woman walking on seashore

How to Move Abroad – Step 1: What to do while abroad

In this issue…

⇨ 1. Study

⇨ 2. Travel 

⇨ 3. Volunteer 

⇨ 4. Work 

This issue is meant to give you a taste of the options you have when considering a move abroad and how you can make a living outside your home country. Let’s get wanderlusting!

back view of gal in bikini at dawn on beach

So, you want to move abroad?!

You’ve made an incredible decision. Even though not much has changed yet, being dedicated and committed to taking your life abroad is definitely the first step.  Then, you must be thinking: but I don’t really know what to do from here?

I am always planning years in advance for everything. When it comes traveling, I like to be as prepared as possible to make sure I don’t run into anything unexpected. Some people prefer to live life on a whim, and with the proper insurance and back-up funds (or guts), this is also a possible alternative.

However, if you’re a planner like myself, you’re probably thinking: I want to live abroad, but what should I do once I get there?  Fortunately, you have several options.  Some are more easily accessible than others, this will depend upon the country you wish to move to.  But not to worry, I will explain everything and hopefully this should clear up any worries :).

1. How to study abroad

If you’ve considered going back to school and continuing your education, an international education is highly attractive on resumes these days. The world seeks those with a diverse background; studying abroad, or even completing your entire degree abroad, is a great way to do it.  With this in mind, if you intend to take your entire degree abroad, make sure that the credits are equivalent to credits offered by universities in your home country. Also, be aware of the university’s application deadlines, most of which fall between January-March (or some on a rolling basis) for those wishing to begin in the fall of that year.

If you are interested in applying for loans, this should also be done far in advance so as to make sure the funds are approved and transferred to your international university in time for their fee deadlines, and so that you have access to them when you need them (sometimes proof of a securement of necessary funds are required for visa purposes in some countries and for certain nationalities). The U.S. Department of Education offers an easy loan application, the FAFSA, for American students, and it can also be used for those intending to take their degree to an international university.

If you intend to study abroad during your university experience, these plans should typically be coordinated with your local school or program.  I have great personal experiences from studying abroad for a semester in India through the MSID program, and also taking my entire masters degree abroad to a University of London school.  So please reach out if you have further questions about this process!

rustic library of books

2. How to travel for a living

If you’ve saved up the money, or maybe you already work free-lance and need a change of pace, nothing is more fulfilling than wandering the world with no agenda.

If you plan to travel and don’t require a stable income but would like to save some money, one way locals find a way around potential work-visa issues is to offer housing and meals in exchange for work. This can especially be the case for backpackers in high-traffic areas or island communities.

I have met several backpackers during my travels in South East Asia who have fallen in love with particular cities and were offered to work the bar in exchange for free accommodation and meals. If you want to save some money and plan to stay in the same location for several weeks, it’s always worth asking!

man standing in backpacking backpack

3. How to volunteer abroad

There are loads of options, especially for English speakers, to teach English abroad (even without prior experience) and receive decent local living wages (such as Korea and Vietnam). Other various unpaid volunteer opportunities are widely available in almost any interest area: environment, health, social welfare, conservation, education, business, athletics, you name it. 

Some should be arranged in advance either by contacting the organization directly, or by coordinating with an organization in your home country which intends to take their efforts abroad.  It is important to note that if you are looking into local organizations in a country of your choice, you should not be expected to pay anything in order to volunteer, this is a big red flag and questions the ethics of the organization.  This leads me to another important point…

Be ware of voluntourism! If you aren’t familiar with the word, I encourage you to go ahead and educate yourself for a moment. Often times, foreigners go abroad with the best of intentions only to either take jobs away from locals by working for free, or break the hearts of young children by departing with no intent upon returning.

If you plan to volunteer, which I highly recommend, research should be done about the ethics of the organization, and I always say the longer the visit the better (we’re talking months here), as building a rapporteur with locals should be a main priority. Let’s not encourage the white savior complex.

women with hat covering faces standing in middle of street

Mission trips particularly strike me here, as they are often short visits, intending to do most of the work themselves. This does not empower or create sustainability in developing areas. Volunteers and the organization should aim to empower local communities, improve upon capacity building skills, and work within the confines of what’s available within the area in order to work towards sustainability. If the organization has all these bases covered, then you will find volunteering extremely rewarding for yourself and the community.

I could also go on and on about the Peace Corps and my service in Cambodia, but I won’t (not yet anyways).  It’s a fantastic way to live abroad for two years and truly become immersed in another culture and language.  They provide all the basics you need (healthcare, transportation, housing, and a monthly living allowance), plus you get a pretty stipend to help you readjust after your service.  It’s only open to U.S. citizens ages 18 or older, particularly those with a Bachelors Degree or several years of professional experience.  You can find out more and search current openings here.

women in hat and white dress standing in field

4. How to work abroad

Depending upon your nationality, you can receive a long-term work visa for next to nothing, but sometimes, visa restrictions may prevent you from finding work.  Again, this depends upon your nationality and the country you wish to find work in.  Cambodia offers work (business) visas upon arrival for most nationalities which, last I checked, was $100 for a duration of one year. 

Research should be done in advance on what kind of work you want or are able to do, as not all countries sponsor work visas to anyone for just any kind of work.
With that said, not all countries and companies have the ability to hire foreigners. This is most certainly the case with the U.K. and Americans looking for work, it’s nearly impossible except under few exceptions.  Please refer to that specific country’s government page for more information on work visas for foreigners before getting set to land a job abroad and only to find out you may not be able to.

Check out How to Move Abroad Step 2: What to pack!

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