The Daily Gamecock

Study abroad worthwhile experience

Networking, internships among opportunities in other countries

Since I returned to USC from Ireland, a common question I hear is whether study abroad is worth it. In fact, a recent New York Times online debate shows opinions on both extremes, from “it’s a waste of time” to “it’s essential.” Based on my seven-month experience, I believe the value of study abroad depends entirely upon your intentions as you step off the plane.

It’s all well and good to go abroad, get the necessary class credits, explore the sights and post the obligatory status updates and photos of your adventures. However, if you have the opportunity to study in a foreign country, I believe it’s important to set your sights as well on becoming more marketable. In today’s highly competitive — and increasingly globalized — job market, your international experience could very well help you stand out to future employers.

I was fortunate to go abroad last January as a sophomore. While taking journalism classes at Griffith College in Dublin, I applied to serve as a part of a group of American student ambassadors for Education in Ireland, a government agency that works to promote the educational opportunities offered by Irish universities and colleges. In this role, one of my duties was to blog about my experiences and observations studying in a foreign country — an assignment that was right up my alley as a journalism major. Blogging helped me hone my writing skills and build up a body of work to show potential employers.

A big bonus of serving as an ambassador was attending a reception at the home of President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland with other student ambassadors from all over the world. We all had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with President Higgins. I felt an enormous responsibility to represent USC and my country well. The reception was the experience of a lifetime — one I hope to draw on someday as a journalist when I have the opportunity to interview people in positions of leadership.

Another way to boost your experience abroad, as well as your resume, is to be on the lookout for internships. I was able to land an internship in the International Studies office at Griffith College, which allowed me to extend my stay in Ireland. I spent the summer getting experience in social media, web content development and video production alongside students from other countries. Working as an intern in a foreign country allowed me to gain valuable experience and insight into the work ethic of other cultures. Also, be sure to network, network, network. For example, the city of Dublin, also known as the Silicon Valley of Europe, is the European home base to many of the world’s largest technology companies, which provide many co-op and internship opportunities for students. Simply being in Dublin is a networking opportunity — it’s full of young professionals (nearly half of Dublin’s population is under age 25). I made connections with managers and other employees at companies such as Google and LinkedIn — contacts that may prove valuable when I’m ready to enter the full-time workforce.

So, is study abroad is worth it? Absolutely yes. But be aware of all of the opportunities around you. Venture beyond the classroom and the comfort zone of your American friends. You will broaden your perspective and understanding of other cultures — qualities which can only make you a better job candidate in a global economy. Make it your mission to seek out the people and opportunities that can help you grow your network and skills. It may be the difference between landing that first job or not.

Olivia Weaver is a third-year broadcast journalism student.