Diaries of an Expat Part I: The “How” of Working Abroad

Diaries of an Expat Part I: The “How” of Working Abroad

By Katie Ford

Hello from Prague!

The home base of Study Hard Travel Smart has jumped across the Atlantic to the beautiful city of Prague, but that also means that my life has uprooted itself once more.  I landed safely back in Europe about two weeks ago, and it’s been a whirlwind since the moment I stepped off the plane.  Moving is stressful no matter where you’re going, but when it requires flying across an ocean there are so many more things to consider.  I usually preach about packing light, but that’s nearly impossible to do when you have to bring most or all of your things with you.  I ended up with 4 suitcases that were pretty tightly packed, but my apartment is totally ready to go!

The first question that I’m usually asked when people find out that I’ve become an expat is, “How did you manage to get that job?”, or some variation on this question (which, depending on how it’s phrased, can be borderline offensive).  The simple answer is that I stalked out a listserv for international education professionals for job postings that would fit my skills for months, and was so happy when this one came along.  Of course, this method won’t work for everyone, so here are a few suggestions if you’re also interested in moving abroad:

  1. Don’t be specific about the “where”.  If you want to move abroad, it’s likely that you have a country in mind.  If you’d asked me a year or two ago where I would move if I were to move abroad, the answer likely would have been France.  It probably still is if I’m being completely honest, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love Prague.  You need to be willing to go where the jobs are, and this is even more tricky when the job is abroad because you have those silly visa requirements to consider.  For example, in my position it was a necessity that I be a native English speaker as I’m working with American study abroad students in a non-English speaking country.  If I were to apply for the same job in the United Kingdom, the fact that I was a native English speaker wouldn’t matter as much.  Maybe the fact that I’m familiar with the American university system would, but it truly depends on exactly what the company/organization/university is looking for.  A great option for English speakers is to get your TEFL certificate and teach English abroad for a while.  There are an absolute ton of opportunities for this all over the world (government sponsored and not), and it’s a great way to get your foot in the door.  Making contacts and finding a job is way easier when you’re already in-country!
  2. Don’t give up too quickly. Often times job seekers hear of the dreaded visa process or plummeting economy and immediately run away.  It’s true that these are things that may prevent you from securing a job, but it’s not impossible.  Find out which websites companies use to advertise locally in each country.  For example, in the UK you might want to look at jobs.co.uk, but in other countries it’ll be something different.  Don’t look only at the sites that market to foreigners- you’ll probably just find a lot of dead-end recruiters looking to take up your time.
  3. Be ready for a challenge.  A lot of people seem to think that moving abroad is some sort of fairytale where you just find a magical job that pays a ton of money, flights and moving expenses don’t exist, and paperwork nightmares aren’t a thing.  I appreciate that there are people who realize that this isn’t true, but an alarming number of people seem to dwell in the first camp.  Moving abroad is difficult.  You’ll get really overwhelmed.  You’ll miss home and your family and friends.  You’ll probably have a lot of up-front expenses between getting visas, flights, and moving abroad.  But it’s worth it, and that’s what you have to focus on.  Don’t give up because the consulate refuses to answer your questions in a coherent way- it’ll get better in time!

So this is pretty much where we’re at in my expat story.  I got a job in Prague, and then I moved here.  I’ve only had about 4 days of work, but so far I really love it.  I definitely missed working in study abroad, and I’m so excited that I’m getting to do it full time with really unique programs and fantastic co-workers.  I haven’t done too much exploring of the city yet because I’ve been doing so much running around, but the bits I have seen have been just as amazing as I remember them.

Check back soon for more updates on my adventures (in Prague and elsewhere!), and for tips on living that expat life!



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