One Small Planet General Information on Work, Study, Volunteer and Travel Opportunities Abroad
Volunteering Abroad -- Travel Abroad
Working abroad can prove a very educational and rewarding experience for those looking for adventure. There are many types of overseas work but to simplify, lets break it down into five basic categories:
To determine which category your should aim for, you must do a realistic evaluation of your qualifications. For example, if you do not yet have a BA or equivalent degree, you may be limited to working temporary low-skill employment such as being a nanny or working at a resort or working under the table without a visa. Obviously if you have an advanced degree and are fluent in the language of the country you are aiming for, you stand a much better chance of landing a professional job. This is especially true in Asia where many Asian-Americans and Asian-Canadians are finding their fluency in English and an Asian language to be a highly sought-after skill in the business community.
As you are planning your international job search, be realistic in your expectations and don't make the mistake of thinking that it will be easier to get a good job overseas than at home - it's not. While it may be pretty easy for anyone with a BA to land a job teaching English in Asia, that doesn't necessarily mean it is a job you will do well at or even enjoy. Remember that you never get something for nothing and thinking you will cash in on a foreign job is not a good strategy for international employment. After all, there is a reason that salaries are higher in certain parts of the world - either the cost of living is higher or the conditions are difficult and justify the "hardship" pay.
Certainly overseas executives make very good money and have great benefits often including paid housing, car and driver, allotments for travel expenses, living expenses and their children's tuition and generous vacation time, but these executives have generally paid their dues for years; working their way up the corporate ladder at home before earning an overseas posting.
The entry-level employee starting an overseas job will not be offered these generous benefits, they will work long hours, live in modest housing and will usually be expected to speak the local language fluently in order to get the job. While a high-level executive may be able to do business in English or have the services of a translator, the entry level foreigner will need to be able to prove himself or herself in relation to his local peers.
With all of this in mind, those seeking international employment should realize that if their goal is a career-oriented job overseas, they will need to plan and train for the position just as hard if not harder than they would for a similar position at home. Starting while still attending university, those seeking international employment should be honing their language skills, developing an international network and studying the country or countries in which they are interested in working. Just as with developing a career-oriented resume at home, international job-seekers should look into internships, volunteer placements or study abroad programs that specialize in their chosen field not only for the networking value but to beef up their resume for the job search.
Those looking to teach as certified teachers overseas should know that many international schools require at least two years of teaching experience. If you are anxious to start your international teaching experience right after graduation, your best bet would be to volunteer with an international organization as a teacher. While you may have some success finding a position teaching English, you may want to think twice. Even though the pay may be better than a volunteer stipend, you will want to make sure the international schools you will want to apply to will recognize your English teaching as legitimate teaching. Unless you will be at a school that requires certification and is recognized as a reputable school, many in the industry don't give a lot of credit to ESL/EFL experience at nonaccredited schools. In the end, unless you plan to go into ESL teaching as a career a volunteer position that places you at a government or church-sponsored K-12 school may be much better for your resume than working at an "English Institute" overseas.
For those looking for international employment to offset their travel expenses and who are not concerned with the status of the jobs they take, than certainly the English-teaching industry is a viable alternative along with other options such as au pair positions, resort or cruise-line work, temporary visa work and under-under-the-table work.
Generally a work visa is required before you arrive in the country in which you wish to work. Although it is "standard procedure" in some locations to arrive on a tourist visa, secure a job and then fly out of the country to activate the new work visa, this is not officially the way it is supposed to be done. In fact, in most countries, getting caught looking for work while on a tourist visa is very bad as it is generally against immigration laws. With that said, many times it is the only way to secure employment overseas despite it being a legal "Catch-22". This is where a little research comes in as you will need to find out from others who have been there what the regulations are and how carefully they are enforced.
The official way to get a work visa is to be sponsored by a host employer before arriving in the country. To do so, the employee must apply for and be offered a job and all of this must be done before the employee arrives in the host country. This has become much easier via the Internet as many international temporary (temporary being up to a year) jobs are advertising on-line and often times resumes can be sent by e-mail. Once the employer has processed the paperwork for the visa, the employee is sent the materials needed which he or she then in turn take to the nearest consulate for validation and a stamp in his or her passport.
In most countries, the minimum requirement for sponsorship for a work visa is a BA and a specialized skill (usually English being the specialized skill for temporary work such as teaching or au pair work).
Students and those who hold passports from Commonwealth countries can sometimes get temporary work-holiday visas. These are generally good for 3-6 months in a limited number of participant countries. Job seekers generally arrive without a job and then set out to go through the classifieds or hit the pavement looking for work. While this is a good option for those who want the option of earning some extra cash while traveling should the need arise, others may find that they'd rather not spend their time overseas job searching and would rather know they have a job before they go. This is especially true when funds are tight and the job seeker cannot afford to go unemployed for too long after arrival. Keep in mind that job searching once you are in the foreign country is similar to job searching at home in terms of sending out resumes and lining up interviews and it could take a few weeks to actually land a job.
Check out some of the useful links below for finding a job overseas as well as the great books One Small Planet offers on working abroad.
The American Department of Defense has many civilian jobs available at bases overseas though a certain percentage are reserved for local nationals of the country in which the base is located. Civilians applying for the remaining jobs (generally administrative, hospitality and teaching jobs) will also be up against military dependants who may unofficially get priority. Those wanting to teach for the DOD should be certified with prior experience in the classroom. DOD jobs do allow a more Americanized standard of living for its civilian employees as they have often have commissary access as well as access to base facilities such as recreation and dining facilities. While some may appreciate these small luxuries, this Americanized standard of living may get in the way of experiencing the foreign country and many may find that they might as well have stayed home as they do not get the tax benefits of working abroad and their income is not always reflective of the cost of living in the foreign economy.
State Department or Foreign Service jobs are highly competitive and often require advanced degrees as well as advanced knowledge of appropriate foreign languages. There is also a rigorous application and testing process which a large majority of applicants fail on the first try. Those interested in working for the government in an overseas position should contact the appropriate department directly for application procedures as well as to plan a suitable program of study during university to meet that department's expectations and requirements. Choosing this area as a career goal is a significant step and the prospective applicant would be well-advised to meet with his or her guidance counselor and/or academic advisor for more information.
Those looking to make a career in international employment should seriously consider applying for an internship overseas as a first step towards networking in their chosen field of international work. An internship can be either during university or after graduation and it is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door in an industry (which also goes for domestic employment) and get the experience that puts you ahead of fellow graduates looking for that first career-track position.
It is also much more likely that a company will go to the effort of sponsoring an intern for a visa as they can get the same quality work as an entry-level employee with the salary savings of an unpaid internship or paying a small stipend. While you may be dissuaded by the idea of working overseas for free (while still spending money on air fare, room and board) you must weigh the value of the connections that you will make networking during your internship. It is VERY difficult to convince a foreign employer to hire you over someone local, however if you have met the employer personally during your internship, you obviously stand a MUCH better chance. Thus your internship may be well worth the investment in the long run.
Below you will find some useful links for tracking down an international internship.
There are many useful resources available on the Internet and in university campus career centers and study abroad offices for university study abroad. And there are also plenty of search engines geared towards international study adventures - not just for college students, but for lifelong learners.
Study Abroad is no longer
limited to a semester or a year of attending a foreign university. Now, there
are so many options including spending a week or two on an archaeological tour
led by an archaeology expert; spending from two to 48 weeks learning Spanish
in Spain; spending a semester in Asia on a guided educational tour or even learning
outdoor survival in Costa Rica. These are but a small representation of the
many options that are currently available for students and nonstudents alike
to learn while they travel.
Traveling to Europe? Don't forget the ISE Card and Hostels of Europe Card - your link to big savings on your trip!
Traveling to Europe? Don't forget the ISE Card and Hostels of Europe Card - your link to big savings on your trip!
Volunteering at home or abroad is becoming increasingly popular for students, recent graduates, retirees and those currently in the work force looking for more a meaningful experience. Nowadays, volunteer opportunities can last from as little as a weekend project to a multi-year commitment and can be as basic as manual labor and as specialized as medical or engineering assistance and training. In short, there are volunteer opportunities out there to suit just about any interest or skill and can be incorporated into a brief vacation, be a summer project or be a full-time job for one or more years.
Volunteer opportunities are intended to benefit the recipients of the aid, but they also deliver many positive "side effects" for the volunteers themselves. Volunteers will have a stronger resume, will have immeasurable benefit from experiencing another culture or social environment whether domestic or international, will have a better understanding of how to address serious social issues at home and abroad and will have contributed to making the world a better place.
What many potential volunteers may not realize is that volunteer organizations sometimes pay small monthly stipends and almost always provide room and board for long-term participants. So if you were thinking of traveling abroad but don't think you can afford it, volunteering may be the answer for you. Many times you only have to pay for your transportation and the rest is taken care of. Then you can use your free time to explore the country you're in and through the volunteer program, you may find yourself more immersed in the culture than you ever could have been as a tourist.
Volunteering is also a great option for soon-to-be and recent graduates who have not yet landed a solid job or find themselves underemployed. A good volunteer position can really beef up your resume and can sometimes give you networking resources that you can use when you've finished your tour to get a job in your chosen field.
When you are looking at a volunteer position, don't just look at what the stipend is or how much you will be able to save up during your tour. Look at the costs in relation to your needs. While you are on your volunteer tour, you will be spending considerably less than you would at home especially in countries where your seemingly small stipend really goes a long way to pay for food, weekend travel and entertainment. Take a look at your present expenses: rent, transportation, car insurance, "career" clothes, restaurant meals, movies, concerts, CDs, books, etc. Now think about how much of this you would be spending during a year in a Third World country. You see, most of these expenses are eliminated when you are on a volunteer mission. So now that room and board for a year and a small stipend seems a lot bigger - right? Especially when you consider the amazing life experience you are getting, as well as the travel and that great resume benefit in the end.
So why not check out some volunteer positions? If your alternative is a minimum wage or low-skilled job for the summer or after graduation, it may be the best thing you did for yourself, your self esteem and your career.
It is always important for prospective volunteers - especially those looking at making a long-term volunteer commitment - to really check out the organizations to which they are thinking of applying. Many volunteer organizations have specific political or religious affiliations which they may expect volunteers to accept and embrace. One Small Planet provides listings of any volunteer programs that we find. We do not censor on the basis of religious or political affiliation. It is up to the volunteers themselves to screen organizations before applying. Prospective volunteers should determine the answers to the following questions as a starting point for finding the right organization:
Asking questions such as these isn't necessarily to eliminate programs from your list. It may be a way of adding them. You don't necessarily need to be overly suspicious of an organization that is religiously or politically backed. Many excellent programs are sponsored by organizations with a platform. It may be that your ideals are in accordance with theirs and that it would be a good match for you to participate in their program. Or you may even be specifically looking for a program in accordance with your religious or political beliefs and you may use these questions to seek the programs that suit your interests. Either way, these questions are meant merely as suggestions for making a well-informed decision on applying to volunteer programs.
After you have gotten the organization's answers to the above questions, do some research of your own in the library about the organization. See if there have been any news stories (either positive or negative) about the organization. Check the New York Times and/or Washington Post index as well as any available major or minor magazines, newspapers and journals. If possible, see if you can find anything in the newspaper local to the organization's headquarters.
Lastly, don't forget
to do your homework on the country to which you wish to travel. Find out if
there are any recent publications about aid to the needy in the country you're
considering and educate yourself on policies both within the country itself
and in relation to other countries of the world. This may seem like a lot of
extra work, but it's very important. The last thing you want to do is to naively
head off to a turbulent or even dangerous area or find yourself volunteering
for an organization that you cannot in good faith support because of its ideals
or policies. Be aware of what you are signing up for and save yourself a lot
of grief in the long run.
If you're already employed full-time and are just looking for a rewarding, educational or socially responsible way to spend your vacation time, the hunt for a good program need not be so detailed or time consuming. While you will certainly want to check out the program of interest before you commit, since many of the short-term programs are nonpolitical and nonreligious, it may reduce the number of questions you will need to ask. Many short-term programs revolve around environmental, science or archeological projects and are very clear cut in their objectives and what they will expect volunteers to do. In these instances, generally the brochure you receive from the volunteer organization will have all the information you need to make your decision whether or not to participate.
Information about Volunteer Organizations
This is only a short list of links to international volunteer organizations - but hopefully it will help get you started on your search.
For those of you who aren't interested in studying, volunteering or working, but are just looking to travel abroad, you've come to the right web site! Check out the great books on adventure and international travel below.