Go Abroad Young Man (or Woman): Working Abroad to Advance Your Career

By Kelly Cleary

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

You can always count on Mark Twain for a fine inspirational quote, and this one seemed to nicely sum up the advice I generally give to students who are mulling around the prospect of working abroad, or simply considering working in a different part of the country for their first job after school. For those of you who have met with me to talk about the possibility of traveling and/or doing a gap year abroad after graduation, you know I’m a big fan of pursuing this kind of adventure while you’re young and have the travel bug. To be honest, I don’t necessarily like using the term “gap” year, because this kind of experience shouldn’t really be a gap in the career development process—it has the potential to be a fundamental building block similar to most study abroad experiences. Students and recent grads who study and/or work abroad tend to experience tremendous personal and professional growth that can impact both their career interests and their qualifications as prospective employees in a very positive way.  As any international student can tell you, living abroad helps you become more confident and independent, and nearly forces you to be more flexible and creative. Living abroad also provides an excellent opportunity to gain a keener sense of cross-cultural understanding and better grasp of political, cultural, and economic issues in the global context– qualities that are essential for successful leadership in today’s political and economic climate.

My first job was a teaching internship in Italy while my boyfriend/future husband taught in Latin America and then landed an editing job in London (an organization called BUNAC helped him sort out the visa details for both experiences). Neither of us saved any money that year, but we had a great time and have no regrets about spending that year overseas. In fact, we both feel like those experiences had a huge positive influence on our future career paths. My teaching experience in Italy combined with my graduate degree in counseling helped me land a job in Belfast, Northern Ireland working for an Irish peace process program as a contractor for the Department of State, and I often draw on both of those experiences in my work at Penn.

For those of you who might be interested in heading abroad, here are a few opportunities and resources to get you started. First, mark your calendar for our International Opportunities Fair on Friday, November 5th. Then familiarize yourself with some of the resources on our International Opportunities page, especially GoinGlobal that includes an international job and internship database and country guides that include job search resources and tips for CV’s and visas.

Author: Kelly

Kelly Cleary is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates.

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