Global Employability

The Tangible Benefits Around International Experiences

We recently had dinner with our very close friends.  Our kids are all a year apart, and we’ve been friends since they were little. They were talking about being excited to visit us in Portugal, when their 16 year- old son said that he had no interest in going anywhere out of the US.  You guys, I was blown away.  That said, he hasn’t had international travel in his life beyond Caribbean resorts.  While you certainly don’t have to have travel to develop global curiosity, I’ve yet to meet a kid who has traveled abroad and didn’t develop the travel bug from it!


Because I’ve known this family for so long, I didn’t have to politely nod and smile. Instead I talked to him about the importance of international experiences.  I talked about how the countries of the world are intertwined-from climate, to policies, to the economy, and more.  Due to this, it’s necessary to gain awareness of the world as a whole.  I talked about the importance of understanding other people’s culture/lives/ perspectives. People are more concerned about the various issues in other countries when there is some sort of connection to the people living there. Further, experiencing different cultures helps you realize that there are different ways of doing things. You may learn how to problem solve in different ways, or just realize that difference don’t have to be defined as good, bad, better, or worse. They can just simply be different.  I talked about the impact of seeing historical sites. I explained how some places, like Wadi Rum or Sagrada Familia, didn’t excite me ahead of time, but were two of the most incredible things I have seen in my life. There is no way to explain the feeling of seeing something that truly blows your mind to someone-especially a 16-year-old…


As his eyes glazed over during my soapbox speech, I was at a loss…and then I remembered Castle Figures.  When my kids were little, they would get excited about going to European cities to find these small toy stores that sold what we called Castle Figures. They were like action figures, but there were knights, princesses, dragon, jesters, and just about any medieval castle related character you could think of!  We probably could have found them in the US, but we never told them that!  We would see different sites, and then walk around the city looking for stores that sold Castle Figures. This was an activity that they looked forward to, and so we were met with less resistance about going to do things that didn’t sound as exciting (but that they ended up liking).  Our friend is really into golf, so I told him that there are supposed to be some fantastic golf courses in Portugal.  This got him interested and willing to visit.

I couldn’t stop thinking about his lack of curiosity about the world.  I tried to come up with tangible reasons that international experiences are important, and had difficulty idenitying reasons that weren’t value laden.  I decided to turn to the EU and see what they had to say on the topic. You see, the EU already sees mobility and international experiences as important and they have programs in place to encourage young people and students to have international experiences.  I figured that they must have data to support these initiatives, given their investment in these programs.


This led me to a large-scale and in-depth study done in 2014. It’s called the Erasmus Impact Study and it was initiated by the European Commission. This study mainly focused on comparing students who participated in the Erasmus program and other mobility programs to those who did not study abroad.   All full-time students at European universities can participate in the Erasmus program-even non-EU students. While I think that the findings could likely be generalized to students who seek their degree outside of their home country, I don’t need to make that argument since international students can participate in the Erasmus program (as well as other mobility programs through their university). Let’s get down to what I learned.


This study measured students’ transversal skills, which I usually refer to as soft skills.  They looked at students’ acceptance of other people’s differences, adaptability, tolerance of ambiguity, openness to new experiences, curiosity, self -confidence, self -awareness, decision making skills, and problem-solving abilities.  While study abroad student were already higher in these areas than non-study abroad students before the study, the increase in their advantage around these skills after study abroad was significant.


While I think those skills are important in and of themselves for success in life, others (like our friend) might not care until we get to the next part of the study. The study also included 652 employers from 30 European countries. These included private, public, for profit, and not for profit companies. 92% of these employers stated that they are looking for employees with the transversal skills mentioned.  Further, 62% of employers specifically considered an international experience as important for recruitment.  This number is even more significant when you consider that the number was just 37% in 2006. It nearly doubled in just seven years!


You might be thinking that these advantages are exclusive to European employers, and so American students might not benefit if they return to the US after graduating.  Not true.  Not only are American employers looking for students with these skills, but they are finding graduates of US universities deficient in these areas. This is going to set student who study in different countries apart from the other applicants who may not be as advanced in these skills.

I believe that global citizenship and soft skills are crucial even if there weren’t these advantages around employment.  Global citizens are needed to solve the problems of today’s world-at both the micro and macro level.  Certainly, one does not have to attend college in Europe to develop soft skills or the traits around global citizenship or, but then they are a lot less likely to develop without active cultivation.  My suggestions? See if there are international experiences they can participate in.  These can run the gamut from somewhat affordable (Rotary Exchange) to more expensive (CIEE, Global Leadership Adventures, Where There Be Dragons to name a few).

If you are traveling internationally, find your teens version of Castle Figures. When my kids grew out of that interest, it evolved into things like the Criminology Museum in Rome , Cave Hotels in Cappadocia , the Catacombes in France, High Tea in London, and-of course-exploring the different pastries of the world!  If travel isn’t possible, find opportunities for international exposure closer to home. This might include TV shows, restaurants, or international festivals.   Full disclosure, I’m a sucker for teen shows and might check out a couple on the list with Ellie!

There are people who are resistant to believing that going to school in Europe might give graduates an advantages around employment. There are a host of reasons that can lead to this denial. I think that one reason is because people may feel like they need a way to justify dealing with the admissions rat race and high tuition cost in the US. If I were going through the admissions madness or incurring debt, I may choose to believe that there is a unique result that makes it all worth it in the end. That’s not the case though. There are options that are affordable, with transparent admissions process. These options can lead to incredible outcomes not only around employment but around personal development and perspective.  If you are interested in learning more about these options, we can help!

We have different free webinars that explain more of the details around English taught higher education in Europe.  One is for parents of college bound students. One is for the college bound students themselves, and the other is for students interested in master’s degree programs.  You can watch at your leisure by choosing the “watch now” option.









Internships: One More Advantage of College in Europe

As many of you know, Beyond the States was formed in response to my concerns about the state of higher education in the US.  Of course, ever rising tuition and the high stress admissions process were my two greatest worries, but I was also troubled by the post-graduation prospects for many grads these days. For recent college graduates under the age of 25 has risen to 9%(compared with 5.5 percent in 2007) and nearly half of college graduates in their twenties are underemployed, meaning the jobs they can get don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

I read these facts in There is Life After College by Jeffrey J. Selingo.  This book gives recent and soon to be college graduates advice regarding ways to increase their employability.  Selingo spends a good amount of time talking about the importance of internships.  He noted that few schools in the US required internships or helped students find them and only 1 in 3 graduates had an internship in college. This, despite the fact that, internships are a fast track to a job. According to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, employers hire around 50% of the interns who worked for them as full time workers after graduation and in some fields it is closer to 75%.

Internships help students learn how to apply what they have learned in the classroom. They are learning relevant skills, seeing what others are responsible for and gaining exposure to occupations that they might not have known about. They are able to try out an industry, role or organization while also building contacts and gaining relevant experience for their resumes.

One thing that sets bachelor’s programs in Europe apart from those in the US is that most programs in Europe have at least one semester set aside for an internship. Often, internship semesters are required. Having a semester to do internships removes many of the obstacles that students in the US report. With the dedicated semester, students don’t have to choose between a paying summer job or an internship, they don’t have to juggle internship duties and class work, they aren’t competing with all the summer internship applicants, and the internships can be completed in countries outside of the one they are studying in.

Internship placements are often handled by the student’s study department, but some schools have an office devoted to handling internships, like IESEG School of Management in France.  The Business Administration program has a really interesting internship. Each year of the three year program, the student has an internship focusing on a different level of management.  The first year includes a one-month labor internship.  The second year has a three-month internship at an assistant level and the third year has a three-month management internship.  This allows students to have firsthand knowledge of how each level of an organization is impacted by the other.

There are many international companies with locations and internships offered throughout Europe.  Google offers internships related to business, software engineering, legal work, and customer service in many of their European locations. Others include BP, JP Morgan, Accenture, AIG, Deloitte, Bayer, Cisco, Bayer, and BMW.  Many schools have partnerships with these companies that help place their students in internships.  These are not limited to business related internships.  Many of these companies have internships that related to engineering, science, and other fields of study.

I think the opportunities that are unique to Europe are especially interesting.  Students can intern with the International Center for Counter Terrorism or the International Criminal Courts in The Hague.  The World Health Organization is headquartered in Geneva. The UN Regional Center is in Brussels.  Students who are interested in sustainable energy can intern with European Energy in Copenhagen. The options are truly extraordinary.

I often mention Estonia in my presentations and blogs.  I could not have told you where Estonia was on the map a few years ago, but it is now one of my favorite places.  It’s also a great place for students looking for engineering internships at places like NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center and the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center.  Skype was founded in Estonia and they have internships in Tallinn, Stockholm, and Prague.

I am really excited by the internship opportunities our members and my own children will have when studying in Europe. Selingo believes that “For American education to remain relevant to students, it must abandon the antiquated idea that schools and colleges broadly educate people for life, while employers train them for jobs. It’s not either or anymore. Given the amount of money parents and students spend on a degree, there is no reason colleges shouldn’t provide both a broad education as well as the specific training and skills needed for the workplace”.  I have said before that I hope that reform does happen in the US and includes some of Selingo’s ideas about internships.  That said, I am not optimistic that such reform will occur in the immediate future, so I am thrilled to have an alternative route that provides solutions to these problems.


College in Europe: Good or Bad for Job Prospects?

pbcover-whereyougoI’m reading a fabulous book right now called Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni.  The book talks about how Americans put too much emphasis on brand name schools.  He shows research and case studies that counter this mindset.  One recent study he mentioned interviewed 550 American leaders, including CEO’s, non-profit leaders, and government officials.  This study found that the “reputations of the colleges that they attended, he discovered, seemed to matter much less than the reputations of the graduate schools that they moved to, and they weren’t shut out of these graduate schools on the basis of where they’d applied from”.

I talked to hiring managers in the fields of banking, technology, and bio-technology and heard similar things.  They said that, as long as the school is accredited, the country in which the degree was acquired does not matter in the least.  Most companies have become quite global so they are working with people who have been educated around the world. Thus, most companies don’t bat an eye at what country one’s bachelor’s degree came from.

Times Higher Education’s article on global employability noted the same. They found that,  “As recruiters develop a better knowledge and understanding of the global higher education market, reputation plays less of a role and expertise [plays] more,” explains Laurent Dupasquier, associate director of Emerging, a French human resources consulting firm. “The nationality of young graduates, the country in which they studied and the nationality of the company that employs them is becoming increasingly irrelevant.”

So if the country your degree comes from is a neutral factor, why do I think that you will have an advantage when seeking employment if you study in Europe? It’s due to the skills you acquire through studying outside of your own country and the qualities you most likely have to even want to study elsewhere in the first place.

One of the hiring managers I spoke with said that Americans often come to them needing soft skills 3cultural appreciation training as well as “soft skills” training.  Students who have studied outside of their home country come to the table with a comfort level with cultural differences.  The emphasis on group work at schools in Europe provides experience in working with different perspectives.  The graduates are often flexible, adaptable, and experienced navigating unfamiliar circumstances  – all of which lead to success in the workplace.

Bruni’s book pointed to the same.  He interviewed Dick Parsons, whose professional accomplishments include being the chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, the chairman of Citigroup, a member on the economic advisory board team under Obama, and interim chief executive of LA Clippers.  He ended up going to the University of Hawaii, far away from his home in New York.  He noted that after law school, nobody cared where he went to college and pointed out that with the exception of a few big names, nobody knows what the school means anyway.  What he has found in his life is that “the degree is no substitute for abilities nurtured outside of the classroom.”  By being so far away from home he gained the skills he believes to be crucial to success, which he defines as “the ability to relate to people, to be comfortable with risk, to manage ambiguity and to be resilient.” Acquiring a degree outside of your own country lead to all of those skills.  The English taught programs we profile have students from all around the world, not just the country in which it is held.  You will learn to relate to people with different backgrounds and perspectives in classrooms and in housing situations.  You will be dealing with different grading structures, educational models, languages, foods- all away from the safety at home.  There is not a way you can manage that without developing the skills that Parsons notes are essential.

Almost all of the programs I visited throughout Europe have an optional or required internship.  Some schools have more than one required internship. The business schools place students in internships with companies like Deloitte, Accenture, and Bayer.  Students at employers-criteria-for-selecting-graduates-121115-smallschools in the Hague have opportunities to intern at counter terrorism organizations or the international courts.  Not only do the internships give students connections when seeking employment, they also provide the students with skills and experience that are valued by employers. The Times Higher Education article I referenced earlier included the results of Emerging’s Global Employability University Survey. Their results found that, “In graduates, employers also want to see the same attributes: in all continents, specific skills are the most important factor, followed by professional experience and area of degree specialization. On average, grades come bottom of the priority list.”

So does going to school in Europe guarantee you will get a job?  No.  That said, going to school in America doesn’t mean you will get a job either with just 53% of college freshmen earning a degree within six years and 42% of US college graduates planning to move in with their parents after graduation.  My belief is that going to college in Europe will not decrease your chances of getting a job and will also provide you with experiences, skills and qualities that will set you apart from other applicants. Going to college in Europe is definitely not for everyone, but if it speaks to you, I encourage you to not let fear of the unknown hold you back.