Emma Shields Peer Advisor Temple Rome

How Studying Abroad Helped Me to Build My Network

Trevi Fountain

As a Fox student, networking is an unspoken part of the curriculum. It’s how you meet people, learn about new professional opportunities, and land those internships and jobs. Before studying abroad, networking felt like a chore. Every interaction felt forceful and awkward. I thought my elevator speech was flawless, but I was having trouble connecting with people. Something important was missing. 

Heading into studying abroad, I didn’t know what to expect when I returned. I had no job or internship lined up for the summer. I was more focused on going to Temple Rome. Rome was the perfect city for me to study abroad in as it provided the necessary courses for my academic plan, and is a city alive with ancient history and life-changing experiences. I had a lot going on and was I nervous to spend 4 months in a new country, so networking was at the back of my mind.

Ostia Antica, easy day trip from Rome

While studying abroad I was able to experience a new culture, learn a new language, and discover more about myself. I gained a passion for traveling, cooking, and making sure everyone knows the benefits of studying abroad. I grew to be more independent as I discovered my interests and became more confident in myself as well. 

When I returned home I had to start searching for my junior year summer internship. From cold calling companies to various careers fairs, networking became a breeze. Those awkward formalities became relaxed conversations. I realized what I had been missing this whole time: passion. 

Being too focused on business instead of connecting made me come across as robotic; I only talked about business, while ignoring my interests that made me stand out against other candidates. When I mentioned studying abroad, people were instantly hooked. Not only was it a great conversation starter, but I seemed much more personable. I felt more comfortable talking to people and because of that my professional connections grew exponentially. I was introduced to various opportunities that I wouldn’t have been able to get before. 

I also noticed a similar pattern during interviews, which I used to dread. My first interview back from studying abroad, the interviewers and I only talked about my time abroad. We went 15 minutes over our slotted time just talking. It seemed as if I seamlessly transferred from first round interviews to second round interviews. 

Working as an assistant to a wine consultant during the summer.

During these networking sessions and interviews, I noticed some typical responses from employers about my study abroad experience. There is a bit of negative stigma about studying abroad like not taking academics as seriously, not taking enough time to explore your host country, etc. One recruiter told me she was surprised by my experience because everyone she had talked to about studying abroad had to take an extra semester. Employers seemed to  really enjoy hearing about your experiences abroad. They loved to hear about my experience volunteering as an English tutor at a local Italian high school. Plus, it was a great way to bring up my knowledge of Italian and Italian culture skills. Many businesses operate internationally and/or have international clients. They want to see how you handled a different culture, and how you could potentially use those skills on the job. 

Studying abroad also introduced me to different opportunities I would have never considered beforehand, from working abroad to applying to Fulbright Fellowship, Temple Rome did a fantastic job holding meetings and inviting individuals with varied career paths to speak. At the time, I was interested in going into fine wine consulting, and they were able to set me up with a wine sommelier from the U.S. working in Italy. I even got to sit in on one of her classes! Whatever your interests, they definitely have the connections. Studying abroad will help expand your network AND introduce you to new opportunities. Studying abroad helped me grow personally and professionally. Not only was it a fulfilling experience, but it helped me learn skills that I can use for the rest of my life. 

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