Networking 101: An Essential Tool for College & Study Abroad Students

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College students have a lot of juggling to do. There are classes to attend, hundreds of pages to be read at any given moment in time, projects, research papers and exams, as well as figuring out what the heck you’re going to eat for your next meal, and figuring out a study abroad to name a few. But what if I were to tell you that there’s another important component of the collegiate juggling act, too? One that’s equally important, yet often gets overlooked. It’s called networking. (And no, just because you’re on Facebook doesn’t mean you’ve got that one covered.)

It unlikely future employers are going to come to you; you’ll have to go looking for them. According to a report from ABC News, 80% of today’s jobs are found through networking. ( Two good reasons why it makes sense to start growing relationships now, so that they’re established once you graduate and transition to the working world. This is just one more advantage of studying abroad.  You’ll have the opportunity to network abroad as well.

Let’s take a look at the following tips for getting started.     

Network with other students in your major and/or areas of interest. It may seem obvious, but for many students this is challenging in and of itself. Maybe you find it difficult just to break out of the comfort of your routine with classes and studying, or maybe you have a small circle of friends you spend most of your free time with. Try to introduce yourself to others outside your circle. Strike up conversation with fellow classmates- both native speakers and those in your program. Chances are you’ll have a lot to talk about if you’re studying the same thing. Stay connected to one another after classes end. Share information and resources.

Visit the Career Services Center at your home and host university. The Career Services Center is a valuable resource for all students. Learn how to build a better resume, practice your interviewing skills, and research job opportunities both abroad and at home. It’s also a great place to find out about networking opportunities in which students and alumni connect, on campus recruiting events, and job fairs. Take advantage of all of the services available to make helpful contacts.    

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Participate in campus activities and organizations. Find out what activities and organizations your host university has before you decide which one(s) are right for you. Join the student chapter of the professional organization in your field if there is one. The more involved you are, the more people you’ll meet and connect with, and more you can grow your network. It’ll help you break of your bubble, improve your skills, and maybe even develop new ones- all of which are potential resume builders in the very least. To read more about getting involved on campus visit

­­Set up a LinkedIn Profile. LinkedIn is designed for professional networking, but it also allows students with limited professional experience to highlight their academic successes and achievements as well as strengthen their existing network. On LinkedIn, users can conduct research on companies they may be interested in working for, join groups related to their areas of study and participate in group discussions, keep up on relevant industry information, and connect with recruiters.

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Build upon the experience you have. Have you done any volunteer work? A work-study? Do you have a part-time job or have you had a summer job? A paid or unpaid internship?   Do you have a good relationship with your supervisor? Connect, stay in touch, and don’t be shy about asking for recommendations for your LinkedIn profile. Look at each of these experiences as an opportunity to build your network.

Reach out to established professionals in your field. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, or to ask what the advantages and disadvantages to a particular career are. Networking while you’re still in college has a big advantage; there’s no pressure on the person you’re reaching out to since you aren’t looking for employment just yet. Not sure where to begin? Start with alumni. They’ll be glad to offer career assistance.

Don’t overlook your parents’ (and host parents’) friends, and your friends’ parents as potential connections. Like alumni, this is another subculture of people who genuinely want to see you succeed. They have decades’ worth of experience, which also means they’re probably well connected. And you never know who they might be able to put you in touch with.


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Talent, ambition and a solid education are all essential for career success, but it’s clear you also have to know people. There are a lot of great opportunities that you’ll hear about only because of who you know. So be proactive. Don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back. If you find someone doesn’t want to connect, don’t worry. Just move on. The added bonus is that in no time, you’ll be building your confidence, too.


Julie Kemeklis

Julie Kemeklis is a freelance writer and language teacher from West Windsor, NJ who writes on a range of topics including travel & culture, and family & parenting. She studied abroad in Costa Rica as an undergraduate student, and received her MA from the University of Georgia’s Department of Romance Languages with a concentration in Spanish literature.


The Secret Your Study Abroad Program Doesn’t Want You to Know

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There is a secret out there that your study abroad program doesn’t want you to know. They don’t want you to know because their marketing department tells them that it’s bad for business, that students won’t study abroad anymore if they knew the truth. So your study abroad program puts it under the rug and pretends it never happens, even though it does. What is this secret that study abroad programs don’t want you to know? It’s that studying abroad is not easy and some students have a really difficult (and sometimes even dangerous) time abroad.

Walk into most study abroad offices and what do you see? Posters and promotional material of students smiling and having fun near major sites without any signs of what life is like as an expat or as a student abroad. I have yet to come across a student holding a book, wearing a back pack or sitting in a classroom for study abroad promotional material. When students look at these images, what they’re seeing is studying abroad is a vacation for students. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Immersion into another culture is not easy and for some students it is extremely difficult. A friend told me recently of her niece’s bestie who is studying abroad and has had issues with safety and cultural immersion. The study abroad program is helping this student but this issue is being kept hush-hush for fear of other students finding out and possibly being deterred from going abroad. When I heard that I got so frustrated. I understand from a business perspective why you wouldn’t want to publicize this story but from an educator perspective, I’m positively baffled.

It’s true that every student is different; handles stress differently; handles new situations differently; prepares for this experience differently. But what is universal is that students depend on their study abroad office/program to provide them EVERYTHING they need to know about this experience. It is a disservice to future students when study abroad programs don’t use negative experiences as learning tools. If you have never left your hometown or state before, how can you possibly know how to be safe in a large foreign city, or how to work out a disagreement with your host family when you have cultural and linguistic barriers or know how to develop the tools to handle a bad day alone if no one ever coaches you?!


In Andrea’s dream world, every study abroad program/office would provide coaching/training to students before they study abroad. This would include: hands on cultural immersion training for each specific country, linguistic boot camp, coaching on how to adjust and maintain emotional stability when everything around you is different, how to make friends abroad, coaching on the university system abroad, and encourage students to read study abroad books- not travel books- but ones specifically focused on study abroad. Knowing about things first hand doesn’t take away the experience of studying abroad– it just makes it easier by providing the proper tools and knowledge to make the most of this amazing opportunity.



New Reason to Sign Up for the Best Studying Abroad in Paris Newsletter

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Twenty in Paris newsletter subscribers are in for a treat! Starting this month, every Twenty in Paris newsletter subscriber will receive a free PDF with detailed tips, advice and more on a particular aspect of the Paris study abroad experience. The goal of this PDF is to provide more coverage in a shorter read to answer your questions about your up-coming Paris study abroad. Who doesn’t love that!

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Not a newsletter subscriber? No worry! You’ll be able to find these PDFs on Amazon for $0.99 as a quick Kindle (or e-reader or Smartphone) read. I’ll announce when a new one is up. If you’re on the fence about subscribing to the Twenty in Paris newsletter, here are 10 reasons why you should join today!

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  • It’s free!!
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  • Highlight of the month’s posts in case you missed them
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  • Fun, quick tips on French language and study abroad experience
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So what are you waiting for? Just go to the right side bar and enter in your email address in the SUBSCRIBE box.

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Studying Abroad in Paris tip- Culture Clash

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I recently came across an article by Crucial Conversations about how to handle culture clash in the workplace ( They’re a company who writes books, conducts training and webinars and provides information on how to talk effectively about difficult things without letting emotions get in the way. Their advice is really great and if you haven’t checked them out already you should- having good communication skills will help you in all aspects of your life. Anyhoo, this article reminded me that culture clash is something that not only happens in the ever growing global workplace, but also in the study abroad experience. One of the main reasons that I had a hard time adjusting to life in Paris during my first semester was culture clash. I had not researched current French culture besides what I learned in French class (which really was nothing) so when I got there, I didn’t understand why Tatie and the French didn’t understand me and why they did things differently than I expected. Let’s take a look at what culture clash is, how to avoid it, and what the most common ones are between French and American cultures so you know what to look out for.

What is culture clash?

It’s a misunderstanding or disagreement between 2 or more cultures. It can be linguistic, behavioral/cultural, religious, or a combination of all three.

How do you avoid it?

It’s important to understand that just because you aim to avoid culture clash doesn’t mean that you will be all-knowing about the other culture. It simply means that you will not butt heads over the differences or take offense to what the other culture is doing/believing/behaving. The best way to do this is to read news stories, observe people of that culture, and ask questions to gain a better understanding. In an article I wrote for StudentUniverse, I found out about an offensive hand/arm gesture in France called a quenelle from a Yahoo! France article. What is just a way of standing around in the USA is considered Anti-Semitic body language in France. You wouldn’t have known that if you didn’t read about it in advance and it’s one of those things that you don’t want to discover abroad! News stories are often really great ways to find out the values, beliefs and norms of a culture- best sources are the ones that are actually from that culture (ex: Yahoo! France, Le Monde….). A story written in English about the French culture is good but not as good as a French person writing about French culture. Observation is also a really great way to learn about cultural norms. Just sit in a Parisian park or a café for a few hours and you’ll really pick up some French behavior. But the best thing to do is to ask questions. Ask your program director, your host family, your classmates. Find out why the people of the host culture are doing the things they do to better understand. It doesn’t mean that you’ll always agree with them but at least you won’t be fighting them tooth and nail about your differences. paris cafe

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Common Franco-American Culture Clashes

Is that convenient for you? In America, this is a snotty phrase that someone uses when they don’t really care if something works for you and they want to show you how little they care. It is always offensive even when said in a nicer tone. In French, est-ce que ça vous convient is very formal, polite French. I use this phrase all the time with co-workers to find out if the new meeting time will work for them. It’s not brash or rude, it’s just common courtesy in French culture/language. If someone in French asks you this, they are genuinely trying to find out if something will work for you and are not trying to be rude. Don’t take offense to this and be sure to leave the snot off when asking this question in return.

Am I bothering you? This is the not so distant cousin of “is that convenient for you”? Anytime I’ve used or been asked this question in English, it’s always with an attitude. My fellow Anglophone isn’t really interested if now is a good time for me to do them a favor or if it’s ok to interrupt what I’m currently doing to talk to them. It’s another snotty, snarky way of showing your disregard for the other person. French culture is all about not bothering people as it’s considered rude to assume you can just stop someone in their tracks for your own personal needs. In France, if you call someone (particularly if it’s for a work related matter or favor), be sure to ask je te dérange? before continuing your conversation. Often times the person will say non, meaning they can stop what they’re doing and talk to you, but if they say yes just ask when is a better time to contact them. If your cell phone dies and you need the time or if you’re desperately lost in Paris and need help from a stranger, be sure to start your conversation with either of these phrases: Veuillez m’excuser de vous déranger, Pardonnez- moi de vous déranger, Excusez- moi de vous déranger…. If you don’t start the conversation like this, you are being rude to assume the person is able to help you at that exact moment.

Please, Please, Please! In French, you can never say please enough. All French major/minor students know that the conditional is the best way to ask for a favor but did you know that most French speakers also add in “please” with it? This is really common in written communication. For example, if I wanted a classmate to help me with translation homework, I would say pourrais-tu stp m’aider avec ce devoir de traduction? Stp/svp are the written abbreviations of s’il te plaît/s’il vous plaît- you only write this but don’t actually say s-t-p /s-v-p. In French culture, it’s true that you can get more bees with honey (or please) than without.

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Should I stay or should I go now? Raise your hand if you’re American and have left while someone was eating or had it happen to you- your hands should all be raised. In the USA, our motto is time is money so for us, time is very important and we don’t like wasting it on things like eating or keeping someone company while they eat. In France, eating is a pleasurable experience and it’s even better when shared. It is very rude to just get up and leave while someone is eating, especially if it was only just you two. Now there are times when duty or class calls and you have to leave during lunch. In these situations, make sure to mention this at the beginning of your meal and be bummed that you’ll have to leave early. When it’s time to go, be sure to excuse yourself and the occasional je suis désolé(s) doesn’t hurt either.

Pour on the honey or go straight for the hive? Remember that thing about being polite and never saying please too much in French? Well that goes hand in hand with this next point- being direct. Since American culture is all about time is money, we don’t like to waste time talking around things when it’s more efficient to just be direct. Direct speech and manner is very American but is not very French. Going straight for the proverbial bee hive whether it be for something positive or negative is seen as brash in French culture and you won’t get very far. You don’t have to go crazy with beating around the bush but starting off your conversation with Bonjour, ça va? et puis-je te parler can go a long way.

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Cultural immersion is the best but also most difficult part of studying abroad. You don’t have to completely embrace and agree with French culture but you must accept it. Knowing these few ways to avoid cultural clashes will help you to have a smoother transition into French culture/life and make your experience abroad less stressful. Bonne chance!