Waking Up at Work Abroad
In the first of her series of articles on short-terms jobs abroad, Caroline offers tips and an overview of the issues involved in getting started.
Many of us have deep desires to travel, some from childhood, others through reading, television, or word of mouth. Some of us satisfy these desires through small, tasty portions, a yearly vacation here, and a longer, single trip there. Others pack their life into a backpack and head off into the unknown, planning a long-term feast. The problem is, unless you’re a millionaire, the world as a whole can prove to be very expensive if you’re traveling without working. No matter how cheap the accommodation in India or the food in Marrakech, eventually your dollars turn into cents or even as the last resort, credit. So what should you do when you peer into your wallet and find only a rupee note, a coin with a hole in the middle, and some indistinguishable fluff? Two options are available to you. Head home or stay and make some money.
Obviously various factors will affect your ability to find and acquire work in any country.
Visas and Work Permits
First and probably most importantly is whether you have a legal right to work in that country. Most countries will ask for some kind of visa unless your country of origin is part of something like the European Union. A fortunate few travelers have dual nationality which allows them to travel and work abroad more easily. The most common option, though, is to go through an organization such as BUNAC in order to secure a visa, especially if you want to work in Australia, New Zealand,, or parts of Europe.
Companies such as BUNAC allow U.S. citizens to gain a work visa for the U.K. with the condition that you are over 18, a passport holder, and a full-time student. It works the same way for U.K. citizens wishing to enter the U.S. (Editor's note: the BUNAC program between the U.S. and the U.K. is now in the form of an internship.) The process is easier to gain a Canadian work visa as the only stipulation is that you must be between 18 and 30 years of age and hold a current passport. Similar conditions apply to work in New Zealand and Australia. Be aware that going through any such organization will always require a program fee. Other countries have their own regulations regarding non-citizens working, but to be honest, they’re not usually anywhere near as strict as those mentioned above. I know of many people who have worked in Europe without any legal right to do so. The legality issue is something that you must be aware of and ready to deal with. The risks lie more with your rights as an illegal worker than actually being caught. But many companies in Europe will simply pay cash under the table, and as long as you don’t find yourself working for several months without receiving any payment at all, you will soon know how much they will or won’t abuse your position as an illegal worker.
Some professional workers, such as nurses and engineers, can enter other countries through sponsorship programs. Paid internships are another option whereby an individual can be sponsored by a company or organization on a temporary basis.
In the U.S., there is the H2B visa which allows U.S. employees to contract non-U.S. citizens for jobs where there is a lack of workers. This can be organized through specialized companies.
Another option to consider, if you intend to continue your studies, might be to do graduate work in the U.K. or Europe. Under these conditions it is sometimes possible to work part-time. However, this is an extreme and expensive manner by which to obtain a work visa!
Types of Available Jobs
A very important factor in your job search will be the jobs that are available and your ability to actually do them. If you are in Bangkok and don’t speak Thai, then you probably wouldn’t apply for a job in the hospital. If you are just looking to save some money, find something simple, such as bar or hotel work. If you do speak the language, however, then a myriad of options open themselves up to you, increasing your enjoyment of your time and often increasing your salary as well. For example, if you are trained in nursing, teaching, or social work, the opportunities can be inexhaustible in many countries (and might often land you a work visa without having to go through an organization such as BUNAC). In general, you will be able to apply for any semi-skilled or unskilled job as long as you speak the local language. If, however, you are fortunate enough to speak several languages fluently, the world is at your feet, as you will find many more job opportunities.
A very important factor many people might not take into account while in the throes of excitement at the idea of living and working abroad are the living costs during those great moments when you’re not at work! If you manage to find a job running a bar in Thailand, you will probably be able to rent your own place for very little. However, if you decide to go to England, France, or Spain, your salary needs to be able to cover much higher rental costs. This is where my travel specialty comes into play: “Waking up at Work!”
Many jobs do exist all over the world that provide room, and sometimes board, along with the position. Such work might range from interning on an organic farm to jobs in hotels which provide room and board to its staff. You can usually expect these types of jobs to pay less, but they often provide a surprising opportunity to save a little while living a fun and interesting life abroad. These types of jobs also diminish the stress of paying bills, finding accommodations, and living in less-pleasant areas of the country in which you are staying. The articles which folllow in this series discuss a selection of jobs where you literally wake up at work!
||Caroline Nye has traveled and worked extensively all over the world, working in organic farming, wildlife guiding, teaching and musical performance, as well as volunteering in various international development projects. She has had articles and short stories published in Amateur Photographer (UK), Matador Travel, and The Healing Project book series, and recently won a Bunac Green Cheese scholarship for humorous writing. Caroline is currently managing a dance team in Spain.