Learning abroad and graduate employability: challenges articulating international learning outcomes

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Next Generation, Higher Education: Challenges, Changes and Opportunities Vol. 42

March, 2020, 125 pages
Published by
Eva Heinrich & Roseanna Bourke

Growing numbers of Australian undergraduate students are participating in short-term international experiences as part of their degree courses. In addition to any discipline- specific knowledge or skills learnt, such international programs provide students with the opportunity to develop graduate attributes such as intercultural communication skills and professional readiness for careers in globalised workplaces. To facilitate their transition to graduate employment, it is important that students are able to articulate the learning outcomes of international programs and apply them to professional contexts. However, this is a complex task for students that has not been adequately addressed in university learning programs. To address this gap, this paper reports on a study of the experiences of 55 undergraduate students from a range of disciplines who had completed a learning abroad program. It analyses interview data on the challenges students faced to connect their international experience with their future professions. Results indicate a complex range of potential challenges for individual students relating to their career management skills, developing professional identity, task-related performance issues, and perceptions of the relevance of international programs for employability. The paper establishes the necessity for universities to maximise the affordances of learning abroad programs by adequately supporting students to realise global graduate career opportunities.

Keywords: Graduate employability, Learning Abroad, Reflection