Study abroad programs help enrich students’ resumes and lives

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BYU’s International Study Programs provide students with research opportunities, international internships, anthropological fieldwork and the chance to enroll in universities overseas.

Zachary Merrill in Paris with the International Accounting program (Randy Francis)

“You’re preparing yourself to stand apart,”  ISP program coordinator Aaron Rose said.

Rose encourages students to mention their study abroad experiences on graduate school applications, resumes and in job interviews. 

“There’s something very colorful and vivid that is going to stick in the mind of that person that’s going to do the interview, and it’s a different story that you tell; that will be different from other applicants,” Rose said. “That’s going to help get their foot in the door and capture the imagination of the person who’s doing the interview.”

BYU’s International Study Programs include more than 100 programs, about 75 percent of which are are recurring. Some of the programs are specific to certain majors and fulfill course requirements.

A top skill students take away from their international study program is language-learning, according to Rose.

“It’s an immersive linguistic and cultural experience that they can only experience there,” Rose said.

In addition to language acquisition, students learn to live independently and communicate with those of other cultures, which can help them in their careers.

Rose said two BYU graduates were applying for the same grad school and happened to interview on the same day. After the interviews, the first student said he talked about his study abroad in India, to which the second student replied, “Yeah, I know because all they talked about in my interview was your interview.” Rose explained that international study programs stand out and help students to advance their goals.

Katie Morrell, a mechanical engineer major at BYU, chose to go on the New York Field Experience study abroad. The program covered courses in backpack journalism, media history and philosophy. Though the program had nothing to do with her major, Morrell found that stepping away from her life in Provo gave her the chance to reevaluate her career path.

BYU students on the New York Field Experience study abroad. (Makena Bauss)

Morrell spoke with a professor about careers in industrial design before she left. Her professor passed along the contact information of two BYU alumni working in New York as industrial designers. She ended up meeting one of them at Kate Spade and fell in love with industrial design.

“If you went out and tried to meet people and tried to do networking, then you could find so much … So many opportunities were there if you were willing to look for them,” Morrell said.

Morrell figured out what she really wanted to do with her career path; because of her trip, Morrell decided to enroll in the industrial design program at BYU.

Another student, Zachary Merrill, went on a study abroad to Europe with the International Accounting program. He found his experience learning about cultural differences very beneficial. Merrill eventually wants to end up working abroad, and his study abroad gave him the taste of what that would be like.

BYU students gather in a particular spot in London for the International Accounting program (Zachary Merrill)

“If I’m going to live abroad, I learned a lot of things that I would need to know and be aware of before moving abroad, and I would know how to better prepare myself for those problems that would come up,” Merrill said.

While in Brussels, Paris and London, Merrill noticed that businesses operated differently than they do in America. The accounting rules, the culture and even the offices were set up differently. However, the BYU expat alumni said the hardest thing about living abroad didn’t have to do with the business aspects.

“There were some people we talked to when we were there, and they said one of the hardest things about living abroad, it wasn’t being away from your family. It wasn’t the environment. It was not having a social life because often there’s a language barrier,” Merrill said.

Some in Merrill’s group realized they didn’t want to work abroad after hearing about the difficulties, but not Merrill. Even though he’s sure he’ll encounter problems while living in a foreign country, his study abroad experience helped him realize that living and working outside America is still something he’d really like to do.

International study programs give BYU students a leg up on the workforce competition and help students understand their place in the world.

“Our mission here at ISP is to provide quality academic experiences for students that are going to have a long-lasting effect on students’ lives that can hopefully be transformative in a positive way,” Rose said.

More information about the International Study Programs can be found by visiting the Kennedy Center website or by visiting their office in the Kennedy Center.

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