“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
This quote nicely sums up the advice I generally give to students who are considering studying or working abroad. For those of you who have met with me to talk about the possibility of traveling and/or doing a gap year abroad after graduation, you know I’m a big fan of pursuing this kind of adventure while you’re young and have the travel bug. To be honest, I don’t necessarily like using the term “gap” year, because this kind of experience shouldn’t really be a gap in the career development process—it has the potential to be a fundamental building block similar to most study abroad experiences.
Students and recent grads who study and/or work abroad tend to experience tremendous personal and professional growth that can impact both their career interests and their qualifications as prospective employees in a very positive way. As any international student can tell you, living abroad helps you become more confident and independent, and nearly forces you to be more flexible and creative. Living abroad also provides an excellent opportunity to gain a keener sense of cross-cultural understanding and better grasp of political, cultural, and economic issues in the global context– qualities that are essential for successful leadership in today’s political and economic climate.
My first job was a teaching internship in Italy while my boyfriend/future husband taught in Latin America and then landed an editing job in London (an organization called BUNAC helped him sort out the visa details for both experiences). Neither of us saved any money that year, but we had a great time and have no regrets about spending that year overseas. In fact, we both feel like those experiences had a huge positive influence on our future career paths. My teaching experience in Italy combined with my graduate degree in counseling helped me land a job in Belfast, Northern Ireland working for an Irish peace process program as a contractor for the Department of State, and I often draw on both of those experiences in my work at Haverford.
If you are considering working or interning abroad, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Clarify your goals – the clearer your intentions, the easier your search will be.
- Start early — Finding opportunities and sorting out visa requirements takes time so the earlier you start looking the more likely you’ll find an opportunity that best fits your interests and goals.
- Think about what is most important to you: location or type of work. If you absolutely have your heart set on working in London, you may want to be more flexible about the type of work you do. On the other hand, if you know you’re committed to international public health issues, there may be many international locations with interesting positions.
- Familiarize yourself with visa requirements for the location(s) of interest to you. To successfully find work overseas, you will first need to understand and fulfill any visa requirements. You can find information about visas in the Going Global country guides (available through the Virtual Career Resources link from the CCPA’s homepage.)
Here are a few resources to help you get started:
- The CCPA’s Virtual Career Resources subscriptions (Going Global, Current Jobs for Graduates/International, CareerBeam’s International research section, Human Rights Jobs) linked from the CCPA homepage, HC password required.
- AIFS Student Guide to Study Abroad & Career Development
- Idealist’s International Fellowships page
- Idealist’s International Volunteer Resources Guide
- Transitions Abroad
- Study Abroad Fair, Sat., 10/26 from 1-5pm, 1st floor of Stokes
- Study Abroad Mandatory Information Session, 10/30 at 7pm, Stokes Auditorium
A “Consumer” Note: When searching for job and internship opportunities, you should use your own judgment when applying for opportunities. For example, with so many teach abroad options out there, it’s hard to know which schools and programs are the best bet for you. This article from Transitions Abroad, “Teaching English Overseas: Don’t Be A Victim” and the related articles on the page should be a helpful primer. You should always feel comfortable asking to talk to an “alum” of the program or someone who taught there in the past.