Working Abroad

Ever since high school, I dreamed of working abroad after college in a German-speaking country and attending graduate school afterwards to become a translator. I eventually want to move back to a German-speaking country and live there for an extended period of time, regardless of whether or not I enter the language services industry. I often struggle with the feasibility of my desires, especially due to constraints placed by working visas. I found that many short-term (<1 year) international employment opportunities exist for college students, but longer-term work or jobs requiring significant professional training (business, engineering, research, etc) will most often require initial experience in the US.

Short-term Work Opportunities

1. International Internships

Indiana University and other non-profit organizations provide excellent opportunities for international internships, in which you can take part during your college experience. The Office of Overseas Study offers a variety of internships abroad, while other providers will accept your resume and place you in an internship abroad. Examples of such organizations are Cultural Vistas, AIESEC, or the USA interns program run through the Steuben-Schurz Society. These providers will facilitate your placement and work visa processing.

It is important to be aware that you often must pay an application and administration fee for such programs ($250-$1000) and Office of Overseas Study internships often cost several thousand dollars for the summer. If you are pursuing a professional degree such as business, informatics, engineering, etc, you may find a position with a stipend through an internship placement program like Cultural Vistas. Fellowship and grant opportunities exist to assist with summer expenses, such as the Internship Incentive Grant through the Office of Overseas Study or internship support offered through the Hutton International Experiences Program.

One note of advice: intern abroad sooner rather than later as you will not have significant control over your placement and may want to use the summer after your junior year for an internship leading to a job offer!

2. Teaching English

Fulbright, CIEE, governments in specific countries, etc all run programs through which students can teach English for 1-2 years abroad in a huge variety of countries. You usually receive enough funding to cover your living expenses, along with help for insurance, etc. Such opportunities are particularly abound in Asia, where many companies seek native English speakers as full-time tutors and teachers. These positions routinely appear on the Arts and Sciences Career Services job postings and company websites.

3. Fellowships and Grants

A huge variety of fellowships and grants exist to support young professionals for a year of research or work abroad with funding and visa assistance. The website, ProFellow, is the best resource which I found containing a large database of fellowships and articles with excellent, professional advice on applications. You can search by your interest and find links to opportunities for everything from teaching English to non-profit and business opportunities.

4. Country-specific Opportunities

Some countries may offer specific opportunities through their governments to work abroad. An example of this is the Japan Exchange and Teaching program for US citizens (JET), which offers the change to teach English or work with the local government.

Long-term and Highly-skilled Work Opportunities

1. Working for a US or Foreign Multinational Company

Students with professional degrees can often find employment in companies with global offices through their career services office or networking with alumni.  Unless you have international work authorization, it is often difficult to get a job directly in a foreign office. However, high performance in a company, expressing your international interest, and honing your language skills will make you a prime candidate for international assignments. Keep your eyes open for international projects requiring your skills and volunteer quickly when the opportunity arises. These projects will often last 2-3 years abroad, but they can turn into long-term transfers.

A potential option for early international assignments exists in the rotational development programs of certain companies, particularly foreign-based companies. Rotational development programs allow you to work in 2-4 positions for 6-9 months within a function of business in a company, then choose a longer-term position with the company. For example, Evonik Industries guarantees an international assignment in their International Professional Enrichment Program. Based on my internship experience in a German-based corporation, rotational development programs have the potential to accelerate your opportunities for international assignments or transfers afterwards.

2. Industries with Greater Ease of Access to International Opportunities

Industries such as international education, tourism, or translation offer the opportunity to easily work or travel abroad, as your English skills are in high demand! For instance, study abroad administrators often travel to various locations abroad where they visit their university's programs or lead study abroad trips. Tourism companies often want individuals to work at their foreign offices as guides or trip planners for English-speakers traveling in other countries. Individuals with highly specialized technology or science skills may more easily find research or work opportunities abroad, as they have an advantage when competing against a local population which lack their specialized skills.

As you read through these suggestions, I hope it gives you a better idea of opportunities through which you can use your language skills and cross-cultural interests abroad! Many international opportunities exist and I hope you find one that fits your education and language skills!