How To Graduate, Ditch Corporate America, and Move Abroad

As a barista, I never ask for life advice, but I always get it.

I work at a coffee shop that is right under a dozen legal and corporate offices. Each day, I am reminded of how I don’t want my life to be when the shop is flooded with exhausted corporate minions. Luckily, in the sea of jadedness, there are always a few customers who love their corporate jobs – this is extremely refreshing!

I often hear, “Honey, you’re about to graduate. Take advantage of your freedom!” or “You ain’t got no kids or a mortgage. Go explore the world before 9-5 jobs suck the life out of you!”  At first, I’d laugh this advice off. But after hearing Jenney say this every damn day, I realize that she’s not wrong! I’d rather get my coins ($$$) doing something I love than dreading my existence every morning… especially since it’s becoming more common to pack your bags and pay off your loans while on the road.
I’m writing this post while graduation is one week away, and I am still figuring out what my next move will be in my life. For me, this is not an instance of being unsure of myself. I just recognize that being in a situation where anything is possible is a lot to unpack. Having options is empowering.

Work at a Hostel:

Hostels in one word: DOPE! They are the perfect place to be as a traveler because you get to meet people from all around the world! So, I imagine working at one is even better: free accommodation, daily cute foreigners, and making new friends. What more could you want?

“Working at a hostel was Damon’s and my favorite job. It made us life long friends we still see until today.” – Jo Franco

Over the past few years, working at hostels has become really popular among travelers. In exchange for 15-30 hours of work a week, they offer a bed for you to crash on, the amenities of the hostel (yes, go ahead and be bougie and look for a hostel with a pool), and some of them even offer free drinks and meals to their employees. Plus joining in on those weekly pub crawls is sure to give you some epic stories with foreigners – it’s the best way to travel without traveling.
My momma always said, “As long as I got a roof over my head, that’s all that matters.” When it comes to working at a hostel, that’s how I feel! If I can live rent free, then I’ll definitely find a side job to make some money to pay for my food… ’cause let’s be honest, rent is usually the most costly living expense. Another tip is to apply to work at a hostel in a main city. If so, you can have access to a ton of restaurants and bars, a major airport, and other amenities; living in a major city, getting paid, and saving money for travel… you can’t beat it!

Go Teach English Abroad:

Teaching conversational English skills to children or adults in another country is the perfect gig. Each week, you’ll only teach a few classes, so there’s a ton of spare time turn up on the weekends and to look for a foreign lover.

There are plenty of private programs that require the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification, but those can be a bit pricey – like, how many college graduates casually have $500 to drop on a certification? I definitely don’t, but sometimes you can find TEFL coupons on Groupon – Damon did!

If you are looking to teach and travel for cheap, or are not ready for the commitment of receiving the TEFL certification, apply to these programs:

Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF)

Has your heart always wanted to frolic through the lavender fields of Aix-en-Provence or to twerk on the Seine River? Then this might be for you! Run by the French government, TAPIF puts recent U.S. college grads in classrooms around different regions of France; this includes overseas territories like Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and Réunion. You will have the opportunity to work 12 hours a week as an oral guide for a French classroom at a primary, middle, or high school. This program is an eight-month commitment (October to May) and an above average level of French is required.

Auxiliares de Conversación

Similarly to TAPIF, the Spanish government puts Americans around Spain to be an English instructor. If mainland Spain isn’t your thing, consider applying for this gig in Mallorca or other Spanish islands. This program is run by the Spanish Ministry of Education, and various participants have described it as an “independent” experience without much guidance. A basic level of Spanish knowledge is required.

Meddeas Language Assistant Program

Meddeas is very similar to Auxiliares de Conversación. The main difference between the two is that Meddeas is not run by the government; it is run by an independent organization. A “professional and experienced staff” is plastered all over their Facebook, so we can assume that they give a ton of attention to their participants.  On Meddeas’ website, there is an emphasis on promoting to teach English creatively. So if you’re all about using face painting or yoga as a form of teaching, check them out!

English Open Doors (Chile)

THIS PROGRAM IS FEE-FREE! YES, FREE.  This means that you don’t have to pay upwards of $70 (that’s a grad school application or 10 tequila shots) in order to apply for the position. Their website boasts that this program is perfect for those who are motivated to travel and to learn Spanish – which really means that if you’re trying to volunteer, have fun, and go dancing with the locals, this is for YOU.
Sometimes the most modest experiences are the best.
There are hundreds of programs that look for recent graduates to teach English abroad. And if you plan to get a TEFL certification, then the world is an open book!

Check Out the Working Holiday Visa Option:

This truly sounds like the most chill experience… with an emphasis on the “holiday.” Teaching English requires you to plan lessons, be responsible for children, and grade papers, whereas you could easily be a bartender in Australia and make the same amount of money. It all depends on what kind of lifestyle you want.
Luckily, there are 5 different countries (Australia, Singapore, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Korea) that grant U.S. citizens working holiday visas. This visa lets you live and work in any of these countries for up to 12 months. I know that these countries may not be everyone’s dream destinations, but you can quite literally live abroad, work, travel, and potentially save funds. That’s the dream.
I have no idea if our relationships/programs with these countries have changed due to our current administration, but it is worth a shot. More information about the Working Holiday Visa can be found here.

Let the Government Pay For You:

Regardless of my personal views on the U.S. government’s choices, I will definitely use the government’s funds to pay for my experiences abroad without any shame.
Thanks to ProFellow, below are a few opportunities that will mix education and travel without ruining your savings account.

Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) 

The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals offers a full-year,  work-study fellowship providing 75 Americans, age 18-24, with an understanding of everyday life, education, & professional training in Germany. It includes a roundtrip transatlantic flight, university tuition, language training, living stipend, program-related travel costs in Germany, 2 months language training, 4 months of study at a German university, and a 5-month internship in a German-speaking work environment. The fellowship also provides accommodation in a German home/student residence, seminars, in-country support during the program and health and accident insurance. It basically provides everything that you need to survive.

Fullbright Scholar Program

This program is pretty prestigious and has a ridiculously long application process, but the benefits are amazing! Fullbright offers both teaching awards and research awards. Teaching awards place U.S. recent graduates all around the world to teach English– all expenses paid! Research awards, on the other hand, fund student research. So, if you write a proposal to research the effects of British colonialism on gender roles in Papa New Guinea, you might be able to pursue your research with a hefty grant from the government. This is a great option for all of those young scholars out there.

These options are U.S.-focused, but plenty of governments have different scholarship or study programs – a quick Google search can change a life.

Find a Way to Pop Off on Social Media or Get Paid to Blog:

This option is a little unconventional, but c’mon – it’s 2018, so does it really sound “out of this world” to get paid to produce content on the internet?

The stars were perfectly aligned when I reached out to Damon and Jo about blogging for them. YAY! One thing led to another, and I ended up on their staff as blog manager. Remember, most brands often need extra help on their team or someone to produce content – so, always keep your eyes open! You never know when a position for a “digital nomad” (or whatever people call it nowadays) might pop up! Cling to that opportunity, because it might be a way for you to travel and support yourself while living abroad.

Another option is to start a Youtube channel or blog. Shut Up and Go and Damon and Jo’s YouTube channel were tiny ventures started by two college students, and look where they’re at now! It often takes a while to monetize off of blogs or YouTube, but this might be a great side-gig while you’re working/living abroad.

Don’t forget: with the internet, anything is possible.

The concept of taking a gap year or moving abroad is nothing new. With a little bit of planning and savings, you’ve got this! Or, with a bit of impulse and access to the internet, you’ve also got this. Either way, you can make it work.

Here are some more resources:
JET Program – Teach English in Japan
WWOOFING – Volunteer on an Organic Farm
Go Abroad –Land an International Internship
Find a Gig on a Cruise
House Sitting – Babysit a House in Your Favorite City

Au-Pairing – Live with a Local Family and Be an International Nanny

The options are endless. Do you have any other tips on how to ditch corporate America and move abroad?

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