and internships add to a student’s experience, Burbridge said that nearly all businesses at one point or another will have a need for international experience and foreign languages.
It’s easy for college students to hear and visualize the positives of study abroad. Many find the long-term benefits of such programs well worth the cost, the experience, and the time away time well worth it. Student’s can only speculate on the payoff, and they won’t know for sure know if their experience abroad is necessary until their first post-college interview.
Chris Reiquam, Market President of US Bank in Great Falls, Mont., believes study abroad is a great resume builder. “Experience and seeing other areas shows initiative and trying something new outside of your own backyard,” he said.
Reiquam also said internships are just as, if not more, valuable than study abroad experiences in the financial and banking markets. “If there were two equal applicants, and one had financial ability experience, that applicant would have the leg up over a study abroad student.”
Paul Franzen, president of Barnard Construction Company Incorporated headquartered in Bozeman, Mont. agreed that internships still hold more value over study abroad. Employers want to hire a graduate that has working knowledge of a business, he said, though study abroad has its own benefits.
Barnard Construction. like many other companies, has their own intern program offering three-month internships. The program screens very closely for someone they would potentially hire. “We look at people for permanent jobs, and half come from the internship,” Franzen said.
Franzen said the company also looks at the amount of time it took the applicants to complete college. “We want students who were in and out of college in four years and squeezed in one or two internships,” he said. “That demonstrates that they are frugal, hardworking, and have a clear economic understanding.”
This is important for students planning to study abroad because taking a semester abroad often sets students back a semester, or a year. Franzen said even the six-month internship programs are often not necessary, if it lengthens the time spent in college.
Whether a semester abroad or an internship will be most beneficial also varies by industry, and whether there is a need for foreign language skills and knowledge of other cultures.
It’s also important for students to look at the cost of both internships and study abroad. Students and parents need to be certain that the student’s decision is worth the expense and time.
Whatever the case, however, “no part hurts a student professionally or academically,” said Ackeret.