If you’ve always dreamed of frolicking through the Jardin du Luxembourg or living near the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, perhaps now is a great time to explore jobs abroad. International work can round out your resume, not to mention provide invaluable cultural experiences. And what better time than when you’re young and free to feed your wanderlust? Here, we spoke with several women about the positive impact these five jobs abroad had on their lives. Get your passport ready!
1. Work for a study-abroad program.
For Kelly Garofalo, living abroad was a family tradition. Several of her aunts and uncles studied through the John Felice Rome Center, a campus of Loyola University Chicago in Rome, Italy. Following in their adventurous footsteps, Garofalo studied abroad there her senior year. But that wasn’t the end of her time in Europe; after graduation, she returned to work as a student life assistant. “I just had to go back,” she says. “I couldn’t tell you why, but the feeling was that I just had unfinished business there.” As a student life assistant, Garofalo was responsible for orientation, behavior monitoring and floor activities, among other duties.
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One of the biggest takeaways from Garofalo’s travels was letting go of the “American” idea of success: Go to college, have an internship, get a job, get married, get a promotion, have kids. “Once I moved out of the U.S., I realized how American this is,” she says. “In Italy, it was totally OK to work in a pizzeria if it’s what you loved. That was just as successful as a lawyer. Once I realized that, I started exploring many different career paths that I never would have before.” Garofalo went on to get a masters degree in Sustainable Tourism Development and Destination Management and is currently working at a startup in the field.
How to apply for an RA/SLA position: Ask your school’s study-abroad office about opportunities for working in another country. If you’re a student at Loyala, visit the school’s SLA application site.
2. Teach English.
In 2009—four years after graduating college—Stormy Chapman was following a traditional career path, working at Dell in Oklahoma, making a good salary and loving her job. But an enlightening talk with a friend who was teaching English in South Korea prompted Chapman to drastically change her life’s course; within three weeks of their chat, she quit her job, packed her life in a couple suitcases and waved goodbye to the U.S.
While in South Korea, Chapman taught English to children and teens ages 5 to 16. She stayed for two years (the first time) and met the man who would become her husband. Chapman loved her time in South Korea so much that she and her husband returned for another year, where she taught kindergarten and after-school programs for 13- to 16-year-olds. As it turns out, Chapman discovered a real calling for teaching and went back to school for her U.S. teaching degree. “It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” Chapman says of living abroad.
The same was true for Natalie Smith, whose time overseas led to a permanent career path. Smith worked for two years at the Global Vision Christian School in Eumseong, South Korea, and now teaches English as a second language in Texas. She advises those with an itch to go abroad: “Do it! You can always come home if it does not work out.”
How to apply for a teaching position: First, determine the country where you’d like to teach English, then research options online. Destinations such as France and South Korea have many programs from which to choose. Check out sites including Dave’s ESL Cafe (where Chapman found her job), or the Teaching Assistant Program in France. Be sure to check the requirements, but many times a bachelor’s degree in any subject is all that’s needed.
3. Board a cruise ship.
Post-graduation, Christina Chen found herself aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines ship as a dancer and aerialist. During her time living on the ship (the entertainment crew spends six-plus months performing six shows a week) Chen had the opportunity to see places including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and many Caribbean islands. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” Chen says. “I don’t even think I realized that I would get to see so much of the world, and I had no idea the richness that I would experience, meeting people from 60-plus different countries.”
And the experience had some serious resume perks, too: The aerial shows aboard Royal’s ships are choreographed, taught, and produced by a Chicago-based company called C5 Create With No Limits. After her most recent contract with Royal, C5 contacted Chen and asked if she would be interested in performing with them in Chicago. This led to other performing opportunities with C5, as well as a gig teaching an aerial show.
4. Join the Peace Corps.
Lauren DeFino, who’s now a teacher in the Bronx, wanted to see the world and help others at the same time. From 2005 to 2007, DeFino worked with the Peace Corps in Jamaica, where she was assigned to the Montego Bay Marine Park, and also worked as an education officer performing outreach in schools. Like Chapman and Smith, DeFino says her job abroad led her to pursue teaching in the U.S. Not only has the Peace Corps been a great resume builder, DeFino says, but it also helped her make connections around the world.
[Related: Why I Ditched the Corporate Ladder]
How to apply for the Peace Corps: Visit the organization’s website here.
5. Become scuba certified.
DeFino traveled the world through other jobs, as well. Before joining the Peace Corps, she became a certified scuba instructor in Honduras, where she lived for six months. And after returning from her Peace Corps stint in Jamaica, she again turned to scuba instruction for a chance to live abroad—this time in St. Martin. “I lived on a catamaran and would sail to different countries,” she says. “It’s really a great job if you want to travel.” Of course, she says, scuba instruction isn’t for everyone—you must love the water.
Want to learn more about jobs abroad? We’re also digging this roundup from The Abroad Guide.
Photo: Ezra Bailey / Getty Images