Top 4 Ways to Include High School Study Abroad on Your College Resume

Close-up of an 'Approved' College Application letter.

So, you’ve come back from your amazing high school study abroad program, and now you’re basking in the glow of all your wonderful experiences and memories – the places you saw, the people you met, and (let’s be honest) the many, many crepes you devoured for both breakfast AND dinner. And while you may not exactly be ready to think about those pesky impending college apps yet, it’s likely that the time to fill them out will come much sooner rather than later. But, luckily for you, did you know that high school study abroad can really set you apart from the crowd when it comes to college admissions? It’s simply all about how you translate your experience into practical terms that look resume-worthy – for instance, stating that you “took a language course in Spain” isn’t as impressive as saying that you “improved oral proficiency in Spanish and gained a higher level of overall fluency”. Read on for the top 4 ways to include high school study abroad on your college resume!

  • You acquired the ability to speak a second language. Second language acquisition is rapidly becoming the norm for college applicants everywhere – when French is the official language of 35 countries, nearly 45 million Americans speak Spanish as their first language, and Mandarin easily has the most native speakers worldwide, it’s no surprise that this would be the case. The fact of the matter is, admissions boards are getting more and more used to seeing applicants that have intimate knowledge of second and even third languages, so including this on your resume is a no-brainer (just be sure to go into detail about your rate of improvement during your time abroad, what you specifically studied and how this contributed to your knowledge of the language, etc.)
  • You’re now on your way to becoming a true global leader. Whether you realize it or not, study abroad imbues you with some truly valuable global leadership skills – other than being proficient in a foreign language, these include acquiring necessary cultural empathy and the ability to make decisions through a global lens (all of which are note-worthy buzz words for college admissions boards). Get ready to ride the global leadership train all the way to your top school pick when you include these skills on your resume!
  • You increased your level of cultural awareness and tolerance. One of the best things about study abroad is that it forces you to become open to other ways of life. In today’s globalized world, this level of heightened cross-cultural awareness and tolerance is crucial – admissions boards want to see this demonstrated, in print. Immersion programs in particular (so, programs in which you live with local families and speak and hear the language constantly) are excellent ways to acquire these skills.
  • You overcame language and cultural barriers. Learning to successfully navigate your way through a conversation in Italian (rather than, ahem, faking it) is a huge victory in itself – and, bonus, this is also something that can translate into some serious communication skills development on your resume! Think about it: overcoming different cultural and language barriers likely required you to use communication skills you didn’t even know you had. Intercultural communication is in itself an in-demand skill, but learning to communicate across cultures also results in a higher level of assertiveness and self-confidence – hello, leadership skills!).

About the Author: Justine Harrington is the Admissions Director for SPI Study Abroad, a leading provider of language and cultural immersion summer programs for high school students. She is also the author of the SPI Blog.