Soon-to-be University of West Alabama graduate, Teresa Boykin, hopes to have an advantage over her competitors when searching for a job.

The 21-year-old native of Butler, Ala. took a 10-week Japanese language course in Tokyo, Japan at Nihon University.

“I have always wanted to travel and study abroad, but when I had to back out of studying abroad in Switzerland about a year ago, I had assumed it ended there,” Boykin said, who was later presented with the chance to study abroad in Japan. “They were still in the process of finishing the deal with the other university, and I was skeptical that it would work out, but I decided to consider it anyway. Things became more and more real, so I decided to go for it.”

As part of only one percent of American college students who get to study abroad, Boykin’s experience will help her stand out in the job market.

“The benefits of studying abroad are almost endless,” said former first lady Michelle Obama during an exclusive CNN iReport interview. “First of all, it is going to make you more marketable in the United States. More and more companies are realizing that they need people with experience around the world.”

Boykin will graduate from UWA with a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communications on May 6, and has already started applying for jobs in her preferred job field, book publishing.

“I hope this experience leads me to finding a job somewhere where I can continue working with the Japanese language,” Boykin said. “I want to work in publishing, so working in foreign rights or translation would be great.”

Based on a study by the Erasmus Student Network, employers consider an international experience as important for recruitment. Additionally, the unemployment rate of students who studied abroad five years after graduation is 23 percent lower than the average and are half as likely to experience long-term unemployment compared to those who do not study abroad.

Boykin said that she adjusted to the Japanese culture much better than she thought she would, and even credits her experience abroad for increasing her confidence level.

“Studying abroad period is a great thing to do. I loved every moment of my trip to Japan,” added Boykin. “There are a lot of ways to get around the language barrier, the people are very friendly and helpful, and there’s a cool mix of ancient and almost futuristic in the country.”

For more information about study abroad opportunities, one can contact Connie Marine, UWA’s International Coordinator, at cmarine@uwa.edu.

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