“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed, is you.”
If you’re a born traveler, cultural enthusiast or looking to make a substantial change to your life — living abroad can be a meaningful growth experience. Yet, the question is never should I live abroad, but rather how can I live and build a life outside of my home country? Here are a few options that will allow you to live oversees.. and stay there:
WORK AS AN AU PAIR
Now, I want to start off with this option because it is the path I chose while living in Paris, France for a year. For many, being an au pair or understanding what the job entails seems to be a mystery and one perpetrated on the internet as just a “babysitter” or “housekeeper” for a foreign family.
While being an au pair comes with duties such as taking care of children, preparing dinner and tidying up the household on occasion — this option is less of a job, but more of a cultural experience and exchange. The selling point for me was the intended duration of my stay. For most families, the base contract time is a year, which I believe is the perfect amount of time to work and explore the country in which you live.
As a woman or man under the age of 26 (this may vary depending on which country you prefer to live in) working as an au pair gives you the opportunity to live and work in a country of your choosing.
The breakdown of the job differs with each family, but usually entails around 30 hours a week of picking up the children from school, bringing them to activities, helping with dinner, getting them ready for bed and the occasional date-night babysitting. In my experience, I was hired to aid in the continual learning of the children’s English skills, therefore the hours I spent with them we only spoke in English to strengthen their language abilities.
Each au pair job is unique and it is important to find a family that aligns with your expectations. There are options to live with the family you work for or some have a live out option where you have your own apartment. Some families provide you with all your meals and some give you more spending money per week. Same goes for metro card, cell phone, language classes — all of which depend on your specific circumstance.
Finding a great family is easy with websites such as Au Pair World — You can browse based on country, length of stay and connect with families looking to hire during all times of the year.
TEACH ENGLISH ABROAD
Teaching English abroad is similar to that of an au pair, but offers a bit more freedom and flexibility. These such positions are available in schools and offer you the role of assisting a teacher or leading your own class based on your experience and command of the English language.
To get started you will need a teaching certificate, which can be obtained online or through in person training. I obtained mine online and more information can be read about the process through the official TEFL website.
As with au pair jobs, teaching English can vary depending on where you intend to live. Some European countries offer teaching assistant programs that are regulated through the government such as TAPIF in France. On the other hand, if you’re looking to teach in Asia, it is best to look into private schools as they are the most common place to find a position. You can read more here.
I currently have friends who have taught in both Europe and Asia — each with different cultural experiences and insights. If you’re interested in freedom of living on your own, have a passion for teaching or prefer instruction to traditional child care — teaching English is a great way to live your oversees dreams.
OBTAIN YOUR MASTER’S DEGREE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY
If you’re looking to further your education and experience life in another country, consider master’s programs around the world. Not only do most of these programs cost a fraction of the schools in the United States, but some allow for extended work opportunities once you complete your degree.
For example, if you are looking to further your studies in business, finance, marketing, the artistic fields — there are a handful of programs in varying European countries that offer classes fully in English. It is said that countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have some of the most sought after programs, you can read more about which country may be right for your intended study at Top Universities.
There has even been talk of free masters options and apprenticeships that offer a dual work/study for a lowered fee. Either way, if you’re considering a master’s degree — international universities can be the solution to a higher education at a price you can afford.
CONSIDER A LONG STAY VISITOR VISA
As I mentioned before, I lived in Paris for a year — so my knowledge with living abroad is heavily influenced by the visa options and requirements available in France. I am sure that there are comparable, if not the same options in other European countries, but for this section I want to focus on a visa option applicable to France.
Where you were born is directly related to how long you can visit/stay in a foreign country. For Americans, we are allowed to visit and stay in Europe for a maximum period of 3 months without a visa during which we are not allowed to legally work.
If looking to stay past the 3 month mark, a long stay visitor visa can be an option for a subset of individuals. With this visa, once completion of paperwork and approval by the government, you are allowed to live in France for up to a year under the condition that you agree to not attempt to find a job within France.
Now you may ask, how does one live and not work for an entire year? How would I support myself? This visa seems to be a solution for individuals with substantial savings, a job that allows them to work remotely or a career that is digital (such as writers, designers, web developers, etc.) The visa prohibits working within France, but allows its holders to obtain income from their home country. The main point is that if you come on a visitor visa you are not attempting to take a job from a citizen of their country and you must be able to support yourself financially in all aspects including health care (which is where travel health care can be useful!)
This is a viable option for individuals who are looking for a change of scenery while continuing to hold your current position of work. You can read more about long stay visas in France on the Consulate website.
EXPLORE TRANSFER OPTIONS WITHIN YOUR OWN COMPANY
This option seems to be the easiest for those who already hold a job within a company with international ties or offices abroad. I won’t elaborate too much as these situations are personally unique, but it is something to consider when working for a corporation or bigger company with expanding reach. There are cases in which remote work is possible and it is best to talk with your employer about opportunities that exist abroad.
I would imagine such a scenario would be sought after often, but in most cases the idea of moving your entire life to another country can be daunting. If you are an employee who would embrace such a change, be sure to make that known to your department as to be considered for relocation opportunities.
WORK AWAY / VOLUNTEER ABROAD
This last option is one that I would recommend for anyone looking for an abroad experience lasting around 3–6 months. Work Away is a volunteer abroad program hosted by individuals around the world. Using their website, you can find opportunities that fit your specific skills and positions needing to be filled. Whether you want to aid in the reconstruction of a family’s farm, work with other young people at a hostel, or lend a hand on sailing boats — there are jobs for everyone.
These positions usually pay little or no money, but offer free accommodation and sometimes food in exchange for work. Each host is different and it’s best to discuss expectations prior to committing to a job. Volunteering abroad can be the perfect way to get an idea of what it is like to live in another country without planting too many roots. If you are thinking of moving to a specific destination, I would recommend looking for such a position to explore and become better acquainted with the lifestyle and culture.
As you can see, the dream of living abroad is one that is truly attainable. I can say with confidence that my experience changed my life and I hope to educate more young people about the opportunities that lie outside of the traditional job market. Have you ever considered moving abroad? I would love to hear about your experiences or hopes of living a life oversees!