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3 Questions to Ask Before Working Abroad

Did you study abroad and absolutely fall in love with that foreign country? Do you feel intimidated by the job market here in the States? Are you young, adventurous, and not yet tied down to anything?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then working abroad might be a unique opportunity for you to broaden your horizons, network internationally, and build your interpersonal skills.

I studied abroad in Versailles, France during the fall of my junior year of college. The three months I spent there were incredible, and I knew I had to return. I ended up working in France for the better part of two years after I finished school, and I’ve been giving advice on the subject ever since!

1.) Can You Handle Working Abroad?

Are you comfortable meeting new people? Do you like trying new foods? Are you familiar with public transportation? Do you enjoy spending time alone in public, like at a museum or a restaurant?

When I first moved to Le Vésinet, France to work as a live-in au pair, I knew two people in the entire country: my mom’s cousin and his wife. My boss, or mère d’accueil (host mom), and I had spoken on the phone a few times and exchanged several emails, but suddenly I was moving in with her and her kids in a foreign country where I had no friends. Over the course of the year, I did create several best friends, but I also spent long days exploring Paris by myself. Not everyone is suited for this kind of life, and that’s okay.

Do you have the money for an international plane ticket and at least one month’s expenses? When I taught English in Niort, France, I wasn’t paid until after I had been there a month. I had to use my savings to pay for my train ticket from Paris to Niort, to pay for food, to buy a cell phone, etc. Some international programs don’t pay you at all, aside from providing room and board. Although it’s certainly possible to work abroad and travel on a budget, having a financial cushion will lessen your stress.

2.) What Country is Best for You? 

If you studied a second language during school, your choice is pretty straightforward if you want to perfect your language skills. Spanish speakers have multiple South American countries with opportunities, plus Spain, of course. I majored in French and obviously ended up in France. If you only speak English, however, your options are limited by your comfort level. Are you comfortable going to a country where you don’t speak the language? Are you willing to learn some basic phrases before you leave, and are you willing to immerse yourself in a new culture when you arrive? Many of my friends in France had never studied French before, and they still had an amazing experience. However, it’s not for everyone, and working in Australia or somewhere in the United Kingdom might be better for you.

3.) What Will You Do?

The world is full of international opportunities for young people. One of the most popular jobs abroad for native English speakers is teaching English. I taught English for seven months in a French middle and high school. I had friends who taught English in Spain, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and China. The programs in France and Spain require proficiency in French and Spanish, respectively, but most of the programs in Asian countries do not have a second language requirement.

Another possibility, especially for young women, is to be an au pair. Again, native English speakers are in high demand by families who want their children to be bilingual in English. I actually did this twice. The first time was for a half-French, half-Irish family in France. The second time was for a French family in New York/Toronto. Au pair jobs typically do not pay much, but your host family provides your room and board while you work for them.

I know I’m not the only shamelessly ambitious Flairist who expanded my horizons by going abroad. Share your international experiences in the comments!


Featured image by Antenna via Unsplash.


Brita Long

Brita currently works as the Social Media Specialist for both MCV Live and Cynexis Media. When she's not working, she's promoting feminist causes, writing her memoirs, and trying to make her way back to Paris.

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