Working Abroad | The Student Pocket Guide
by Nathan Wadlow

Working abroad can provide the perfect answer for many students thinking about their next step. Whether it is a break from the educational circuit or a beneficial career move, the options found overseas can fulfil the ambitions of many…

Most of us would rather not fall into the stereotype of the obnoxious “Gap Yah” throng. The purpose of travelling goes far beyond a few artificial expeditions and eccentric showboating! Although the appeal of ultimate relaxation and distance from the normalities of life are clear to most, travelling can in fact boost your career prospects. Whilst seeing the world you can gain valuable experience in your chosen field; taking advantage of opportunities which in this country may not even exist! Who knows where your journey may lead, but what is certain is that paying your way on travels will prolong your stay and ensure you get the best out of both worlds.

Environmental and Community Projects
Environmental and community projects are a great way to increase your knowledge and experience of worldwide issues and developments. Work such as this is usually without pay. However, most projects will supply the basics including accommodation and food, which, when travelling, you will soon discover are major outgoings from your hard-earned money.

Casual Work
For many students and young people, casual work is all they’re after whilst on their travels. Opportunities are plentiful in the hospitality and tourism sectors, including bar work and holiday reps. Not always the best in terms of pay, but what’s lacking financially can be made up in enjoyment Making groups of friends often stem from working in pubs, clubs and bars. Depending on where you are in the world, opportunities in manual labour are also normally aplenty. In New Zealand and Australia for example, seasonal fruit picking is always readily available for those seeking quick money.

Creative Industry
Aspiring creatives can often find good opportunities abroad. Touring musicians and artists for example, can tap into new markets promoting and selling their work. The UK has a leading reputation in the creative industries abroad due in part to the various government initiatives that support the export of work from this sector. Bodies such as, Arts Council England, and the, European Commission Culture Programme, aim to bring greater cooperation between countries across Europe and also provide funding for various subjects that meet this objective.

TEFLs – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Teaching English as a Foreign Language is a very popular way to work overseas. As no particular degree discipline is required, many students without specialist experience or skills can often find this a rewarding means to earn and travel. Teaching abroad is sure to open up many opportunities for you whilst also being incredibly rewarding. By becoming an active member of another community you will find yourself establishing meaningful and lasting friendships, not only with your pupils, but with other employees and citizens. From a career perspective, your CV will instantly improve, with the recognisable real-world skills and international competency you will have gained.

In most circumstances teaching experience isn’t required, however if you are as serious about it as a career and want the best opportunities, then you may well find that a TEFL certificate is essential in some countries and organisations. Check out: www.tefl.com for more information.

Placements and Exchange Programmes
Many universities offer the opportunity for students to work abroad as part of their course, ranging from a few weeks up to a year. The nature of work placements also varies depending on the subject. Environmental subjects for example, are likely to present opportunities abroad due to the nature of what is being taught. However, most courses and universities will offer exchange projects which allow students to study at partner universities for a year.

Why did you decide to work abroad?
I went travelling in Asia after finishing university with my boyfriend and met people who were teaching. After speaking to them about their experiences, I decided that teaching abroad would be a great way for me to see the world, earn money and experience different cultures. Depending on where you are in the world, you can earn quite a bit too. Accommodation in Mexico City for example is very cheap and the pay rate for teachers is very high; higher than other professions such as the police and lawyers, so you really can have a good life.

Where have you been working abroad?
I started off working in a little remote town called, Chachapoyas, in Peru. I was living in a mud hut whilst working at a local school teaching English to children and adults from basic to advanced levels. It was very remote with no foreigners, but it was very exciting. We visited many beautiful attractions such as Kuelap and other historical sites as well as going on some very scary cliff hikes!

After my time in Peru I moved to Mexico city and worked in a private bilingual school. After a year there, I moved to Barcelona in September 2011, which is where I am now!

Did you need any qualifications?
Before I left for Peru, I completed a weekend TEFL course with TEFL England. They are very flexible and offer a variety of courses which suit you. What is required however depends on the country and what school you work for. Most employers look for a degree and a TEFL or CELTA qualification. Some schools are lenient and value experience as opposed to specialist courses.

How did you find work?
After gaining my qualification, I quickly updated my CV and began to look for companies offering the chance to teach abroad. I managed to find work in Peru and Spain through online applications with Extreme English Alliance and The English Centre respectively. It was slightly different with my time in Mexico; I secured a job through applying directly to the school I worked for.

How did you find your experience?
It has been the best thing I have ever done. I’ve discovered new cultures, met amazing people, seen so many countries I never thought I would get the chance to visit and also helped people along the way. And I’ve learnt Spanish!

A really good thing about working while you travel is being able to take time off and see the world. After my first job in Peru, I took a month off and travelled to Iquitos, the start of the Amazon basin. We travelled on a boat for four days with many other Peruvians, with nothing but a shared shower from the river and a hammock! It was very exciting. I also travelled with a group of other teachers I met out there. We went on jungle tours, shared a room with a monkey and experienced a famous jungle root drink called, Ayahuasca. It’s a traditional Peruvian drink which is hallucinogenic, but it is also supposed to cleanse the body!

What are your future plans?
I love to teach but I don’t think I want to travel around the world forever! Once I find a place that I love I will stay. Right now I am in Spain and I think I would like to move to the South to live there. I love to teach and will continue; maybe improve my Spanish and then I could even get a job doing something else. Who knows!

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