This is the story of how I turned my study abroad into a career abroad in the period of 3ish years. Also I haven’t officially started my full time job yet. Not until May 1st and I move to Germany in April but obviously I will keep you posted.
Obviously this did not happen overnight, but let’s start at the beginning…
We’ll say this is how I *eventually* turned my study abroad experience into a career abroad! Note that study abroad is beneficial to EVERYONE. I don’t care if you want to be a fashion designer or a pilot or an engineer or a teacher. The skills you get from learning to adapt to a foreign environment and explore a new culture are priceless. Talk to your school/study abroad office about this. With scholarships and financial aid my study abroad was cheaper than a semester at my American Public University. So look into it.
Step 1: Plan your study abroad and go!
When I was growing up I never really traveled at all. It wasn’t until I was in college that I got the opportunity to do so. I had taken French since high school and had always dreamed of going. I went to my advisor during my first year of college and found out that I could go my second year. I researched programs my school had and found the right fit and semester to go. So I applied and had my interview, applied for scholarships and I was off.
Before leaving I think it’s good to make a list of goals and places you want to go. I also recommend having a journal or a blog to document your experience. You can see how it changes your perspective and how you want your future to be! Above all the most important thing is having an open mind.
Step 2: Come back, realize how much you’ve changed and do something about it
Unfortunately when you’re a student and you need to finish that degree you can’t stay abroad forever. What may seem like an extraordinary experience so different from the rest of college in the US.When it comes to facing reality and responsibilities again it’s not always fun even if you were looking forward to coming home.
Dealing with post-SA depression
When you spend time in another country and discover things there and aspects of yourself it’s easy to feel lost at home. You don’t feel like you quite belong with the mundane details of everyday life back home because it seems like nothing has changed. It’s easy to get depressed or dwell on your experiences abroad but there’s definitely something you can do about it.
Re-evaluate what you want in life
Maybe you want to go abroad again, or never want to go back or you want to try something else.
When I came back from studying abroad I felt like it was steering me into the direction what I really wanted to do for a career. This is prime time to go to your advisor or go to the career center at your school. Find a job but try to find something relevant to your interests or career aspirations. Go to your career center and add your international experience to your resume. Do your homework on how you can talk about your experience in interview or in other ways to future employers. Obviously it’s a skill that employers want! There are so many options out there after going abroad like internships (domestic and international) that are definitely worth checking out.
For example I got a job at the study abroad office immediately after I came back and found it to be incredibly rewarding and I learned a lot. So much that I decided that higher education was the field for me.
Living life with an international focus and keeping engaged
Keep engaged with your host country or the culture of where you studied. This includes but is not limited to keeping up your language skills- take classes, go to conversation clubs, get a conversation partner or make friends with exchange students. Keep in touch with your host family or the friends you made abroad. Participate in international events on campus- clubs, lectures and more! If your school or your study abroad program provider has an Alumni group that’s a great place to start and also to network.
Some of the things I did include: French club, international fest, model united nations, exchange student buddy program, international orientation leader.
Step 3: Graduate, maybe have a quarter life crisis, take on the world
Network it up
Use all of your ties to feel out how you want to take the next step. Maybe it’s grad school or a gap year teaching abroad or a career. Do what feels best to you! If you don’t feel ready- don’t apply. Start networking with people in the field you want to go into such as fellow classmates, alumni and professors who can connect you with others. Go to conferences or make yourself familiar with societies or associations in that field.
This is what I did when I won a grant to go to the Michigan Association of International Educators conference- I was basically the only undergrad and I got to really participate and network. It was then I knew that this is something I could do feasibly as a career.
Apply apply apply
Apply for all of the things. I created a few spreadsheets, notebooks and several folders of bookmarks dedicated to my mission to figure it all out. I had a plan A B and C and prioritized what I wanted to do. First step was to get abroad again which I did through teaching English in France. I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever so I started looking into grad school but none of the programs felt right.
I started applying to a few but it was then that I started a job search. A job search that at first seemed futile as I’m not an EU citizen yet it was my goal to work abroad. However I did eventually get a call about an interview, went through the process and just now accepted my first full time job. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there because while you may get a lot of “no’s” the way I see it someone has to say yes eventually.
Go for it, take opportunities and risks
It may be uncomfortable or scary and life will perhaps take you in a direction you never thought it would. You will have to make sacrifices there’s no way around that. In the end though it will so be worth it. Sometimes it’s difficult and you feel lost and like nothing will work but when you put in the effort it will pay off. If you don’t take any risks how will you know? This is coming from someone who used to be very timid and shy. However, now I’m kind of living proof that life does happen when you get out of your comfort zone.
Obviously there’s not just one path
The good and bad thing about post-grad life is that there are so many possibilities out there. I’ve had friends who studied abroad who have done a whole multitude of things like: grad school abroad, law school, grad school in the states, straight into a career, americorps, teaching in Japan and a whole multitude of things.
I wish you luck in your adventure of figuring it all out! If anyone’s interested in a blog about studying abroad or jobs in higher education I’m thinking about blogging about that as well. If any of you have questions about this feel free to email me or leave a comment below!