College Q&A: When should I go abroad?
When I decided to first go abroad, I was 17 years old and entering my freshman year of college. I walked right over to the student activities fair on the quad at Syracuse University and picked up two study abroad pamphlets from the table: Florence and London. The idea of leaving the U.S. for the first time and traveling the land across the pond was so exciting and imminent on that first day of classes. Fast forward to junior year, and I never made it to that study abroad experience. I stayed on campus to become a resident advisor, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Although the idea to travel never left my mind as friends went off to have their adventures.
Like many college graduates, I left campus and moved on and into New York City for my first job working at a talent agency in a music department. I had hit the holy grail of cities and got what most would consider a “dream job.” I hustled and worked hard. However, that little travel devil on my shoulder never stopped talking in my ear. After three years, I finally decided to leave it all behind and go travel abroad. The best part? I was leaving for a job, so it was a completely funded travel expedition.
Deciding to teach abroad is a terrifying experience. You’re not quite sure what is compelling you to want to leave everyone and everything behind when choosing to move to a foreign country. Some would call it a general higher calling or a need to live differently. Teaching abroad is not for everyone, which is a good thing. Those that you meet when you’re out on the road are some of the most unique people in the world, and they will affect you greatly.
The teaching abroad requirements are different for each country in each continent. Some require teaching degrees or certificates; others just require you to be a native English speaker. I chose Seoul, South Korea because not only did it not require any certification, it paid the best in the world. The hardest part was signing a contract for one year.
One year can seem like a long time, but for me it seemed so short. I decided to stay a total of 2.5 years. I worked hard, and I got to know more Korean, Canadian and Australian coworkers. I learned so much about myself by teaching children and adults alike that I didn’t feel done with it after only a year. Many people decide to stay longer than one year, and the benefits of traveling around the area and saving money are huge.
Choosing an untraditional career path is rewarding. People often regret not going abroad in college, and not only do I NOT regret it, I’m happy I didn’t!
Teaching abroad isn’t just a vacation; you’re actually gaining valuable international work experience. It also isn’t just something you do to get away. It can severely impact your future choices. For example, right now, I love that I’m still in the education field, working at a university that is single-handedly changing the way that military social workers help our veterans handle Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is such important work. I had a few friends from abroad go on to get an online MBA or become nurses, and some even continued teaching in other countries.
The possibilities are endless, and all it starts with is an unconventional idea. The determination to do something different and exciting. Are you up to the challenge?
Los Angeles, Calif.
The author is from New York, NY and received a bachelor of sciences degree in speech communication from Syracuse University in 2004. She currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California‘s Masters in Social Work program. In her free time, Jenn enjoys traveling and photography.
This article is part of the BetterGrads special series “BetterGrads Q&A.” Contributors are asked to pick one big question they had about college and tell how they found (or didn’t find) the answer. If you’d like to submit an article for this series, please read our editorial guidelines and let us know here.