Living and working abroad for the first time can be monumentally intimidating. However, the benefits far outweigh the fear. The opportunities to expand your perspective, grow into a global citizen, and gain unique work experience are just a few advantages that can come out of working abroad.
The first place to start when deciding to become an expat is identifying where you would like to live and work. When making this determination, there are several important factors, including your language proficiencies, previous work experience, and goals. Additionally, it's essential to research your visa options which vary based on your citizenship. For example, countries with working holiday visa programs, like Australia and New Zealand, are popular options for Americans, while Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom are popular work abroad destinations for citizens of India.
Once you know where you want to work and live, here are six popular jobs abroad to inspire your career search.
1. Work for a Hostel Abroad
Hostels, like friends with unclaimed couches, are travel life-savers. Typically a more casual version of hotels designed for young people, most hostels will have lounges, a bar, and a kitchen or restaurant in addition to their rooms. As a result, fun, like-minded travelers from all over the world flow in and out of hostels like a vibrant human tide, and they serve as hubs of friendships, business contacts, and travel companions.
For the first-time expat looking for a job abroad, you might be happy to learn that many hostels hire English-speakers during their peak tourism months, which vary depending on the destination. For example, warmer destinations tend to peak in their summers, while winter wonderlands welcome wanderers in the winter. During these months, they'll be looking for additional staff to work reception, wash dishes in the restaurant, and help with housekeeping.
Benefits: Hostels generally pay their seasonal staff by giving them free lodging in the hostel in addition to a food stipend. Since lodging (and the cost thereof) is often the deciding factor in how long young adults can stay overseas, getting a job at a hostel may be the key to prolonging your stay abroad. You will also enjoy a constant, steady stream of excited young people to chat and get to know.
Drawbacks: Hostels do not generally pay their seasonal workers a traditional “salary” but simply offer the work exchange and a small stipend. This can be constricting, depend on your location and lifestyle. Seasonal hostel jobs are also very popular and competitive, especially if you haven't arranged with the owner far in advance or don't have the great luck to inquire precisely when the hostel happens to have a free position.
The Bottom Line: The hostel is a heck of a cool work experience for globetrotting young people, but the work-for-bed arrangement and unpredictable availability may turn some off.
2. Become a Digital Nomad or Do Freelance Writing
One of the great buzzwords of today's work force is “digital nomad,” meaning a work-from-home freelancer whose “from-home” is worldwide and constantly changing. Made possible through the internet, digital nomads commonly work in web and graphic design, freelance writing, photography, and programming. Digital nomads can work anywhere they have an internet connection, which more and more means anywhere on earth.
Benefits: Digital nomading provides the ultimate combination of being able to work in your pajamas – while living all over the world! When all that matters is an internet connection, digital nomads use the location-independent nature of their income to change their base of operations every few months. Why? Because if you could hop all over the world and make a comparable salary, wouldn't you? This freelance lifestyle is for those who value new and novel scenery over traditional security.
Drawbacks: Only certain types of skills translate to being a successful digital nomad. This lifestyle is only available to those who can work remotely and don't have dependents in any one location. It's also important to know that this is not a lavish lifestyle. Budgets must be constantly adjusted as living arrangements fluctuate, and money goes further in some nations compared to others. You can also make yourself a headache for government visa agencies. When your address changes every few months, providing accurate and relevant tax, visa, and contact information may make your trips to the agency take a little longer.
The Bottom Line: If you've specialized in this type of work, digital nomading allows you to truly live your dream – moving all over the world, staying in different countries for meaningful amounts of time, and not wondering what could've been. That said, maintaining successful professional relationships with companies or clients while touring the globe can be a challenge in and of itself, as time differences and dependence on finding reliable internet complicate efficient workflows. If this is the lifestyle for you, be prepared for those late-night conference calls or early-morning deadlines.
3. Become an ESL Teacher
Teaching abroad is probably the most common job for English speakers abroad. As English continues to grow in popularity around the world, rising nations that want to assert themselves on the global stage – nations like China, South Korea, and Japan – want their children to learn English, and they want them to learn it from a native speaker. Across the globe, teachers are being sought from kindergarten to university level and for all academic subjects under the sun. Before you begin applying for ESL teaching jobs, research the requirements for the country and school system you aspire to work in. Additionally, whether or not it is required, a TEFL certification will help you be prepared for the job.
Benefits: Teaching English is a great first job abroad. Many companies exist to facilitate the process of finding teaching jobs and placing you in schools, operating for a fee, and helping to make living arrangements as well.
Teaching English also gives you the best choice of locations. If you can think of a region you'd like to live in, odds are there is a demand for English teachers there. Also, the inability to speak a second language is not seen as a hindrance. In fact, some countries like China prefer teachers who can only speak English; it ensures that students will be forced to speak it, too.
Drawbacks: Teaching children can be extremely stressful. Issues of immaturity, lesson-specific struggles, and difficult-to-articulate questions can be exacerbated when the students are speaking their second language. Teaching also requires many hours of at-home lesson planning away from the classroom. In certain nations, teachers are subject to random audits and examinations by the local education ministry.
The Bottom Line: If you're fresh out of college and want to get some teaching experience overseas, there are many English teaching options available to you to get started today! Some won't even require specialized experience or education – just a determination and leader's spirit to teach children!
Inspiring Teach Abroad Programs:
4. Become a Tour Guide or Director
If you've ever studied abroad with an independent provider, like EF Educational Tours, you likely had a tour director and several tour guides. Tour Directors are those who arrange your whole study tour – from logistics like reservations and train tickets to cultural classes and group activities.
Tour guides are experts on specific regions and attractions – whether a guide to the Louvre, Tienanmen Square, or the Sahara Desert, guides need to communicate the wonder of a place to their assembled students.
Benefits: Being a tour director or guide often allows you the chance to travel from breathtaking place to breathtaking place with a travel or study group. While feeding your own insatiable wanderlust, it also gives you the chance to be with young travelers as they see the world's wonders for the first time. As Carrie Flitchett, tour director for Educational Travel Adventures, puts it, “When someone waits their whole life to go to Paris, I get to take them. It's the look on their face as they experience it for the first time – and I'm a part of that memory.”
Drawbacks: These jobs require specific training, and companies often require extensive experience. Fortunately, companies like the International Tour Management Institute exist to train and place new directors. Also, as most directors and guides work on a freelance basis for their employer companies, traditional job benefits like health care are not provided. Also, consider the fact that the majority of the population – even those who adore travel – find it “stressful.” Your job as a director or guide is to coordinate the travel arrangements of dozens or hundreds of students of all different ages from all over the world. It can be a tall order, so remember to prepare before diving in!
The Bottom Line: If you really love to travel, this job is the bee's knees. Imagine being able to relive your study abroad experience while tailoring it to perfection for others, all while being paid to do so. Bravisimo!
5. Partner and Support Local NGOs
NGOs, or Non-Governmental Organizations, are also commonly referred to as “non-profits.” Non-profits need English-speakers from all career fields – marketing, management, finance, IT – to coordinate with their home governments, their host governments, and the clients with which they work.
Benefits: NGOs are great for people who feel the need to work for a cause they believe in. Larger organizations will have offices all over the world, and transfers are common and available. Working for an NGO also gives you the best chance to work directly in your field of study after graduation. Whether you majored in government, economics, sociology, or something else, NGOs often look for college-educated employees to help them achieve their missions. Whether needing an engineer to help them design wells in sub-Saharan Africa or political science majors to help them establish democratic operations in village elections, NGOs can be a great chance to put your expensive college degree to work.
Drawbacks: Given that NGOs often operate on a not-for-profit basis, salaries are modest. Also, because NGOs have mission-specific objectives and expertise needed, they often require some work experience in the field, so a job straight out of college can be hard to land.
The Bottom Line: NGOs give you the chance to work abroad for a cause and to use your education, but don't expect to live lavishly or to hit it big right out of school.
6. Work on a Cruise Ship
Cruise ships are enormous glittering cities at seas. Full of restaurants, spas, casinos, retail stores, and more, there's virtually no job you can do on land that doesn't exist on a cruise ship. Personal trainers, massage therapists, hospitality workers, tour guides, lifeguards, waiters, chefs, and tons of cashiers are all needed on board. Depending on the type of cruise, specific specialized jobs will also be featured – Disney cruises have certified youth counselors, while some retiree-directed cruise lines have investment portfolio managers aboard.
Benefits: Do you have any idea how awesome a cruise ship is? The pinnacle of luxury, relaxation, and fun, these floating vacation villages could be your home. Imagine traveling all over the world, across the seven seas, all while living on a giant floating party paradise! You can continue to pursue a career in the field of your choice, and gain a once-in-a-lifetime experience as well. Like many tourism and hospitality jobs, English-speakers are in high demand.
Drawbacks: These jobs are also competitive, so you'll have to strike while the iron is hot to get a position. The Big Three cruise lines are Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Princess. Check with them, and see who is building new ships. Apply there first, because a new cruise ship means thousands of jobs to fill. Living conditions aboard the ship are often very cramped compared to apartments on land, too, so keep that in mind when envisioning your future lodging. Additionally, the hours are long, and you'll be away for extended periods. Finally, it's important to remember that you'll be serving vacationers and not on vacation yourself, so be ready for hard work.
The Bottom Line: If you want to party all the time and see the world while still working in your field, pull up the anchor, raise the gangway and hop aboard – this love boat is on cruise control!
A World of Possibilities
The best part of all this? We're only scratching the surface! We haven't even dove into becoming an au pair, teaching at an international school, or being a translator.
Reconciling your love for travel with your need to make money can be challenging. Traveling and forgoing a career can mean finding yourself financially behind on many of life's milestones. However, working and not traveling can mean a life devoid of the fulfillment you swore yourself in high school you would always keep a priority. We hope this list of the best jobs abroad for English speakers will give you the stepping stone you need to living a gallivanting life of traveling wonder – all while still paying the bills!