The academic year is slowly but surely coming to its end. I should be relishing my last couple of months in the Netherlands but instead I am worrying about my future. The constant worry of what I’m going to do during my long summer holiday has sort of taken the wind out of my sails. Like most students, my number one priority is to use the abundance of time I will have to gain some professional exposure. The overused “you must get as much work experience as possible – that’s what’ll make you stand out!” statement resounds in my head. The problem is I have no idea what I want to do later and in what industry I am aiming to “stand out”. While some people believe it to be a blessing because I can apply for internships in many fields and therefore will have better luck getting one, I find it makes the whole process painfully intimidating. The big bad world of employment is not inviting. Sipping cocktails and letting the sun bronze my skin is.
Alas I have begun, stroopwafel and tea in hand, the gruelling process of job applications. I’m trying to sell myself to prospective employers who have most definitely heard it all before. Strong interpersonal skills, many extracurricular activities, charity work – not exactly stand-out-from-the-crowd material in this day and age. However I did feel a sense of pride when adding my Erasmus exchange in the Netherlands to my CV. After all, I did move to a foreign country for a year where I didn’t speak the language and to a city I had never been to before. That’s (fingers crossed) bound to make me stand out.
I am sometimes graced with condescending comments from friends doing a year in industry. Yes it’s invaluable for your CV and you are getting the precious work experience employers are banging on about but there’s something about living in a foreign country that makes you extremely adaptable, open-minded and interesting. The entertaining stories up your sleeve, the confidence to talk to anyone you cross paths with make you far better company than someone who spent nine months sat at a desk in a large corporate firm.
Those who believe that visiting and living in a country are comparable are sorely mistaken. You cannot get out of a holiday what you get from settling into another country. Granted, you cannot put ‘experience with opening a foreign bank account’ down as a qualification but the skills you pick up from living elsewhere will come in handy one day when you will be left to think on your feet. In most job interviews I have had, the interviewer has been far more interested in my language skills and the fact that I have lived in three countries than any of my (not to be subdued) previous job positions. And that says a lot.
If, however, you were lucky enough to get a job or an internship in a foreign country for your third year out then you are on the fast track to success. You also make the rest of us look either boring for staying close to home or unprofessional for prancing about at another university for a year. Thanks.