About Living Abroad

Let’s get one thing straight: working abroad is not a vacation. Sure, you’ll see magical places, do things you’d never imagined, and probably spend a night or ten under a stunning sunset, cool drink in hand.But you may also change stinky diapers as in au pair jobs, wash crusty dishes at a beach resort, pick a thousand pounds of apples, mop sticky floors, answer phones all day, work endless construction shifts, or hand out flyers to the cheesiest comedy show on earth. You might live out of a van for months, or share a two-bedroom apartment with five other European or Canadian expats. Alternately, you might have fabulous digs and plenty of money, but nowhere to go and no one to spend it on in your isolated slice of paradise. In most cases, however, your wages will suck, nights out will be limited, and there’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself stranded on the side of a road at least once. The vast majority of people who work abroad learn very quickly that there is little glamor to the process. Hard work, old cars, limited wardrobe: yes. Glamor? Not so much.

Vintage World Map

But, those people will also tell you that it’s worth every single toilet they scrubbed. You can expect a truly multicultural experience as you participate in the local rhythm of life, engaging in the community instead of observing it from afar. You’ll gain firsthand knowledge of the food, the events, the language and the people. You and your new, international friends will look like a Benetton ad, and your bragging rights are endless.

You’ll probably pick up some new skills as well. While they may not lead to a career in housekeeping or hospitality, knowing how to wash windows without streaks or make a mean margarita will undoubtedly come in handy somewhere along the line. Who knows, you might even luck out and get your dream job, or discover a career you never knew existed. The possibilities really are endless.

Then there’s the emotional aspect. Working abroad, whether teaching English in Japan or volunteering in South America, will push your limits in every sense. Expect feelings of wonder, freedom and exhilaration, but also loneliness, frustration and alienation. Making your way in a foreign land can be intimidating and exhausting. The knowledge that you can succeed anywhere in the world, however, brings a wealth of confidence, independence and satisfaction that few other paths provide. It’s not easy, but its advantages are huge. Be warned, though: the travel bug is not a myth. Once the world is your playground, it’s hard to get off that swing.

To sum it up, consider one traveler’s perspective:

Living abroad has been both amazing and difficult. Amazing for prying my eyes open to cultures that are so different but so similar, and difficult for trying to communicate, and being away from everything you love. Living abroad is the most humbling experience I’ve ever had: people don’t know anything about you, and you learn to be okay with the judgments they make.

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