9 Ways to Make Living Abroad a Reality
So, you want to move abroad, huh?
Lately I’ve received quite a few emails from folks asking how to make their live-in-Europe dream happen. I’ll be honest, these days it isn’t as easy as it used to be, it’s financially risky, mentally exhausting and somewhat socially unacceptable. Not many people in the US break the standard “go to college, move to a city, get a job, climb the corporate ladder” routine- it’s safe, reliable and smart. Dropping in a jaunt in Europe or Asia could be seriously detrimental to a savings account. Not to mention, are you sure you’re willing to leave everyone that you know and love for the experience? On the flip side, the gained perspective and international experience could to wonders for your personal and career growth. So you really need to think about it. Hard.
I’m going to be blunt about it, okay? No hard feelings but I don’t to paint an easy-breezy picture on how to make it happen. From my conversations with tons of expats, here are the 9 best ways for making that dream of living overseas a reality:
1 | Study
Numerous English-only masters programs are available at universities across Europe. If you’re already in the market for an advanced degree, consider looking at a programs abroad but be aware of the higher living costs and the international ranking of the university. On the plus side, if you’re from the States and used to paying for private school education than tuition may actually be cheaper.
This is a great site for searching programs in Europe and filtering on the language of instruction: http://www.mastersportal.eu/
2 | Au Pair
Especially for those just coming out of college, being an Au Pair can be just the ticket for a life abroad. You’ll quickly settle in to a foreign lifestyle and possibly improve on a foreign language. Although I’ve heard/read about fantastic experiences with wonderful families, I’ve also read about the opposite, in which the strict family doesn’t provide any opportunities for exploring the country. Be diligent in choosing the region and company you choose to work with.
Helpful site highlighting various Au Pair opportunities in Germany, France, Netherlands and Spain: http://www.interexchange.org/working-abroad/au-pair-program/au-pair-abroad
3 | Multinational Corporation
At Virginia Tech we had numerous career fairs in which large companies touted their career opportunities in exotic destinations. As many friends quickly learned though, if there is a vacancy in the local office, why would the company pay for your move abroad? Don’t be mislead into an employment contract that doesn’t explicitly state the realities of moving overseas. Talk to current employees with similar aspirations and get the scoop on the reality of the opportunities they’ve tried for. Bare in mind, an employer doesn’t want to a hire someone blinded by a desire to live abroad, proving yourself as qualified candidate is primary and typically (and understandably) requires a few years of hard work and breaking out of the new college hire mold before an opportunity may be available.
Alternatively, consider applying directly to an office overseas. This may require footing the bill on moving expenses but that’s what Ikea is for! Far more opportunities exist for those fluent in foreign languages.
4 | Volunteer
Growth as an individual while aiding those in need. Volunteer overseas for just a few months or a few years and you’re bound to find the global perspective that we all need. If you’re just aching to get out, then go volunteer. For the career-oriented folks, this will certainly build your resume and make you a far more interesting candidate once you return.
5 | Working Holiday Visa
Some, not all, countries offer working-holiday visas for those aged 18-30. A 12 month visa that allows for getting a job, signing a lease, and basically become a local citizen for a year. Amanda (Living in Another Language) is using this visa to live in oh-so-beautiful New Zealand. I love this route because it doesn’t require dropping or delaying career goals and allows for truly experiencing another culture.
Here is New Zealand’s Working Holiday Visa information page: http://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/work/workingholiday/default.htm check to see if your dream country offers the same.
6 | US State Department/Foreign Service Officer
“The mission of a U.S. diplomat in the Foreign Service is to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad.” Take this quiz to determine if this is the right career path for you and if so, which career track you’d fit best in: http://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/officer I’ll let the website speak for itself but there’s no question that serving as a Foreign Service Officer is competitive, incredibly prestigious and excellent career path.
Also check the US State Department website for other positions abroad: http://www.state.gov/careers/
7 | Peace Corp
Well known and reputable, being accepted as volunteer with the Peace Corp will not only aid your career but provide an unforgettable perspective on this world we live in. Assignments are 2 years in the length and volunteers can be sent nearly anywhere in the world (excluding Western Europe, North America and Australia).
8 | Gap Year
Recent high school grads across Europe and Australia frequently take what is called a ‘gap year’ prior to starting college. Jaunting across the globe, working odd jobs, simply exploring the great big wide world of ours, the thought of which would horrify any American parent. Like most of my peers, after high school there was no question or consideration of pausing for a year. My parents and I were both eager to start college. In hindsight though, starting school at 18 versus 19 really wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the swing of things. I can’t begin to dream up what kind of adventures I could have during those formative, naive, period but I’m sure it would have helped me grow as a person.
Before you have the responsibilities of health insurance and student debt, just think about it. http://www.gapyear.com/
9 | Teach
Not as common in Europe, there are zillions of opportunities to teach English in interesting destinations across Asia. Pro’s: true taste of culture and interaction with locals, fulfilling job, manageable 1-2 year contracts. Con’s: modest income, restricted vacation time.
A great resource for finding teaching positions: http://www.teachaway.com/