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Teaching English in Spain

Finding Work Abroad: If There’s a Will, There’s a Way

I looked forward to returning to Spain after my college graduation, but finding work abroad as a recent grad is not easy, especially if you still need to pay off college loans. The obvious options often have catches: U.S. State department internships and many popular fellowships require recipients to return to their home countries after completion of their research, studies, or projects. American companies abroad often require you to work for two years in the U.S. before they will even consider transferring you overseas.

So I reassessed my situation and asked questions I should have asked sooner: What do I enjoy doing? What skills do I have? What skills can I acquire that would help me get a job abroad? What are my options—realistically, financially, and logistically? Answering these questions gave me the focus I needed to narrow down my job search and concentrate my efforts.

I have always enjoyed tutoring and teaching, so I started volunteering as an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) tutor and classroom aide. I found an ESOL certification course on the web and enrolled. I bought a plane ticket to Spain. I talked with English teachers in Spain about their experiences.

Most importantly, though, I stopped worrying about planning every detail. I designed a basic plan and resolved to let things develop from there. College gives the illusion of freedom, but it is really a structured and sheltered environment. It was hard for me to break free from the idea that I needed to plan the rest of my life before graduation.

I worked like a fiend at my part-time jobs and saved as much money as possible. I stopped worrying about paying my loans off right away, getting insurance, and finding a job that I would stick with for the rest of my life. I decided that knowing where you want to be is just as important as knowing what you want to be. Go with what you know. The rest will follow.

Suggestions for Working Abroad

1) If your parents (or you) were born in the EU (or in the case of Ireland, even one grandparent), you may be able to obtain a European Union passport. This will eliminate the hassle of having to obtain working papers.

2) If you are flexible as to your location and purpose, your chances of finding a job, internship, or fellowship increase dramatically. Japan and Germany expecially offer many teaching, internship, and study opportunities. China and Latin America offer varied volunteer opportunities.

3) Talk to anyone and everyone you know about your plans. You never know where and how people have connections.

4) If you plan to attend graduate school in the future, consider a State Department internship in an American consulate or embassy abroad.

5) American and international schools are everywhere. Write to them. Many schools abroad hire American interns. This is a particularly good option if you are interested in teaching but don’t necessarily want to teach English.

6) If you are a recent grad looking for relatively low-paying work that will allow you to mix with a foreign culture (e.g., waitressing), a visa exchange program such as BUNAC (www.bunac.org) will get you a work visa in a number of countries—for a fee.

7) Consider jobs that you can do through the Internet, which range from editing, and translating to freelance writing.

8) Go there. Meet people. Make connections. Do odd jobs. Tutor foreigners in English. Sing in the subway. Be creative, flexible, and optimistic. Don’t give up.

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