So You Want to Go Abroad Long-Term, Part 1: Finding an Opportunity
Get ready for an adventure unlike any other.
Maybe you’ve already studied abroad and have been craving an even more extensive travel experience, or maybe you’ve never set foot outside your home country and want to take the biggest leap of your life by moving abroad. No matter the source of your wanderlust, the decision to move abroad long-term can undoubtedly be thrilling and terrifying all at the same time.
I’ll be embracing the expat lifestyle as the first chapter of my post-grad life. After spending the summer interning in Cleveland, I’m saying adiós to the United States and heading to Spain in September, where I’ll live for the entire 2015-2016 school year as an English teacher. Until then, I’ll be documenting every step of the planning and preparation process right here on College Tourist, so other students who have similar aspirations of living abroad will get a general idea of what to expect.
Step 1: Find an Opportunity
So you’ve made the daunting decision to spend a long period of time thousands of miles away from home in a foreign country. Good for you! Before you go, though, you’ll need to find a reason for traveling that goes beyond, “I just really want to go to [country].” In many cases, you can’t stay anywhere for an extended period of time without a student or work visa or other form of legal documentation.
Luckily, you have lots of options. If you’re still in school and can’t take time off from studying to exclusively travel, consider the traditional study abroad experience, but take it a step further and plan to go for a full academic year rather than just one summer or a single semester. You’ll be able to see a different corner of the world and immerse yourself in a brand new culture without falling behind in school (just make sure your credits transfer). Although I can’t speak from personal experience, a yearlong study abroad could truly enable you to live like a local – and isn’t that what being a College Tourist is all about?
If you’ve already graduated (or you’re still in school but you could get academic credit from doing this), consider working or interning abroad. This was my first plan of attack when it came to looking for long-term opportunities abroad. There are tons of great international internship providers out there, but many will involve paying a pricey program fee. If your budget allows for it, interning abroad could be a great way to gain experience in your career industry while having a global adventure at the same time.
Finding a full-time job abroad can get tricky. Many employers based in the European Union, for example, will not hire a foreigner unless they are absolutely sure that there are no EU citizens who can do the work required. One option is to look at large companies in your industry that are based in your home country, but that have locations worldwide. I knew I wanted to be in a Spanish-speaking country, so I had a running list of U.S.-based PR agencies with branch locations in Spain and Latin America. And if you’re a U.S. citizen, USAjobs.gov has a database of government job openings all over the world at every imaginable skill level.
Last but not least, there’s always the opportunity to teach English abroad. This isn’t what I expected I’d be doing, but when I heard about the North American Language & Culture Assistants program in Spain, I knew I had to at least look into it. Sponsored by the Spanish government, the program allows young people from the United States and Canada to spend one full academic year in Spain, teaching either English or French. After considering it and doing some research for a few months, I decided to apply in January and found out about a month later that I’d been accepted. Next month, I’ll find out exactly where in Spain I’ll be going.
The very first step of making a decision to move overseas involves research – but not necessarily the boring kind of research you’d associate with school projects. Researching travel can actually be lots of fun. Check with your campus office of education abroad, Google programs in your country of choice – at the risk of sounding cliché, the world really is your oyster. When you have some options in mind, do some even more in-depth research on those programs. I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve read by people who have participated in the Language & Culture Assistants program in the past. First-hand accounts give an honest perspective and let you know exactly what to expect.
If you’re itching to travel but you’re stuck in one place for now, researching long-term opportunities abroad can be a great way to keep the wanderlust alive. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way.