Reflection Process

"Experience without reflection is like eating without digestion"
BLTH Project

In the Preparing or Being there modules you may have considered your bucket list for your international experience in terms of:

  • Personal growth and development
  • Cultural/Language immersion
  • Academic opportunities
  • Co-curricular and hands-on opportunities that develop employability skills.

Once you are back home, it can be useful to build an inventory or portfolio of specific experiences that you can reflect on in the context of employability skills that are important to employers. For example:

  • qualities or training that had to do with the specific university or site that you visited, such as language training
  • specific work experiences, for example through an internship or volunteering
  • a strength developed through a particular academic program that is uncommon or unavailable in Australia.

Tapping into your memories

Reflect back on your experiences and see if you can sort them into these life experience categories:

  • Personal
  • Cultural/Language
  • Academic
  • Employability

If you created a portfolio during your international take the time to reflect on the images, notes or posts you collected during your study and unpack them. If you didn’t maintain a portfolio while you were abroad, use the categories in the Reflecting on my experiences form here in either Ms Word or Adobe.PDF format, to help you tap into your memory and identify useful experiences.

As you reflect on your experiences, write using outcome-focussed language rather than descriptive. For example:

Cultural Experience: Living in Colombia meant I had to learn the language
The unpacked outcome: Iā€™m fluent in conversational Spanish

Need help to get started?

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some experiences that previous students have identified.

Examples list

As you read through the list, consider the categories you might put them into if they were your experiences. Here are a few of the experiences as classified by others:

  • Conversational Swedish - Culture or Language
  • Played intramural rugby in Scotland - Personal
  • Took ‘Outdoor Education’ courses while in British Colombia ā€“ Academic
  • Volunteer teacher’s aid in Manchester - Employability
Employability Skills Worksheet

Think about the top eight employability skills identified by employers.

You might consider what you learned about working with other sorts of people that you might be able to generalise to work situations. For example:

  • I can establish rapport with people from a diverse range of backgrounds
  • I am able to accommodate local norms by assessing the situation and adapting to the environment

Communication, teamwork and problem-solving are key employability skills that you can develop through a range of experiences even if they aren’t specifically work-related. For example, you could develop:

  • teamwork skills by playing ice hockey whist studying abroad
  • planning and organising skills by balancing studying abroad with managing your own finances and participating in extra-curricular activities like joining the University Cycling Club

I had employment-related experience, where do I start? (Case study)

If you’re not sure where to start, here is an example of how one student used her experience as a volunteer employee to address some of the criteria on the Employability Skills Worksheet.

Lauren’s Employment Experience:
Lauren worked as a volunteer teacher’s aid at a primary school in Manchester when studying overseas. Lauren decided to meet with a Careers Advisor at her university to help her articulate key skills and achievements that would demonstrate her employability.

The careers advisor asked Lauren to reflect on her specific experiences as a teacher’s aid and share two or three significant aspects of her work. They worked together to re-tell those key aspects as specific employability skills. Here was what Lauren included in her Employability Skills worksheet as a starting point.

Communication Skills:
I worked in a Year 3 level classroom and used developmentally appropriate interpersonal communication strategies to enable effective interaction and problem-solving with students having difficulty in Maths.

Self-Management Skills:
To assess my performance, I approached classroom teachers for feedback to improve my personal effectiveness in working with students and as a member of a team. I was able to reflect on the feedback and then apply it in a practical workplace situation to reinforce my learning.

I had no employment-related experience, where do I start? (Case study)

If you’re not sure where to start, here is an example recreated by Alexandra Haaxman, careers advisor, Murdoch University. The experience has been unpacked so it could be added to the Employability Skills Worksheet. The un-PACK model provides you with a good framework for working through this process.

How Marco used the un-PACK model to build his career story:
Marco considered his academic experiences as a student overseas and reflected on the Social Media class he took at the Danish School of Media. Here was what he created using the unPACK model as a starting point.

Understand the: Problem or Opportunity
Opportunity - Social Media class

Actions undertaken:
  • I utilised social media technologies such as Twitter, Face-book and Linked In for research purposes
  • I sought out a Danish journalist to act as my mentor for the research project to provide feedback on my use of social media technologies.

Clear outcomes:
I compiled my research as a report for presentation to the industry picture agency ā€“ SCANPIX. To deliver the presentation I designed a PowerPoint presentation in Danish. Feedback from my lecturer indicated that I had great insight into using social media to market products in the Danish and European environment.

Knowledge and skills acquired:
Technology skills:
Using a range of social media technologies gave me the insight to strategically use social media for marketing purposes, together with a deeper understanding as to how such technologies work within a European culture.

Feedback from a Danish journalist enabled me to communicate effectively in the online environment from a cross-cultural perspective. I was able to analyse his feedback and use it to create valid and engaging content as verified through my lecturer's feedback.

Open the Employability Skills Worksheet here in either Ms Word or Adobe.PDF format, and reflect on your experiences abroad. Type in evidence of employability skills that you gained from your overseas experience. You may not have a suitable example for every skill listed. That’s okay. The first step is to simply unpack your international experience so that you can turn it into information that will appeal to employers.

Print and save your worksheet for future reference.

Think about all of your experiences in the context of employability skills. Just because you didn’t have a specific ‘employment’ experience you can use cultural, personal and academic experiences to demonstrate employability skills. Remember soft skills are the most transferable skills.

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