How to move to a new country to work for the short-term? (1 year or so.)
April 3, 2007 7:55 PM   Subscribe

I am seriously considering moving out of the US for a year. I really want to see a new part of the world, but I don't know where to go, or how to support myself while I'm there. Much

I am looking for advice on how to move abroad and work for about 1 year.

I am a few years out of college and have been working in Boston ever since, which has been a good learning experience but I think I'm getting ready to move on. Since high school, I've wanted to get out and see the world, and now seems like the perfect time - I'm single and in my 20s, and I don't want to look back in 10 years and regret not doing something fantastic with the relatively large amount of freedom I have right now. At the moment I'm working for a startup doing some general office work, and I'm taking graphic design classes thru continuing ed. (Which I am loving, and I want to make a career out of it.)

I am bored with my life and am eager to make a move, but I am also hesitant to do it right now since I don't know if I can find a beginner-level graphic design job in another country. (Why would they hire me, as opposed to a local who has a lot more experience?) I also am hesitant to put my classes on hold for a year, because I am eager to start a career in graphic design and be able to get paid to do it, but I'm afraid I probably still have some learning to do before I can do that.

But I don't think I'm willing to just stay where I am for another year, just for the sake of the classes - so I'm looking to find a place to go for a year that would expose me to a new culture and provide a really enriching experience. Ideally, I could either work in or take classes in graphic design while I'm there. But I can't count on that, and I'm having a hard time figuring out what I *could* do abroad. I guess I could teach English I'm not sure I'm willing to spend the time/money on getting certified.

The places I've considered so far are Spanish-speaking countries because I know some Spanish (Spain would be great but I'm open to others, too), and Italy because it is good for art and would be amazing to see. And, I'd like to be able to fly back home (the midwest) at least a couple of times while I'm there, so I would give extra points to a place where the airfare isn't *too* pricey.

Given all of this, where do you suggest I go, and how could I support myself? Are there groups that can help me find a job?

Thanks in advance for your always-insightful advice.
posted by inatizzy to Work & Money (13 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
If you're willing to consider working on farms, check out wwoof, there are organisations in many countries.
posted by glip at 8:01 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Sorry to sock it to ya, but airfare is going to be pricey from anywhere — it's not the location but the cost of fuel.

I'm not sure where you grew up but you say you've been working in Boston for a few years. If you grew up near there, I would suggest first moving to someplace far, far away from there, but still in America. Houston? Miami? LA?

The reason I say this is that you're question doesn't explicitly explain *why* you want to live overseas, just that you want to get out and live life a little. The best time of my life was when I dropped everything and moved to a new city. This has the added bonus of making it easier for you to get home occasionally.

If you still simply must move to a new country, have you though about the Peace Corps? Teaching is a good idea too, but you don't seem too keen on Asian, which is really where the money is. Having said that, there are plenty of medium-sized cities all across Europe that will at least give you a good, reasonably-priced place to stay. I am in love with Nantes, France, for one, and could have easily lived on $20 a day there (but I don't know about work or housing).
posted by Brittanie at 8:24 PM on April 3, 2007

Get a civilian job with Nato, live and work in Europe, tax free.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:37 PM on April 3, 2007

Try applying for JET.
posted by gen at 8:38 PM on April 3, 2007

Think about applying for a Fulbright as an at-large student. If there is an area of study that you are interested in spend some time developing a project - volunteering with an ngo, etc - and spend the year abroad. I think the deadline is October.

I would strongly recommend Guatemala if you are interested in a Spanish speaking country. You could easily live there for a year on not very much money. Plus, there is no shortage of important work going on there with ngos - human rights work, women's rights work, environmental justice work, indigenous rights, economic development, just to name a few. If Guatemala interests you, I would also suggest checking out NISGUA.
posted by sara558 at 8:47 PM on April 3, 2007

I am positive you would be able to find a ton of English teacher jobs throughout Central and South America as well. I have friends teaching English in Honduras and in Chile, and they say people are seriously desperate for English teachers everywhere.

If you're willing to venture outside of Spanish, Brazil is the most amazing place I have ever lived in. I have met more than a few Americans in the Northeastern cities (Fortaleza, Recife, and most importantly Salvador) who didn't speak a lick of Portuguese but dropped what they were doing to go live in Brazil and teach English. Spanish also serves as a great foundation for learning Portuguese- I picked it up pretty quickly. Please consider it.
posted by liberalintellect at 8:51 PM on April 3, 2007

I have no idea if this is possible, but what about going to our neighbor Mexico and studying graphic design further at a university there while working/interning with a local firm. Probably cheap enough to live there, and certainly cheap enough to get home.

Universidad de Monterrey
turned up on a random Google search as one university that had a program; I'm sure there are others.

Furthermore, it's probably way easier for you to get a visa to work/study/live in Mexico than it would be for Europe (IANAImmigrationL). If you wanted to go and just check the scene out, US citizens can be in Mexico for 180 days on a tourist visa.

Here's Mexico City's craigslist page of art/media/design jobs.
posted by mdonley at 10:34 PM on April 3, 2007

My advice will be more generic: Google "expat" and "[COUNTRY-OF-YOUR-CHOICE]". You might even Google "expat" and [CITY] if it's large enough. Most any country you'd be interested in has a thriving expat community that probably has an online presence. They generally give the best advice for how to get there, stay they, survive, thrive and mingle.

They've been through it all and can generally offer the most pragmatic and useful advice. Heck, you might even pick up a contact or two.

AS AN EXAMPLE, I cite Shanghai Expat
posted by RavinDave at 11:26 PM on April 3, 2007

I have been living in "Europe" (Germany, UK, Sweden, Denmark) for the past year and a half. The cost of living here for me is (generally) about the same as it was in the US but then there are additional travel costs. I am currently able telecommute and this (just) covers all my expenses.

You will unfortunately need to save some money first. If you know spanish well, you can go somewhere in central or south america where the cost of living is much lower, so any savings you have will go a lot further. It will be difficult for you to be hired from abroad without expert control of the language; if you are able to swing getting a residency permit then getting a job is substantially easier. If all this sounds too daunting, you should perhaps just go on a short trip.
posted by beerbajay at 2:08 AM on April 4, 2007

First a little context: I'm an American and a designer, currently living (and working) in New Zealand.

New Zealand has a "working holiday" visa that allows American citizens under 30 an open-ended work visa (ie, not tied to a specific employer) that lasts a year.

Once you get here, if you come, there are a number of companies you can get in touch with who place designers of all levels in temporary jobs. (They do full-time placements too, but it looks like that's a violation of the terms of this visa.) You'll need to show a portfolio, but student work qualifies.

This kind of arrangement can be great for your portfolio if you're placed with agencies that work on big brands. At the very least it would give your portfolio more variety than a single full-time job would. Be aware, though, that designers here are paid quite a bit less than they are in the US, even after adjusting for currency differences.

You could always get a retail/waitressing/receptionist job to make ends meet if you had trouble finding work as a designer.

I know you're thinking along the lines of a Spanish or Italian speaking country, but I think you're going to have to choose between nurturing your design career and a foreign language immersion experience.

Before living in New Zealand, I spent 3 months living in Venezuela. Even with 10 years prior experience as a professional designer, I wouldn't expect to find work in my field there. Like you, I arrived with some Spanish (enough to order food, take taxis, and generally get by), and took additional lessons when I got there. I was pretty proficient by the time I left. But you need to really be able to articulate your thoughts and ideas in a professional design job, and it takes more than "some Spanish" to do that.

I definitely support and encourage your ambitions to get out of dodge for awhile and experience another culture, though. Wherever you end up, I'm sure you'll treasure the experience for the rest of your life. Feel free to email me if you want to chat more: nadise [at] gmail. Best of luck!
posted by nadise at 4:05 AM on April 4, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far, everyone. To answer Brittanie's question: I'm originally from St. Louis and I went to school in Cleveland. Ultimately, I think I see myself settling in St. Louis or Chicago in order to be close to my family.

Honestly, I'm still figuring out exactly what it is I want to get out of living in a different country, but I think what I'm primarily looking for is an experience that will challenge me a little and expand my horizons, as cheesy as it sounds. It doesn't necessarily need to be in the context of the job that pays the bills, although an enriching job would be ideal. More important to me, I think, is the opportunity to get out into the social culture and even get to travel a bit, and to make some new and interesting friends and experience the culture.

Do you know of any companies based in English speaking-countries that have foreign offices? Maybe I could get a job that way?...
posted by inatizzy at 9:58 AM on April 4, 2007

I want to second what Nadise said. I have a friend doing the working holiday visa in New Zealand right now. She got it through BUNAC, and they say you can renew it a couple of times after your initial year if you really dig the place. She and I met doing the BUNAC programmes in the UK and Ireland. She's loving New Zealand.

I hear what you're saying about getting away from the US for awhile. I'm 23 and I love the perspective that living abroad has given me. And whenever an older person hears what I'm doing, they always have the same response: "I wish I had done that when I was your age, before I had a profession and kids and a house." So I really support you. If you feel moved to do it, do it. I've also been thinking about what to do and where to go to get away again for short term commitments (a year or two), and it really seems like you can teach English just about anywhere in the non-English speaking world (except Western Europe and really really poor parts of the world). This is my next plan. But you can get a cultural difference without a language difference. That's an easier first step to take. And if you're thinking of teaching English just for the travel, you might not be too happy with it. However, with this New Zealand visa, you can pursue both a personal educational experience AND career experience. It's a little far away, yes. But all the other English speaking countries with working holiday visas for USians have much stronger restrictions and shorter time frames (see the rest of the BUNAC site for details).

Good luck with whatever you decide. I hope you find the right thing for you. Please feel free to e-mail me if you'd like to talk further. Also, don't forget your online and print resources. There's Working Your Way Around the World (a favourite of hostel libraries everywhere), plus Dave's ESL Cafe and Transitions Abroad (both online), which seem like as good starting places an any.
posted by mosessis at 3:22 PM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Korea is good, you don't need a teaching certification and employers pay for round-trip airfare (standard deal). Jobs are up & down, but money's better than anywhere else in the world, pretty much.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:32 PM on April 4, 2007

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