As the second installment in my blog series, Preparing for an International Move, I want to focus on the first major hurdle in moving abroad- how you are going to support yourself. Folks who have figured out how to sustain themselves through online work can answer that question fairly simply as long as they have a stable internet connection. For the rest of us who are tied to physical jobs, however, the situation can seem insurmountable- getting a work visa to manage a retail store or answer phones in a call center is pretty much out of the question. Yet, there are options for overseas work, even in Europe. Below you will find five of the most common international jobs that I have heard about during my time abroad.
*Options 4 and 5 are for folks who are professionals in their home countries.*
1. Teaching English as a Foreign Language
(For folks without a teaching license)
One of the easiest ways to support yourself while living abroad is through teaching English as a foreign language (EFL). This is how I got my start in 2015. In Europe, particularly in Spain and France, you can find study programs that allow you to teach English in a kind of paid internship. Some of these even provide you with a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate which can be quite handy later on should you wish to teach English for more than a year or two. These programs should not cost you any money and should pay enough to reasonably survive, albeit on a student’s budget (in Spain, look for around 1000 Euros). Some options include the Spanish Ministry of Education Auxiliares Program, MEDDEAS, and BEDA. You will not really be able to save money unless you do private classes or have a side gig, but these programs do provide stability and legal status in Europe.
For those of you who are looking to make a decent salary or want to experience Asia, new English teachers should look at South Korea, Japan, and China. For the first two locations, I would recommend new teachers try one of the government programs, such as EPIK and JET, both of which provide decent salaries and housing assistance. For Chinese positions, the best place to look is on Dave’s ESL Cafe. For all of these, I would strongly recommend completing a TEFL or CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). For China, if you have not taught English previously, you must provide a CELTA in order to obtain a work visa (Z visa). All of these positions require a bachelor’s degree.
2. Au pair
For folks who want to live abroad without standing in front of sometimes 40+ students five days a week, working as a live-in nanny (aka, ‘au pair’) could be a great option. While I have never been an au pair, several of my friends have done it, and most of them found the experience rewarding. You can find openings on https://www.aupairworld.com/en and workaway.info.
An au pair assists the family with things like taking the kids to school, picking them up, playtime, story time, family meals and gatherings, and the like. Au pairs often have most of the day free since the children are at school, and generally they have at least one weekend to themselves a month. Agreements usually include a room for the au pair, free meals, and a small monthly stipend; also, some families may pay for language classes for the au pair. Being successful at this requires finding a family that you mesh well with, as well as being respectful of the family’s values, home, and culture.
3. Voice actors, dancers, and models
For aspiring dancers, voice actors, and models, Asia is an amazing place to gain experience and support yourself through your work. Two acquaintances, one Cuban and one Ugandan, are professional dancers in Beijing. They perform dances from their home countries, teach private lessons, and, in the case of the dancer from Uganda, even go on tour throughout China. Your difference, your foreignness, is your meal ticket.
Other potential jobs include doing voice over work for TV shows, movies, and video games, as well as modeling. At least in China, these opportunities are almost limitless given that adding a foreign touch to products can increase their perceived value here. Sadly, in many cases modeling gigs are only open to extremely light-skinned people with very toned bodies (colorism and fat phobia are alive and well in many
Asian countries- not that the West is doing much better). Nevertheless, voice over work is accessible to folks from all sorts of backgrounds and with all types of bodies.
*4. Teaching at an International or Bilingual School
(For folks with a teaching license)
One of the most common international career paths, particularly for folks from English speaking countries, is in education (this is what I have done for the last two years). If you are a fully-qualified educator you can easily find work in international and bilingual schools around the world. The best locations for educators new to the international market are in China and the Middle East. Most of these jobs will be advertised on Search Associates and ISS.
China, particularly in leading cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou, offers high pay and great benefits like free housing and paid summer vacations. Similarly, in countries like the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia licensed foreign teachers can expect between $50,000-100,000 a year. In both China and the Middle Eastern countries, expect massive cultural differences, internet blocks (which you can get around with a solid VPN), and an educational environment focused on money. Nevertheless, working at international and bilingual schools in these locations can be extremely rewarding and offer many travel opportunities that teachers in our home countries would rarely be able to experience.
*5. International doctor/dentist/nurse
This one is really specific and only applies to medical professionals, but it is extremely lucrative. In cities with large expatriate populations in the developing world, there can be tremendous demand for Western healthcare. International educators, embassy staff, foreign business people, and even upper crust locals opt for exceedingly expensive international healthcare. Foreign trained doctors, dentists, and nurses can do quite well working in international hospitals and clinics. While I am not a proponent of private healthcare in developed countries (I find it needlessly wasteful for the rich and prohibitively expensive for the rest of us), it is an unavoidable necessity for expats in many parts of the world. For medical professionals looking to go abroad, it could be a great option.
So there you have it- five of the most common international jobs that could help you ‘make it rain’ overseas. If you know of some other accessible jobs for folks looking to move abroad, comment below and get the convo rolling.