To Get The Most Out Of Your Degree, Make A Difference Abroad.

As part of our Student Experience series Shayle Havemann discusses the career value of international experience through volunteering and internships for students to assist them with their pursuit to the career of their dreams.

It is an uncomfortable question many high school graduates and their parents are asking: is a university education still worth it? As tuition costs in the UK, Europe, the USA, and around the world, rise – matched by a rise in living costs and cuts in starting salaries – the question mark hanging over the value of that degree is becoming difficult to ignore.

Despite the 2012 increase in tuition fees and its future financial burden, many UK students still choose to pursue the traditional path of higher education.  As a way of coping, many are now living back home with their parents and working hard to secure a paid position within their first year.  Others are pushing for that promotion so that they can pay off those student debts.

Increasingly, there seems to be a mismatch in expectations between what hiring managers are looking for in a new employee and the training provided by higher education institutions.  What is to be done to help those trapped in the middle, the students, the workforce of the future? International experience might just be the answer.

The Career Value of International Experience

While sending a high school or university student abroad is still seen as a luxury by many students and parents, it seems that it might actually be essential for ensuring that new graduates stand out above the crowd of candidates.

US-based study, Career Outcomes of Study Abroad Students abroad conducted by the organisation, IES Abroad, found that 97% of their alumni were hired within 6 months of graduation.  They compared it to a Rutgers University study Chasing the American Dream: Recent College Graduates and the Great Recession, which found that only 49% of graduates were employed within a year of graduating.

The study also found that study abroad students were offered a higher starting salary than other graduates.  Those who chose an internship programme were even more highly valued by hiring managers.

Add volunteering to the mix and you have upped your value even more.  A recent study by Deloitte found that the majority of hiring managers would choose a candidate with volunteering experience over one without.  Despite this, many students do not add their volunteering experience to their résumés.

Skill-building Experiences Abroad With GVI

GVI offers volunteer, intern and study abroad experiences abroad in thirteen countries worldwide, including Ghana, Peru and Cambodia, and has been doing so for over twenty years now.  What is the difference between these three experiences? Volunteering programmes start at 2 – 4 weeks and participants work on making as much impact as possible during their time on project.  Intern programmes start at 2 months, but can be taken for up to 6 months, and include leadership training, additional qualifications like PADI certifications and Biological Survey certifications, as well as mentorship sessions and a written recommendation upon completion.  Study abroad programmes are 6 week credit-bearing learning experiences, with a 2 week in-country component.

The focus is on making a real impact through aligning all projects around the world with the seventeen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  Students learn by engaging with real issues on the ground.  Their learning is guided by committed and highly trained in-country staff.  GVI offers a range of sustainable international development subjects for students to choose from, including public health, business management, gender studies, education, marine, wildlife and habitat conservation, veterinary science and infrastructure development.

GVI alumni can be found in working at organisations in many different industries all over the world, including The Good Samaritans Hospital, Emirates, The Nature Conservancy, Coastal Jaguars, The Manta Trust, the Children’s Society, Google Adwords, and Amec Foster Wheeler.

The Cost Of An Education Abroad

Having read about all the career benefits of international experience described above, you might be thinking to that this might be a great choice, if only you and your family had the funds.

Luckily, there are many organisations, like the GVI Trust, that understand the value international experiences can offer students, and have set up a range of funding options, like grants, fellowships and scholarships, to support their future career growth.

Are you, or is your child, planning to go abroad to improve their job prospects? Are you someone who has volunteered, interned or studied abroad? Have you found it to boost your job options and earnings, or not?


Shayle Havemann
Director of Programs at GVI