Students Studying Abroad

Study Abroad and Your Career



Typical Skills Gained from Study Abroad

Self-Development and Transferable Skills

  • Confidence
  • Independence - ability to depend on self
  • Better understanding of self (self-awareness)
  • Creativity in handling problems that come up
  • Flexibility in adapting to unfamiliar circumstances
  • Tact when discussing issues that may be viewed differently by others
  • Networking with people in country and other internationalists
  • Willingness to take risks

International or Cross-Cultural Skills

  • Language skills/general intercultural communication skills
  • Knowledge of other  cultures/customs
  • General "world travel" skills - airports, passports, public transportation, etc.

Wider Perspective on Issues

  • Ability to look at things more objectively
  • Broader understanding of issues (analyze from different perspectives)

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Before You Go

Make an Appointment with a Career Services Counselor Before You Leave

Career Services can provide guidance and information about preparing for graduate school and/or looking for internships, summer or post-graduate positions, and for tips on things you can do while abroad to enhance your profile for future employment and study.  We can help ensure that you do not miss any important deadlines, and that you are aware of all the opportunities and services available to you while you are abroad and when you return.

Some of the resources available to you include:

Looking for a Summer Internship or Job in the U.S. while you are abroad

The key here is preparation. You can do several things before you leave which will make your job search easier, such as having your resume critiqued and sample cover letters reviewed.  Assemble a list of potential employers by reviewing resources online: Handshake, iNet, Career Services' "Resources by Field" Page, Career Services Digital Career Resources and Lippincott online research guides.

For those seeking full-time  or internship positions, Career Services offers a great many services to assist with job hunting.  Career Services hosts hundreds of employer presentations in which employers discuss their organizations and the specific positions which they have available.  Many of these take place during the fall semester.

For intern candidates, we've interviewed former study abroad students who successfully landed internships during their time away. See what they have to say in the videos below!

Advice for Job Searching while Studying Abroad from Penn Career Services on Vimeo.



Going Abroad: Finding an Internship While Overseas from Penn Career Services on Vimeo.


On-Campus Recruiting (OCR)

OCR brings hundreds of organizations to Penn to recruit both for post-graduate and summer positions.  On-campus interviews for full-time positions typically take place in the early fall (September and October) and a bit later for internships (October - November). Of course we welcome employers to recruit at Penn during the spring semester, but the majority of employers prefer to conduct campus interviews in the fall when the largest number of candidates are available. If you have questions about the OCR process feel free to view the online On Campus Recruiting Orientation from the main OCR web page to learn the specifics about how to participate.

Also, keep in mind that OCR is just ONE way to find internship and full-time jobs. It is most typically used by employers in business and technical fields such as finance, consulting, marketing, computer science and engineering.  Students should also check the non-OCR listings on Handshake and iNet (for internships), as well as use other methods to pursue opportunities such as applying directly on organizations' websites, networking, and attending career fairs.

Students studying abroad are welcome to submit resumes through the standard on-campus recruiting process. If you are selected for an interview, you should sign up as quickly as possible for a slot via Handshake and then IMMEDIATELY send an email to vpul-ocrabroad@pobox.upenn.edu indicating your name (as listed in PennLink), the organization's name and position title for which you are interviewing, and the date and time of the interview. Career Services will then reach out to the recruiter to see if they would prefer to interview you via videoconference at that time while they are on campus (via iPads we can use in the recruiting suite) OR if they prefer to schedule an alternate date and time to interview you outside of the OCR schedule (in which case you would cancel your interview in Handshake). The turn-around time is very quick for this process to happen, so please do not delay in emailing us to let us know about interviews you have scheduled.

If you have not left campus yet, you can see our live workshops here. If you are not on-campus, we have a variety of online workshops which you can watch remotely. Of course, feel free to schedule an appointment with a Career Services advisor. We are happy to do these via phone or Skype if you are not physically at Penn.



Preparing for Graduate or Professional School

If you plan to apply to graduate school during your senior year, you will need to visit school websites & review application criteria and timelines no later than the summer after junior year, and will need to arrange when and where to take the required graduate or professional exams.  A pre-graduate study advisor in Career Services can help you with graduate and professional school applications.

Letters of Recommendation (Credentials File)

Career Services enables you to keep letters of recommendation on file through Interfolio to be sent wherever and whenever you need - for admission to graduate school, jobs, etc.  It is important that you establish relationships with faculty at Penn, so that you can have strong letters written on your behalf, and you may also want references from professors with whom you study overseas.  Check out our information on credentials for complete information about how the file works.

Frequently, conventions surrounding letters of recommendations from non-U.S. faculty are different from those accepted here.  It is common for European references to be more reserved than American ones, so a sentence like, "Her work was entirely adequate" from a British faculty member may be high praise, but by our standards, seems quite guarded.  Career Services offers suggestions for faculty on writing letters of recommendation to which you can refer a potential recommender. If you anticipate using letters gathered from faculty overseas for institutions primarily in the U.S. or other English-speaking countries, try to have them written in English, if possible.

Understand How Your Grades and Programs Will Appear on Your Transcript

Penn averages grades from courses taken on Penn-recognized programs into your GPA, though it can often take months after your semester abroad is over for these grades to be reflected on your transcript. Graduate and professional schools, as well as some employers, will ask for a complete set of transcripts, and will see all your grades.

*Note: There is no hard-and-fast rule on how graduate and professional schools evaluate courses taken overseas.  If you have concerns or questions about how graduate schools might react to particular courses or curricula, speak to pre-grad advisors in Career Services.

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While You're There Get involved in extra-curricular activities, volunteer, or participate in an internship.

  • Connect with alumni in your host country through the QuakerNet alumni directory, the University of Pennsylvania or the Wharton School alumni clubs, and Penn LinkedIn Alumni groups.
  • Gather contact information for everyone you meet who could expand your network and/or serve as a reference when looking for internships or jobs later.
  • Career Services is available to you while you're abroad, including appointments by phone or Skype and email advising. 


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When You Return

  •  Take time to reflect on the experience, what you learned, and how the experience may impact your career plans and augment your professional qualifications.
  • Talk with a career counselor about how to best market your international experience in your resume and cover letter and during interviews. Also view our online Resume and Interview guides.
  • Update your resume.
    • If your study abroad grades are not yet incorporated into your Penn-in-Touch transcript but you are are 100% certain of the grades you earned from abroad and have formal documentation to verify it, you can include them as follows. However, make sure the calculated GPA is correct AND that you indicate that the grades are not yet officially recorded:

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Candidate for Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, May 2014

Cumulative GPA 3.32 (including confirmed study abroad grades not yet recorded).

Study Abroad, University College of London, Spring 2013

GPA 4.00/4.00

Or

 If you are not sure of your study abroad grades or don't have proof of them, you could include your current Penn-in-Touch GPA and add an asterisk with the anticipated GPA, similar to the following.


                University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

                Candidate for Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, May 2014

                Current Overall GPA 3.32/4.00*

                *Awaiting approval of spring study abroad grades

Study Abroad, University College of London, Spring 2013

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Additional Resources


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