Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad  FacebookTwitterGoogle+  
Issue Focus on Travel, Volunteering, Work, Study, and Living in Asia
Feature: 2008 Expatriate Writing Contest Winner:
Living and Teaching English in Vietnam by Nathan Edgerton
Baxian Gung Temple, Xi'an China
I stopped while writing the essay to snap this picture.
Not to worry, the girl's father is standing right next to her.
A curious rooster searches the street side cafe where I sit. The evening sun lights its bright plumes as it wanders about, its brown feathers highlighted by colorful streaks that burn orange at the tip, then calm to a smoldering red near the base. After a few minutes, a man from a neighboring shop comes with a handful of seed to lure the bird back home. Scenes such as this, still noteworthy for me though less so for the locals, are wonderfully common in Can Tho, the biggest city in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. Even after three months of teaching English here, I can still spend a whole afternoon pleasantly watching the sights of the city. By "sights," however, I do not mean the pagodas, beaches, or markets commonly listed in guidebooks. Can Tho has few of these, which may make it seem unremarkable to a casual traveler... Read more
Budget Travel in Asia by Resourceful Travel Columnist Tim Leffel
Buget Travel in Asia
Asia is a massive continent, with little in common besides the land mass. It stretches from super-expensive Japan to dirt-cheap Nepal, from tropical jungles to sub-zero Siberia, from the bizarro-land states of Turkmenistan and North Korea to the ultra-modern tech-savvy lands of Singapore and South Korea. In terms of budget planning, it's best to divide Asia into three areas: Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and Asia-Pacific. The differences can be striking. Even budget travelers can easily blow through $100 per day in Japan... Read More
The Rise of Study Abroad in Asia by Stacey Hartmann
When Darrin Burrell went about searching for a study abroad destination, his desire to broaden his musical background through the study of Eastern musical traditions won out over concern about his lack of Chinese language skills. So the 20-year-old music education major at Greensboro College in North Carolina chose the University of Hong Kong, where he will study in the fall of 2008 through AsiaLearn, a U.S. study abroad program provider. In doing so, Burrell will become one of an increasing number of U.S. students seeking educational enlightenment in this region of the world so vastly different from the West... Read More
Overland Travel in India by Volker Poelzl
Overland Travel in India
India is often referred to as a subcontinent, and with good reason. The country is culturally and geographically so diverse, it could easily be made up of dozens of independent nations, all with their unique ethnic groups, cultures, natural features, and languages. Still, India has succeeded in forming a fairly stable unity despite its diversity. But this great geographic, cultural, and economic diversity also means that travel conditions change drastically from state to state. Northern India has the countries best-developed highway and railway system, but as soon as you leave the more populated and developed regions road conditions can change drastically. Within a day's bus ride from Delhi, travelers can travel on a modern four-lane highway and end up on a narrow dirt road leading up into the Himalayas... Read More
Mother India for Women Travelers by Women's Travel Columnist Beth Whitman
Women Travel in Mother India
I first traveled to India nearly 20 years ago with a boyfriend who had an unyielding desire to visit the subcontinent. Though he had never been out of the U.S., and I had only visited England and Wales, we undertook a 3-month journey to Thailand, India, and Nepal.

In India, our senses were assaulted, our assumptions about the way the world functioned were completely dismantled, and our relationship became strained. After many years together, we broke up shortly after returning home. I can't completely blame our breakup on India, but I do believe that she sped up the process of my karmic path... Read More

Honoring the Warrior Goddess: India's Durga Puja Celebration by Volker Poelzl
India Durga Puja Festival
India is a land of holy places, holy rivers and large religious festivals. Almost every aspect of life is infused with religious gestures, rites and meaning. The importance of Hinduism as India's most dominant religion extends far beyond the private sphere into the public realm. Every year hundreds of religious festivals and pilgrimages are celebrated all across this vast and diverse country, and being able to witness or participate in one or several of them is a great cultural or even spiritual experience for any visitor. Among India's most colorful and lively festivals is Durga Puja, honoring the Warrior Goddess Durga. Durga Puja is the most popular festival in Eastern India, but the festival is also celebrated in other parts of India, with a different name and a slightly different meaning... Read More
2008 Expatriate Writing Contest—2nd Place Winner:
Living a Day at a Time in Small-Town Vietnam by Adam Bray
Teaching in Vietnam
I wake up to the cries of the neighbor baby intruding through the wooden window shutters. Vietnamese karaoke blares from a house down the road. A funeral procession clamors past my house on the street above. A bird swoops above me in the bedroom. It must have fallen out of the nests in the rafters. It’s 7 a.m and the neighborhood is already bustling with activity. If I don’t get up soon, the sun will bake the corrugated metal roof and the house will heat up like an oven. I roll up the straw mat on the floor and fold my blankets. I didn’t bother with this before, but I found venomous centipedes and mice in my bedding earlier this week. The fan is already off. It’s Monday, so there’s no electricity today or tomorrow—at least during daylight hours... Read More
Teaching and Living in South Korea by Peter Gyulay
Teaching in Korea
Like many young people living in Western or westernized countries, I was overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of the modern age; too much individual freedom can be paralyzing. I graduated from university with a major in Philosophy only to work odd jobs. There were not many job opportunities in Australia and so I made the decision to venture out into the larger world. Teaching English overseas was to be the ticket.

I found an English teaching job in the paper. The position offered was advertised as either for Shanghai or Seoul. It turned out to be Seoul. "When do I start," I asked? "We want you there in a week" was the reply. I discovered a few days before I left that the job was actually in Daegu, another city in Korea, where I ended up staying a year and a half... Read More

English Fever in South Korea by Elena Pizarro
Teaching in South Korea
It is my first day teaching at a Korean hakwan, or private academy. I am jetlagged from the trans-pacific flight.

There are Korean children sitting on the desks, frolicking in the teachers' room, playing soccer in the lobby, doing each other's hair, screaming at the top of their lungs, and generally having the time of their lives. I look to the other native English-speaking teacher who's been here four months, and raise my eyebrows. She laughs. "Don't worry, it gets easier..." Read More

Slow Food in Korea by Anna Maria Esps├Ąter
Slow Food in Korea
I must admit my image of Korea was somewhat hazy before my visit. Wedged between its better known neighbors, China and Japan, Korea can sometimes get a bit of a raw deal when it comes to international recognition, but as a nation it's done very well for itself. To get noticed Korea relies on its 48 million strong population who have turned a poor agricultural backwater ravaged by war into a technological and industrial giant, with brand names known across the globe. Modern as Korea may seem, this is still a society with deep-rooted and age-old traditions, many of which are strongly connected to food, dining and food preparation. My mission was to undertake a journey to sample the many and varied delights of Korean cuisine across the country... Read More
Working and Living in the Spice Islands of Indonesia by Wayne Johnson
Teaching and Living in Indonesia
"But, aren't you scared of the bombs and terrorists?" said my friend when I announced I was leaving my job in Korea to move to Indonesia. Unfortunately, this can be an all too familiar question when you announce to your friends or family that you are going to live and work in Indonesia. But, despite the dramatic travel warnings and negative press about the place, Indonesia really is a hidden gem and what's more, one which offers good wages and a high standard of living. I'd long wanted to visit this archipelago of 17,000 islands, filled as I was with images of Komodo Dragons, Sumatran jungles and exotic Balinese beaches. Even the names of the islands, Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi conjured up images of adventure and opportunity... Read More
Living in Indonesia—Choose a Large City with Western Amenities by Geoff Andrews
Living in Indonesia
Indonesia, a country of around 250 million people in South East Asia, is abundant in natural beauty; soaring volcanoes, spectacular rice terraces, and some of the best diving in the world. Aside from the odd location in Bali and Java, the cities are of little interest for the passing tourist. For longer stays, being in a larger city with Western amenities makes some of these seemingly characterless cities a lot more attractive – especially when you develop a network of like-minded friends and have the ability to travel to some spectacular locations such as Mount Bromo. Indonesians are naturally curious about foreigners and will pay you a lot of attention – whether you are walking down the street or sipping a quiet beer in a bar. Most of the attention involves basic questions: “Where are you from?” “What do you think of Indonesia?” If you speak a smattering of Indonesian then you will be granted a certain degree of respect; you have made the effort and Indonesians will make the effort to understand even the most pigeon form of Indonesian... Read More
A Taste of in Indonesia by Wayne Johnson
Taste of Indonesia
As you can expect from a nation of over 17,000 islands, Indonesia is a food lover's paradise. However, it is a relatively undiscovered region which forever lives under the gourmet shadow of its northern rivals: Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Most people if they have any notion of Indonesian cuisine at all may associate it with nasi goring (fried rice) or satay (meat cooked and presented on skewers with peanut sauce), but despite the fact that both of these can be delicious, it does a great disservice to an archipelago containing hundreds of different cultures and a wide range of flora and fauna. There has also been a long history of immigration and integration so Chinese cooking and influences are very strong as to a lesser extent are Indian and Arabic flavors. However, these influences and styles vary greatly across a country which stretches more than 2800 miles from Medan in Sumatra to Jayapura in Papua. For those who truly want a gastronomic tour with a difference though there can be few things more adventurous and intriguing than traveling through Indonesia's regions and sampling the different delights on offer... Read More
Reflections on a Fulbright-Hays Study Abroad Seminar in China by Marilyn Pennell
Study Abroad in China
...Our group adventure in The People's Republic of China began in Beijing at the beginning of July and wound its way through the ancient capital of Xi'an, in Shaanxi Province, home of the Terra Cotta Warriors; Shining, the capital city of Qinghai and several smaller villages and towns in Qinghai province; Shanghai; and concluded in Hong Kong at the end of July. Our fascinating voyage offered a window into the complexities and paradoxes which lie at the heart of the "Chinese Dragon," as China is often called. Several months after the trip, reflecting upon our thirty days in China, we realize that we have barely scratched the surface of this ancient and complex society despite the intensity and variety of the experience... Read More
This is China by Robert Vance
Forbidden City China
...It was only after I was on the bus back to Lhasa that I began to understand what I had just witnessed. These men had committed themselves to a sacred discipline that had existed in China since ancient times. They had spent their days in dark rooms lighting incense and reciting ancient chants. Yet they still yearned for knowledge of the outside world; they still desired to be a part of the great changes that were and still are occurring in their country. I realized that these monks were representative of a culture that is at once desperately fighting to hold on to its traditional roots, yet is eagerly welcoming modern ideas and technology. This paradoxical struggle has created a unique mix of the old and the new. This is China... Read More
Culture Shock in China by Gregory Mavrides, PhD
Culture Shock in China
The stark contrast in day-to-day life between Western countries and China is vastly greater than most foreigners can possibly imagine prior to actually living and working here. No matter how well-traveled Westerners might otherwise be, unless they have previously lived in mainland China for at least three months, they will experience varying degrees of culture shock that will require at least several months to acclimate to. This article will discuss the five most predominant adjustment issues faced by all foreigners during their initial stay in China with suggestions about how to either best mentally prepare for or safeguard against them... Read More
How to Choose Your First Job Teaching English in China by Gregory Mavrides, PhD
For those of you who are seriously considering teaching English in China for the first time, it is imperative that you choose your first school and teaching position very carefully as there are a myriad of traps and pitfalls that await those who are relatively naive. To help you make the best choice possible, this article will discuss the most salient issues you should consider when reviewing job advertisements and before applying for a position... Read More
Keeping Face in China by Gregory Mavrides, PhD
The concept of "face," i.e., mianzi, is a very difficult one to explain in a few sentences. It is also impossible to discuss "face" without introducing the related concept of guanxi, i.e., "relationship" or social networking. Nevertheless, these two concepts, and how they are expressed in day-to-day life in China, are absolutely essential for foreigners to understand, prior to their arrival, if they are to avoid feeling insulted or disrespected.

From a Western perspective, it is very difficult to fully appreciate just how critically important the role of face is in the day-to-day lives of the Chinese. A recent study conducted by the China Youth Daily found that over 93% of the 1,150 respondents surveyed admitted that face is very important to them, with 75% acknowledging that making a mistake in public was, by far, the most humiliating experience they could ever have (Shan, 2005). In other words, most Chinese will do whatever they can to avoid looking bad in public and that often manifests itself in an unwillingness to openly admit to any wrongdoing, no matter how small or insignificant the error might have been. This phenomenon goes a long way in explaining, for example, why the vast majority of Chinese students are so reluctant to voluntarily participate in class or even during less formal activities such as English corners: The fear of making a mistake in front of others is just too overwhelmingly prohibitive... Read More

Volunteering in Lhasa, Tibet by Tariq El Kashef
Volunteer in Tibet
“Just don’t talk to them about history, religion or politics”, was the only advice I received from the local teacher before being unleashed upon some twenty eager Tibetan students. There was a moment’s silence while I stood in front of the class trying to recall my pre-rehearsed spiel about whom I was and where I came from. Before I could utter a single word the questions started. “Do you know the Dalai Lama?” asked one student. “Are you Buddhist?” asked another. “What do you think of the Chinese?” asked a third. Having been motivated by the kindness of the Tibetan people I had met over the years, first in India and Nepal, and then later in Tibet itself, I had wanted to give a little back to the country before I headed home to London the following week... Read More
How to Plan Your Own Tibetan Trekking Adventure by Andris Bjornson
Tibetan Trekking Adventure
You wake to the throaty bark of burly herding dogs, and open your eyes to take in the sunlit, smoky interior of a large black tent. Your host coaxes you out of your down sleeping bag with a cup of steaming yak butter tea, and you gladly take a sip to ward off the chill. You pull on stiff boots, glad to find that a night piled close about a yak dung fire has evaporated all traces of yesterday's knee deep snow and left them blissfully dry. Pushing back the heavy door of the tent and emerging into the morning sun, you wonder what all those jaded backpackers you met in Lhasa were talking about when they announced so confidently that the real Tibet was gone forever... Read More
Ten Websites That Will Help You Find a Job in Japan by Rachel Turner
Sun in Northern Thailand
The Hilltribes of Northern Thailand are comprised of seven major tribes: The Karen, Hmong, Yao, Lahu, Lawa, Liso and the Akah. The descendants of the Hilltribe people migrated to the area from southern China approximately 100 years ago, and their way of life has changed very little despite a recent influx of tourism. The Hilltribe people are proud of their Chinese heritage, but also of their Thai nationality. Consequently in school the children learn in Thai in the morning and Chinese in the afternoon

Our tour with Intrepid begins with a night in Chiang Rai to organize trekking equipment and to visit a restaurant and information center called “The Cabbage and Condom.” As expected, an explanation of the bizarre restaurant name is quickly given by the guides. The Population and Community Development Association (known in the area as the PDA) use the restaurant as a not-for-profit venture with the profits from the tourist trade to provide support and information to local communities including the people from surrounding hill tribes... Read More

Working in Japan: What to Expect by Mike Jones
So you’ve landed a job, your flight is booked. The apartment is provided and a representative of the school will be at the airport to pick you up. You have landed in a new country, culture, and job. Sure, you don’t speak the language, but you’ll get by. After all, work is work, right?  Wrong!

Working in Japan can be culturally and financially rewarding. However, while foreigners in Japan are not expected to know all the rules of social behavior, a few key rules can make things run much more smoothly.  For teachers holding an education degree or a B.A., without a proper understanding of the work ethic in their adopted homeland, time there will quickly devolve into far less than had been anticipated... Read More

Rediscovering Xi'an, China By Victor Paul Borg by Victor Paul Borg
Everyone knows the terracotta warriors, and for Xi'an that fame is something of a quandary. That's because tourists narrowly equate the city with the terracotta warriors, most of them spending just two days in Xi'an, thinking they have seen what the destination has to offer. Yet Xi'an has so much else-it gave birth to the Han culture, and sustained a bewildering array of empires-that even a week of furious sightseeing isn't enough to cover just the heavy-weight attractions. Add to this the new sights that are popping up yearly, mostly associated with the city's royal epochs, and you begin to realize that you don't know Xi'an at all, and that it might be well impossible to see everything in one visit. Below is a roundup of eminent attractions that will keep you busy for a week; some of these attractions are well-known, and they have to be seen, but some others are new attractions that few people know of — they are even overlooked by guidebooks... Read More
Buddhist Festivals in "Little Tibet"—Ladakh, India by Victor Paul Borg
The Buddhist festivals in Ladakh are attended by droves of worshippers. They come from all over the mountainous area in India’s north-west which forms the western fringe of the Tibetan plateau. This isolated region—the treacherous mountain roads are cut off nine months a year by snow and the only way in is to fly—preserves the old traditions of Tibetan culture and the region is dubbed "Little Tibet." Much of the population live in isolated villages and typically walk for two days or more to attend the closest festival. They groom themselves for the occasion—the men roll their goatee and moustache to tapering pencil-point ends, the women weave woolen strings into their hair and don their best jewelry, an array of necklaces, bracelets, earrings and bangles. And they dress their best: many cover their purple robes with colorful vests, elaborate fringes-upturned brocade hats, shoes with front upturned, and some women flaunt their special attire, a rough-cut shawl of sheep’s skin draped over their shoulders... Read More
Volunteering in The Philippines by Steve Hunt
Volunteering in the Philippines
...After several years of traveling around the world, I decided it was time to give something back. I signed up with VFV (Volunteer for the Visayans) through a tour operator specializing in volunteer placements. There are numerous volunteer options, but VFV appeared to be exactly what I was looking for, so I enrolled. I have not regretted doing so for a moment...

...VFV was founded in 2004 by two Americans who lived in the area and wanted to do something for the community. Today it is a locally run, not for profit, NGO which focuses on placing international volunteers in community programs in and around Tocloban City, the capital of Leyte. Emphasis is placed on introducing volunteers to Filipino culture. Volunteers stay with local Filipino families in clean private rooms, with breakfast and dinner included—just don't expect hot water. The home stay experience truly constitutes immersion into the Filipino way of life... Read More

Endpage: The Buddha, the Dharma & the Sangha
A Travel Story from Cambodia by Dorothee Lang
Cambodia Travel Story
Towns are made of houses and streets. To get from one place to another, you either walk, or take a car. Rivers are crossed by bridges. Streets connect to other streets that connect to other towns. That is what I learned when I was a child. Back then, I couldn't imagine the counterpart. Had never been in a place that was based on a completely different concept. Had never been at a border where the street ended.

"To cross into Cambodia, you take the boat," the man in the Sawadee guesthouse in Trat says to me. "There is no bus?" I ask. He shakes his head, realizing that I still haven't got the point. "There is no street," he explains. I don't believe it. "How do people get from town to town then," I object. "They take the boat," he says, bringing us right back to the starting point of the conversation... Read More 

Calendar of Arts and Events
Festivals in Asia
Festivals in Asia
Festivals are a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture of your travel destination. Festivals are also a great opportunity for photography. Among my favorite travel photos are those I took during festivals and fairs. If you are planning a trip to Asia this year, check out our listing of Festivals in Asia for the remaining months of 2008.

To help travelers find out about other festivals around the world Transtions Abroad recently compiled a list of The Best Festival Travel Websites.

Ask the Expert Q&A
Finding Work Overeas
Living Abroad Contributing Editor Volker Poelzl
Volker Poelzl
Readers frequently ask me about how to find jobs overseas. This is a complex question, since there are so many ways to go about finding work overseas. The most popular overseas job for English speakers is to work as an English teacher, but not everyone enjoys teaching or has the necessary skills. Odd jobs are sometimes easy to find, but the pay is low and the work usually not very enjoyable. Work visa requirements often make it difficult for foreigners to find legal employment overseas. So, with all these hurdles, which is the best way to go about finding work overseas? Read More
Book Review
History of India
A Traveller's History of India
by Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda
A Traveller's History of India is part of the Traveller's History series, published in the U.S. by Interlink Publishing Group. The series currently has about thirty titles of countries and cities worldwide, and the list of titles continues to grow. The current fourth edition has been updated and includes the most recent events in India, such as India's rise on the political and economic world stage and the recent software boom. What makes the book useful for travelers is that it is not an exhaustive treatise on the vast history of India, but a lightweight 278-page paperback that fits into every traveler's baggage and will help them get the background story behind the places and sites they visit... Read more
Movie Review
Watching foreign movies is a great way to get into the spirit of an upcoming trip and learn about local cultures and customs. We will regularly feature reviews of noteworthy new and classic foreign films which tell stories about foreign lands, their people, cultures, and ways of life.
Riding Alone
Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
by Zhang Yimou (China, 2005)
Chinese director Zhang Yimou has achieved international fame with lavish historic and mythical production such as "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," but "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" is quite a different cinematic endeavor. Instead of mythical heroes, flying daggers, and extravagant martial arts scenes, the story takes place in the present, in the real world, and with very real characters... Read more
Music Review
Devotion from India
Devotion
by Cheb i Sabbah
Cheb I Sabbah is an Algerian born DJ turned mix artist, who over the past decade has devoted his talent to combining various world music traditions with electronic music. To achieve his unique musical creations, Cheb I Sabbah works with well-established musicians, who are all masters in their field... Read more
Website of the Month
Travelfish

Travelfish.org is a beautifully designed and minimalist website where the content is truly as good as the form. Travelfish is one of the only website-only publishers that pay independent, anonymous researchers to go and visit destinations in Asia which include Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, Thai Islands, and Vietnam. Travelfish covers destinations that nobody else does. The coverage of Vietnam, for example, includes entire provinces that you'll read about nowhere else, on- or off-line. That makes it an ideal information source for independent travelers looking to truly get off-the-beaten track.

Readers are able to make contributions to the site through Travelfish's hosted forums and blogs, but the editors have limited unedited content in order to focus on the real strength of the website—independent, unbiased reviews, and opinions by travelers who know what they're talking about.

There is much free content on the site in the form of guides, features stories, suggested itineraries, FAQs, and other resources. In addition, specialized Travelfish guides in PDF format can be purchased (for a very small payment) which cover selected islands, cities, and sites intelligently.

In addition, within the PDF guides every single one of the accommodations listings (and there are over 3,500) has been visited, in person, by one of the researchers at Travelfish. As a result, they represent the largest single repository of accommodations advice for the countries covered.

In the view of Transitions Abroad, Travelfish.org represents the state-of-the-art in the dissemination of reliable travel destination information.

What's New at TransitionsAbroad.com
TAzine Editorial
We are proud to launch TAzine as a monthly Webzine which continues the 31-year tradition started by Transitions Abroad magazine. TAzine features many of the same columnists who wrote for the magazine, a growing group of new columnists, while featuring many freelance writers who wish to share their experiences and expertise within the context of our pioneering coverage of work, study, travel, and living abroad.

Founded in 1977 by Dr. Clayton Allen Hubbs, Transitions Abroad magazine was the only print publication dedicated to work, study, living, volunteering, and immersion travel abroad. Its purpose—in print and now as a Webzine—is the dissemination of practical information leading to a greater understanding of other cultures through direct participation in the daily life of the host community.

Send in your submissions for the webzine to webeditorial@transitionsabroad.com on the subjects of travel, work, study, internships, teaching, volunteering, living abroad, and much more in accordance with our detailed writers' guidelines!

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Asia
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Central America and Mexico
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