Adventure Ahoy!

June 26, 2014 by  


Traveling safely and working abroad

By Courtney Pennington-Krygier

Recently I realized that my job was not what I wanted.  (My full time job, not this one!)  Fresh out of college, I was lucky enough to land a full-time job with benefits, great coworkers, enormous administrative support, and even opportunities to continue my education through training.  But sadly, my passion does not lie with this position.

I’ve decided it’s time for a change.  How drastic of a change? Well, to put it in perspective, I am moving to Taiwan. 

I do not speak Chinese.  I do not know anyone there personally.  The most authentic Chinese food I’ve ever had is Panda Express (which, in case you’re not culturally savvy, is as Chinese as a wombat).  I will be teaching English.  If you’ve ever looked for a job abroad, may I advise you to look into a TESOL/TESL/CERTA certificate.  These certificates are short-term, especially if taken online, and qualify you to teach English.  The less developed the country, the less certifications they require.  Some places will hire you simply if you speak fluent English.

Navigating a job placement across the globe can be tough.  I thought it might be useful to share with you my tips for a safe, happy job abroad!

First, where to search?  It may be easiest to look up companies you know exist abroad and check their listings.  Otherwise, you can use many of the job-hunting sites you’re familiar with and search outside the country.  Many countries also have their own versions of Monster.com.  If you search for something like ‘Paraguay job postings’ you’ll find multiple boards to help you out.  Idealist.com is a site with philanthropic leanings which has many opportunities abroad.  I secured several offers through this site.

Second, most of your search will have to happen over the internet.  Don’t forget the rules of stranger danger.  Anyone could post on a website.  Find some way to prove they are who they say they are!  My employer did not have fast enough wifi to Skype with video, so all I had was a voice.  I asked for references, claiming I wanted to ask them what the job was like, which seemed more polite.  I was able to confirm his identity.  If possible, ask for a Skype tour so you can see that the place matches the website’s pictures.  An imposter will not be able to walk through the building claiming to be a recruiter without an actual employee challenging him.

If you have any friends from the region of your job offer, it will help you immensely.  My new employer’s website is entirely in Chinese.  I had a friend check it out to see if the school was legitimate, and they then were able to find the name of the employer on a staff page.  Don’t forget that anyone can set up a website.

Third, make sure you are safe.  I was considering Thailand until I found out one of my uncles has gone missing there, and Thailand is currently experiencing a military coup.  Try using the Global Peace Index at visionofhumanity.com.  This incredible interactive map features detailed measures of a country’s safety, including homicides, safety for women, and hostility to foreigners.  In case you’re curious, the U.S. rates 101 out of 162 included countries.  You can also check for travel advisories from the government.  These will tell you if you should reconsider your travel plans, and why.

Lastly, try to learn some of the local language.  Even if it’s just ‘hello.’  Imagine having a German exchange student in your high school.  He speaks up in German class, and then communicates only with the German students because that way he doesn’t have to speak English.  He comes off as selfish, maybe a little lazy, and definitely alienating.

Do your best to learn a few phrases.  I suggest: hello: thank you; you’re welcome; have a good day/goodbye; and where is the bathroom?  And try to learn left/right and cardinal directions, for when someone tells you where the bathroom is.  This is not safety so much as practicality.  Even if you absolutely massacre the language, most non-citizens I’ve talked to prefer that visitors show an effort.

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