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Living Abroad as a Graduate

University has finished and friends are either flocking to London or back to their home towns. The student lifestyle of lie-ins and copious free time is now but a memory and some sort of repetitive daily routine begins to set in. To avoid following the herd, as many as 34% of graduates on the job hunt are broadening their horizons to look abroad. Experiences such as a gap year and a year abroad from university have opened our eyes to the possibilities that lie across the seas, and fortunately, as native English-speakers, we’re in demand overseas. There are pros and cons to moving abroad, one obvious disadvantage being having to leave family and friends behind and having to adapt to a new country and culture, taking you out of your comfort zone. It can also be difficult to find the job in the first place, although this is getting easier with the internet.

On the plus side, moving abroad after your degree can be perfect for someone who’s not really sure what job they want, as it gives them a lot more options to experiment with. Working abroad can also provide a valuable experience that could boost your CV, making you the perfect candidate for a job back in the UK. Added benefits include that permanent holiday feeling that I find comes with living abroad, the chance to learn or perfect another language, and the fulfilment of dreams to explore and travel the world. It’s always possible to take a gap year after university, but with student loans lurking in the corner and the need to improve your CV a priority for many graduates, working abroad is the perfect compromise between pure indulgent travel and a fruitful endeavour.  Some may only be looking for a few months away, others a few years, and some just want to emigrate full stop and escape everything we complain about here at home. With 195 countries out there that constitute ‘abroad’, there is actually no limit to the number of different jobs available and it just takes some clever searching. In future posts I’ll write about various different jobs out there, from au pairing to working in the European Union institutions, you name it.

Once you’ve taken the all important decision about whether to move abroad or not, there are a series of questions to ask yourself that can help narrow the search:

  • Where would you like to work?
    • Language skills are clearly an advantage but for certain jobs that involve a lot of your mother tongue (i.e. English teacher or au pair) it may not matter if you don’t speak the local language. A quick Google search (for example, “Spanish-speaking countries”) will bring up a map of where you can go with your language, and similarly if you know that you definitely want to learn French, you can search for a list of the 33 countries where this is possible.
    • Also when you’re choosing where to live, it’s helpful to think about the climate and the time of year. For example, the temperature in Buenos Aires in July can be as low as 3ºC, which is not exactly what most people imagine when exotic Argentina springs to mind. In fact, snowsports fanatics can plan their year around the seasons, spending June – October in a southern hemisphere ski resort such as Portillo, in the Chilean Andes, and then from November – April in the northern hemisphere, either in Europe, the USA, Canada or even Japan.
    • For graduates looking to earn some decent money abroad, choosing economically prosperous countries such as Germany and Switzerland is essential, as countries hit by high youth unemployment are likely to have fewer well-paid jobs.
    • Think about countries and cities that you already know and where you’ve previously thought about living, as this will help to minimise any possible culture shock upon arrival.
  • Another consideration is where you are actually allowed to work?
    • If you’re an EU citizen then any of the 27 EU countries have all their doors open to you. Other countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia may involve visa applications and restrictions on the length of your stay and on what type of work you can do there. Prospects.ac.uk and AnyworkAnywhere.com are good websites with lots of information of this sort.
  • What sort of job are you looking for?
    • Short-term or long-term? Part-time or full-time? Paid or unpaid? Office job? A job involving a hobby, talent or sport? A job that fits into your long-term career plans? A job that will provide you with new skills?

Research is key at this stage to gather some ideas. Websites such as Eurograduate.com and Prospects.ac.uk are hugely helpful and I’ll write about many of the various jobs, internships and international graduate schemes that I’ve come across.

5 Comments »

  1. Congratulations on this excelent post. As I was reading, I couldn’t stop thinking “Oh, I wish I could write in English as good as she does. I wish I were blingual”. The good thing is I did understand everything! And can’t wait to your coming posts about job searchs and countries where to work. I’d love to have a gap year. Keep in touch, Virginia!

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  2. What a brilliant post. Thanks for opening my eyes to all the other opportunities that could be available to me abroad. I am about to go on my year abroad in Germany and so am hopefully likely to make contacts and hear about things I could do at the end of my degree. If not, moving to Germany would still have less culture shock than otherwise! I am considering doing a Masters in translation at the end of my undergraduate degree to make me more employable, but working in Germany for another year may give me the greater knowledge of German that I desire and I would be getting paid to do it! :).

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  3. Thanks! Well you could always think about doing a Masters in Translation in Germany? Then you’d be doing both things simultaneously! On my Year Abroad I undertook a large translation job (17,000 words) for an Italian charity (obviously unpaid) which I found gave me excellent experience of actually working to deadlines and coping with such a large workload. I’d really recommend that as a good way to test out whether a career in translation is for you. I hope you enjoy your Year Abroad!

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