While some collegiettes have a job lined up or plan to attend graduate school, others want to take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move abroad for a job. If you’re deciding if packing up and moving to another country is adventurous or just too risky, we’re here to help. We’ve spoken to experts and collegiettes to help you figure out what you need to know before you buy that one-way ticket to a new country.
Search for career opportunities
Know you want to work abroad but aren’t sure where to start in your job search? Lesley Mitler, president of Priority Candidates Inc., a career coaching service for college students, recent grads and millennials, recommends Anywork Anywhere, a free site that posts everything from job and volunteer opportunities (filtered by country) to document and housing information that may vary by country.
In your job search, it’s important to apply for positions based on more than just your dream location. Remember that when you’re going abroad, the same basic job-hunting rules apply. Mitler says that it’s important to understand how a job abroad will benefit you in terms of your long-term career goals.
Even if you don’t plan on using your cell phone much while abroad, having an active cell phone is important for staying safe and communicating with people both in your host country and back home. It’s likely that your cell phone carrier has options for an international plan; however, you also might want to consider buying a cell phone when you get to your new country.
“I bought a SIM card [when I was] in New Zealand,” says Emma, a senior at the University of Delaware. “I prepaid for my minutes in data instead of just getting an international plan, so I knew exactly how much I was spending and didn’t have to deal with any awful surprises when the bill came.”
Manage your money
ATM fees and credit card transaction fees can add up fast when you’re abroad. If you’re going to be working overseas for more than a couple of months, setting up a local bank account is a good way to avoid paying extra on every transaction. Check with your bank before you set anything up to determine your options overseas; it’s possible that they have partner banks in different countries that you can use to avoid an abundance of fees.
If you’re going to be using your normal credit or debit cards while abroad, be sure to let your bank know where you’re moving a few weeks before you go in order to avoid having your account frozen.
“I moved to Australia to work for a year,” says Samantha, a Penn State University graduate. “I assumed that my credit card would work while I was there. After my first transaction, my credit card company froze my account because I forgot to tell them I was moving! It took days to get the problem fixed.”
Apply for documentation
While every country differs when it comes to which documents you’ll need in order to work abroad, you can count on filling out some paperwork before you go. Here are two things you’ll definitely need:
- Passport: If you’re going to work in another country, you’ll need a valid passport before you go. While it’s possible to get your forms approved the same day you fill them out, it can take several weeks for your passport to be delivered. If you need to apply for or renew your passport, be sure to leave enough time to do so. Visit the U.S. Department of State website to find out how to get a passport.
- Visa: Every country has different policies relating to the visa you’ll need in order to work and how long it will last. Mitler recommends applying for a working holiday visa, which is generally issued for people ages 18-30 with a bachelor’s degree. This option is great for collegiettes looking to work abroad for about a year. Getting a visa can take months depending on the country and length of your stay, so visit your local embassy or consulate as soon as possible to avoid delays in your plans.
Get access to health care
Having access to health care while you’re abroad is crucial for ensuring your safety during your time in another country. Once you’ve accepted a job offer, check with your new company to see if there are any health benefits included in your offer. If not, you may need to find a health insurance policy from a company that specializes in international coverage.
To keep your medical routine on track, it’s important to get duplicates of anything you normally use (contacts, glasses, solution, etc.) in case your host country doesn’t carry the brand or product you normally use.
While you may not think twice about the prescription drugs you take frequently, some of these may be illegal in your host country. Before you pack these in your suitcase, be sure to contact your embassy to find out if your normal medicine is allowed in the country and follow up with your doctor if not.
Avoid the language barrier
You may not need to be fluent in your host country’s language to get by, but when working abroad, it’s important to know as much of the basics as you can before you go.
“I moved to Spain for six months after graduation and I had never taken a Spanish class,” says Ciara, a Rutgers University graduate. “The company I was working for was full of English speakers so I thought it wouldn’t matter, but when interacting with clients and locals it became embarrassing when I couldn’t understand the basics. Some of them were even offended.”
While we hope your time abroad is full of nothing but great experiences, in the event of an emergency, it’s always better to be prepared. Registering with your embassy through the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a great way to have support during an emergency as well as receive updates on travel warnings and alerts for the country that you’re in.
Whether you’re considering going abroad for a month, a year or a lifetime, do your research in order to make an educated decision about moving abroad after graduation. Safe travels, collegiettes!