Where to go and what to do?
January 24, 2006 9:12 AM   Subscribe

What should I do and where should I go when I flee the country?

At some point I'm going to be bailing on ye olde United States and setting off to another country. But... what should I do there? Where should I go?

The main decision is english-teaching vs. A Real(-ish) Job. Everyone seems to leave to teach English, but then again they also seem to have liberal arts degrees in nonspecific subjects. I have a comp sci degree from a good school and a pretty solid work history/portfolio, so I don't think getting a real job is out of the question. Teaching seems like a nice way to chill out for a year, though, and I'm wholly uninformed about short-term overseas jobs. Or what about doing rent-a-programmer type work via the internet for american money while living in somewhere with a low cost of living? It's a no go on the Peace Corps, by the way.

And where? Everything has its pluses and minuses. Asia in general is at the top of my list right now. I've studied a number of varied languages (french, russian, japanese, others), so I wouldn't have a problem learning another language or be intimidated by a new character set.

Right I'm thinking about doing JET to teach english in Japan, but that's only one idea, and I'm pretty good about changing my mind.
posted by soma lkzx to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: p.s. i'm 22 and a guy, should that matter
posted by soma lkzx at 9:13 AM on January 24, 2006

New Zealand needs computer/IT people. It's pretty easy for USians to get a work permit.

New Zealand Immigration site

check the "apply & settle" section for information.
posted by luneray at 9:18 AM on January 24, 2006

I <3 Canada. But you'll have to maybe keep an eye on that new government of theirs. (It can't get as bad there as it has here, can it, dear Canadians?)
posted by leapingsheep at 9:21 AM on January 24, 2006

Your biggest obstacle is going to be your residency status. Legally, you can't just show up in most countries and hang out indefinitely. Countries typically have some kind of "tourist status", which is around a month or so, and anything beyond that requires some kind of more permanent status, like a work visa.

If you never have any kind of legal tussle or require social services while you're there, it may not be much of a hassle, but if you leave, they won't let you back in.

Bottom line, you need sponsorship (or a ton of cash- rich folks can apparently settle wherever they like) if you plan on staying long-term. That's why teaching English is so popular- it's an easy route to a work visa.
posted by mkultra at 9:27 AM on January 24, 2006

perhaps WWOOFing? perhaps in japan?

if you're considering teaching english in japan, do a bunch of research first. many people hate it.
posted by paradroid at 9:31 AM on January 24, 2006

I must say that JET sounds like it absolutely rocks, and I've met very few people who do not enjoy their experience with it. The pay is much better than other english teaching experiences (around $32,000/year), and is (thanks to an agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments) tax-free. Major advantages include the ability to travel Asia during free time and being merely an assistant teacher. Meaning that another (japanese) teacher should be there to assist you at all tmes.

Depending on how you long you want to stay, 1 or 2 years should be easy, and I've heard that recently they've been allowing for 3 years, specifically at lower grade levels. For a more personal perspective, read this quite funny set of articles from an actual JET teacher: I am a Japanese School Teacher.
posted by matkline at 9:36 AM on January 24, 2006

Response by poster: am i a terrible human being for not wanting an english speaking country? i feel like in order to get the most foreign experience, i need to be somewhere that's, well, the most foreign; that's why i'm pro-asia instead of europe - europe's overseas but still Western. so canada and new zealand aren't what I'll be looking for (although i keep running into things that make new zealand look awesome).

also: even if you don't have any suggestions for me, if you've lived or worked overseas and have any anecdotes to relate i'd appreciate it.
posted by soma lkzx at 10:07 AM on January 24, 2006

Just curious - why is teaching English not a "real" job?
posted by Neiltupper at 10:09 AM on January 24, 2006

I am in the process of planning my immigration to new Zealand. See my blog for extensive details.
posted by growabrain at 10:16 AM on January 24, 2006

Response by poster: Neiltupper: teaching English, as far as job experience, won't translate (heh heh) into support for future positions as well as a job that makes use of my h4x0r skillz. it wasn't meant to be condescending, it's just not directly helpful to the work part of my immediate future.
posted by soma lkzx at 11:12 AM on January 24, 2006

Response by poster: growabrain, luneray: why new zealand?
posted by soma lkzx at 11:13 AM on January 24, 2006

It would help to know why you want to flee. For example, if you are concerned about loss of civil liberties, I wouldn't recommend England or Australia or China. But if you want more socialist leanings, that changes it too.
posted by knave at 12:06 PM on January 24, 2006

Response by poster: I'm not fleeing as in 'fleeing political oppression' or anything, just fleeing as in getting out of the country for a while.
posted by soma lkzx at 12:17 PM on January 24, 2006

I'm currently living in Pampatar, Venezuela, which is on Margarita Island. I'm here on a 90 day extendable tourist visa, which means that I'm not technically allowed to work, but I've had several offers of cash-based employment (specifically, computer repair and/or teaching Computer/IT-specific English to people here who speak some English (but mostly Spanish) and know IT.)

It is my understanding that if I had a legitimate offer of employment here, that getting my visa changed over to a work permit is mostly a matter of paperwork and greased palms.

Venezuela is beautiful, inexpensive, and very different from the US. 95% of what the US government says about the country and its leader is bullshit. Margarita Island is generally safe and full of most of the modern conveniences that you're used to, and this is not a bad place to spend an extended period of time.

I've also got a DSL line in my apartment, so if I wanted to telecommute it would be possible (and I've got several standing offers from former clients). If you've consulted in the past and already have connections that might want to rent you as a coder, then that might work for you -- but be aware that if you don't already have a freelancer's network set up, you're probably not going to get much work remotely.

No offense intended, but at 22, it's unlikely that you have the experience to be able to support yourself as an offsite/freelance programmer (I hire IT people and software engineers -- UVa comp sci degree or no, unless you can show me 5+ years of professional programming experience, several projects shipped, and/or have a former project manager/boss that raves about you, I'm going to team you up with one of my senior coders, which means I'm going to want you on-site at least part of the time, and I'm not going to want to pay 1099 consultant's rates. Living abroad is going to be a deal killer). Experience as a professional computer person is quite different than experience gained in an academic environment. Your degree is meaningful, but probably not as much as you think it is.

Incidentally, I _love_ to see resumes with unusual experiences on them (like the peace corps, or teaching English and baseball in a remote village in the South Pacific, or hitchhiking Australia looking for the perfect wave) -- especially when looking at younger candidates. What you'll learn just by being abroad will give you "life experience" and make you a far more well-rounded candidate -- i.e. a more interesting person to have around the office. Don't discount that when you hear what your liberal-arts buddies have planned.
posted by toxic at 2:04 PM on January 24, 2006

I would think that a lot of software developers abroad would want a native English speaker. Skype is in Estonia-- a lovely country that is not very western, but there are lots of others. Slovenia also has an IT industry, and is even nicer.

I've been abroad since the Bush I administration. I'm back in North America, but I definitely recommend expatriate life.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:50 PM on January 24, 2006

P.S. Teaching English is really boring if you are not a real people person, and it is very difficult if you do not know a lot about grammar. I did it for a few years, and got bored.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:52 PM on January 24, 2006

I've travelled all over the world, and I'm quite sure that Thailand is the greatest country in it. Great people, cheap living, plenty of jobs, good drugs and hot girls.
posted by soiled cowboy at 7:28 PM on January 24, 2006

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