I’ve sought out work abroad since I was at university and started pining for adventure outside of my sleepy university city. I knew early on that while my parents generosity was unfaltering I wanted to support myself as much as possible while I travelled. If it was my choice then I could mess up as much as I liked without feeling guilty about wasting my parents hard earned cash. It hasn’t always worked like that, there have been a lot of tear drenched phone calls begging for flight money, money for food or enough to get out of hideous hostels but in general I have supported myself through working several different jobs around the world.
I’m 23 now and have worked in 6 different countries including the UK for differing amounts of time. I love to travel and I think that while I wouldn’t have been able to afford to travel so much if I was not working I also would not have had the same wonderful experiences that I have had. There is something completely about being in a place as a tourist or as someone who works and lives there. I have met real people, experienced the little secrets and daily routine and felt like I have become apart of the community in a way that I never could have experienced while staying in a hotel for a two week stint.
I plan on travelling in this way for as long as I can, living in places and experiencing the little daily occurrences that make you feel like you really know a country. Not all of the places I have lived were for a long time but they have all contributed to me seeing more of the world.
Here are a few of my experiences.
America- camp counsellor & lifeguard
Like many university students seeking work abroad, the first option that became available to me was working at a summer camp. Instead of the giant Camp America brand I found a smaller and more personal company that in 2012 still offered a personalized and well priced service. The staff at Americamp were incredibly helpful and offered a great service with good rates of pay unlike several of the larger companies which sell the American camp experience.
Through Americamp I worked as a lifeguard for three months at a camp in Pennsylvania. I loved it, for my first foray into working abroad it was perfect. I met some wonderful people, got to experience something totally new and was officially bitten by the working abroad bug.
Mexico- Orphanage volunteer
In 2013 I was lucky enough to have some spare student loan ( I have no idea how) and the chance to do some volunteer work, something that after the privileged summer camp of the previous summer I had really wanted to do. Again I opted to go through an established company, a choice that I now regret. I volunteered at an orphanage in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on the west coast. The in country support was wonderful and the experience will stay with me forever but the profit margin the English company made on sending volunteers was far higher than I think was ethical. The idea of using volunteering for worthy causes to gain profit is something I have never been very comfortable with. In hindsight I would of looked for a way of volunteering my time while knowing any financial commitments that I made went directly to benefitting worthy cause rather than lining the pockets of those in the gap year business.
Italy – drama and PE activity leader
After being recommended a small company in my university city by a friend, I shimmied into the Marks & Spencers blouse, put on my sensible work heels and attended numerous interviews resulting in two weeks paid teaching in Udine, a sleepy Italian town. I taught drama and was somehow judged capable of teaching sports. I’ll be honest a lot of rounders and frisbee were played. I am not the sportiest of girls! I came back with a killer tan, lots of Venetian souvenirs and about ten pounds more on my gut thanks to the AMAZING cooking of the mother in the host family I stayed with. If you’re UK based, have a degree or are studying and are able to spend time around children without strangling them I’d recommend this company for sure. The English Experience pays well, is incredibly professional and provides a great service both for the children who attend their camps and also for those they employ.
China – Middle School English Teacher
So I’d tried working abroad and loved it, this time I was looking for a bigger time commitment. I was just about to graduate from university so applied for lots of teaching positions all over Asia. I found a smaller company who didn’t need their teachers to have a teaching qualification just a degree, adventurous attitude and good grasp of the English language. After passing numerous interviews I was on my way to Wuhan, China for one of the most exciting years of my life so far. Living in China was an incredible experience. The company Teach English In China were incredibly good. They provided a service which far surpassed many of the other companies my friends had come to China with. They provided pre-travel orientation as well as making sure we were supported in applying for visas and within the schools when we arrived. I cannot recommend them enough.
I worked in a middle school teaching four classes of around 60 teenagers. I loved them, they were wonderful. As well as the great pay, one other huge benefit of working in China is the paid holiday time for the Spring festival. That’s between four and six weeks of paid holiday which many English teachers use to explore Asia. Amazing.
I am currently living and working in Colombia.
I don’t really think it wise to comment on a company while still relying on their pay cheques so I guess any appraisal on the company from me will have to be in a few weeks when I end my contract.
To use a company or not . . .
When applying for jobs abroad it isn’t essential to travel through a company. It is however convenient. For me I quite like the structure of knowing what’s going to happen when I get to a country, that and having in country support when I arrive is one of the reasons that Ihave tended to find work where I travel with the support of a company.
Sometimes though this is not always the case, there are many companies that will charge vast amounts for a service that they say is necessary when in fact the process would be almost as easy to do independently. Make sure you research any company you plan on travelling with, try and find out how difficult the process to get to a country is and also check the reliability of a company. “Bad review x” is one of my most common google searches.