Time abroad can offer an unparalleled opportunity to gather information and expand your network especially for those considering future work abroad. But it takes a lot of work, care, attention to detail, and time. In sort, to do it well it takes a lot of time & effort.
The overarching theme in leveraging your study abroad experience into an expanded network?
Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk!!
Doesn't matter what form this "talk" takes -- email, phone, commenting (and asking questions) online, introducing yourself to a speaker at a campus event, speaking face to face with an advisor (gasp!!) -- you need to talk to any & everybody.
Broadly cast, there are three tracks to follow -- in no necessary order. In fact, they probably should be running simultaneously: research, connect, follow-up (there is considerable overlap among all three).
You need to know about the field you are interested in working in and the current climate of the place where you will be studying:
- GoinGlobal country guides (free to access for UW-Madison students via BuckyNet)
- NGO Directories
- Newspapers & news outlets around the world
- Professional associations in your field of interest: Associations Unlimited as a resource (or log-in thru the UW network/ using NetID here)
An awareness of a country's visa & work permit requirements is important.
Keep in mind: you cannot do everything in advance. The web is great, but... there will be a tremendous amount of additional information and resources available to you when you arrive in country.
Do you know folks who have studied or worked abroad where you're going? Ask your study abroad advisor for referrals. When you get in country does your host institution have a career services office you can take advantage of? Treat your campus abroad as your home campus while you're there!!
Is your destination one of those that has a UW Alumni chapter or contact? The student board of UW-Madison's alumni association also offers the Badger Career Network Abroad, "designed to connect students studying abroad with alumni living abroad" -- look into it before heading off!!
Are there businesses or organizations in Madison at work in the field you're interested in pursuing? If so, can you set up an informational interview with someone there to learn about their career path & the field in general? The same holds true in country!!
Keep an eye on campus programs, talks, and events in your area of interest.
You should be sure to thank everyone you talk to and will probably need to ask clarifying questions after any discussions -- be sure to do both!!
If you are referred to someone, get in touch with them; if you've looked at a resource and found it worthwhile, check back periodically.
After you return to your home institution: stay in touch with those you connected with abroad!! Keep up on the news and events in your country and field of interest.
A few words of caution:
Unless it is part of the study abroad program and/or you are working very closely with your study abroad advisor, think long and hard before setting up an internship or volunteer position prior to the start of your study abroad program. You want to be careful to not over-commit (before knowing how you will adjust to your new home) and realize that not everything is web accessible: chances are more resources & opportunities will present themselves on arrival in country.
Take notes and keep clear records of all contacts, resources you've explored, etc.
Be professional and organized: have a "place" that contacts can go and/or refer others to (Facebook or LinkedIn profile, stand alone website/page, your UW email address, etc).
Google yourself -- and clean it up!!
Page updated July 16, 2013.