Employability and the Year Abroad

The vital importance of the Year Abroad in enhancing graduate employment prospects has been highlighted in two recent reports.

In a survey undertaken by ThirdYearAbroad (a site designed for and by university students across the world which provides up-to-date information, help and advice about living, studying and working abroad), nearly 600 graduates submitted case studies that showed the academic, linguistic, cultural, intercultural, personal and professional benefits of their Year Abroad. According to this survey, two thirds of those who responded felt that their residence abroad was a significant factor in securing their first and subsequent jobs. Interestingly, no fewer than 86% considered their Year Abroad to be the most important part of their degree.

These results are mirrored in a recent report, Global Graduates into Global Leaders, which asked multinational companies employing UK graduates what skills they required. In addition to core graduate competencies such as teamwork, communication, presentation skills, time and self-management and professionalism, employers want ‘additional critical competencies’. This include: a global mind-set, global knowledge, cultural agility, advanced communication skills, management of complex interpersonal relationships, team-working and collaboration, learning agility, adaptability, flexibility, resilience, drive and self-awareness. According to the British Academy, this is precisely the skill-set developed by the Year Abroad.

Bangor University is committed to providing its students with opportunities to develop their skills and experiences during their studies so that they are fully equipped with the transferable skills they will need when looking for employment opportunities after they graduate. With the rising number of graduates and competition for jobs, employers are looking for more than just academic achievement. A year abroad, whether spent as a teaching assistant, on a work placement or on a university exchange programme will enable you to acquire additional skills and attributes that will enhance your employability, giving you an added edge in the job market. The Year Abroad is thus an important part of the University’s strategy for employability.

How does doing a Year Abroad make me more employable?

Students who go on a teaching assistantship gain valuable experience in the classroom and many SML students do go on to train as primary or secondary level teachers on graduation. In addition to classroom management and lesson and curriculum planning, students completing teaching assistantships also gain valuable experience that will make them employable in other fields as well. Not only do their linguistic competencies and communication and self-management skills improve, they also develop their intercultural competence. As students often work as part of a teaching team, they develop important skills in teamwork in a new cultural environment. Students teaching abroad also develop their self-confidence, independence, initiative and resourcefulness. These are skills and attributes which will already begin to pay dividends when you return to Bangor in Year 4.

Students who complete work placements abroad also acquire these skills, while also gaining professional experience in a field which complements their academic learning. Integrated into a new cultural working environment, they develop their technical skills while also improving their language and intercultural competence. This will help to give your job application an added edge when you graduate. The challenges of globalisation mean that the demand for well-educated, highly skilled graduates who are capable of working and living in a variety of geographical, cultural and linguistic settings is constantly increasing; a work placement abroad shows you have the flexibility, agility and dynamism needed to function in such a work environment.

Although students who participate in the university exchange programme are not integrated into a working environment, you will also acquire the same set of skills and attributes with subtle differences. Students who study abroad learn to negotiate an unfamiliar study environment, where knowledge is structured and communicated differently to Bangor. This is very important for your academic development and it can help you to develop your initiative and your self-motivation and drive. While abroad, students often become less dependent on guidance and they take more active ownership of their studies. This in turn can lead to a sense of heightened interest in their work and more active participation. Studying abroad helps to cultivate critical thinking and self-awareness; students often gain more understanding of how personal horizons and outlook influence how they learn.