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Why Extracurricular Activities Are Important to Your Education Abroad

Monday | October 14, 2019 | by WES Advisor

Extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities are available to all college students. They typically take place on campus, but they are optional and do not interfere with your required courses. Extracurricular activities can include social clubs, sports teams, student government, volunteering, or even an internship.

Below, learn about a few of the most popular choices for extracurricular activities. This post also discusses how they can be especially beneficial to international students.

Popular Extracurricular Activities for International Students

When it comes to extracurricular activities, there is truly something for everyone on most college campuses in the U.S. and Canada.

Five examples of popular extracurricular activities for international students are:

  • Sports Teams: If you are not particularly athletic, or if you do not have the time to commit to a full year of training and game days, you do not need to join a formal sports team. Colleges often host clubs for amateur intramural sports, like flag football, ultimate frisbee, or even modified games of Quidditch (inspired by the Harry Potter book series).
  • Theater Club: Taking part in plays on your campus can help you make friends and learn new skills (like sewing costumes or building sets). You can also join dance teams, orchestras, choirs, and related performing arts clubs. For example, many schools have improv troupes where you can boost your confidence by learning how to perform onstage, improvise your communications, and entertain others through comedy.
  • Model United Nations: If you feel like taking on the responsibility of a student government position, it can look great on your résumé. However, it is also a big commitment. You might need to act as a representative of the student body. On a smaller level, you can participate in clubs like the Model UN, where you can represent your home country as you participate in mock debates and discuss modern world issues with your peers.
  • Business Development Groups: This option is especially popular for students who are already getting a degree related to business; however, these extracurricular groups are not exclusively open to business majors. Business groups let you network with people pursuing similar or vastly different professional paths. You can talk about the latest business trends, meet fellow entrepreneurs, and even outline your own start-up through these popular groups.
  • Volunteering: You can volunteer for an organization that is directly related to your field of study or simply join to expand your horizons. This is a popular option for international students who face restrictions about working full-time while studying in the U.S. or Canada. Students often feel the most accomplished when they get involved with organizations where they feel that they can have the greatest impact.

Why Extracurricular Activities Are Beneficial to Your Education Abroad

In the process of moving to a new country, learning a second language, and figuring out how to pay for your college experience, international students can easily overlook the importance of taking part in “extra” activities.

Here are a few reasons why extracurricular activities are beneficial to your education abroad:

Cultural Integration

Many international students may experience culture shock when they first arrive in a new country. Getting involved in extracurricular activities can help students overcome this feeling. You will be introduced to cultural experiences that the typical classroom environment may not provide.

For example, you can meet new people with shared interests. This can become the basis for lasting friendships. Even casual acquaintances, however, can help you learn about cultural customs, practice conversational English, and answer any questions you might have about university life.

Social Skills

It can often be a challenge for international students to build relationships when moving to a new place. Getting involved in activities outside of school can help international students meet new people with whom they share interests. You will improve your social skills as a result.

Extracurricular activities also help students expand their networks, which is beneficial for finding career opportunities after graduation. For example, if you join an environmental group at school, your peers might go on to work for environmental organizations. In the future, you could use one of those colleagues as a reference when you apply for a job in that field.

Building Your Résumé

Participating in extracurricular activities is a superb résumé-builder. There are multiple reasons why:

  • It tells the employer a story of who you are and what causes you care about.
  • In conjunction with good grades, it can prove you have effective time-management skills.
  • It shows that you are successful both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • It can set you apart from a stack of résumés that primarily list academic achievements.

Extracurricular activities can add more personality to a résumé and improve the quality of the student’s overall job application. An employer might be more inclined to request an interview. For example, if a student was heavily involved in their college debate team, it might showcase their leadership potential. This means that you showed initiative to go “above and beyond.” It also means that you have some communications experience that might become relevant to the position.

Earning Career Experience

Lastly, extracurricular activities can equip you with the skills you need to succeed after you graduate.

These include:

  • Leadership skills
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Communications skills
  • Interviewing skills
  • Office environment flexibility

Employers might expect recent grads to have some work experience before entering the job market. Although there are some limitations about what you can pursue on a student visa, you might be able to complete an internship or work-study assignment. Even volunteering can help you hone the skills listed above. Any of these options can increase your chances of getting an entry-level position out of school.

For example, someone studying health care might find opportunities to volunteer, intern, or work with a retirement home, hospital, animal shelter, or veterinary office. You will learn about intake forms, invoicing, customer care, and other skills that might be closely related to your field.

Did extracurricular activities improve your experience while studying abroad? We want to hear about it! Apply for the WES Ambassador Program.

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WES Advisor is an initiative of World Education Services, a non-profit organization with over 45 years of experience in international education. We provide advice and resources for international students and skilled immigrants to help them make informed decisions about education, employment, immigration, and integration opportunities in the U.S. and Canada.