Since many of you have expressed an interest in knowing what it was like for me to live and work abroad, AEM has launched a new series entitled, "Living Abroad." These pieces are about American expats who have lived or are living abroad. I am also exploring options of moving abroad again in a year or year and a half, and will be writing about that possibility (primarily here), as well as sharing my own experience of living and working in Korea. If you are interested in sharing your story with my readers, please don't hesitate to send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Those of you who have yet to leave the country are also welcome to submit pieces. This series is part of a public service to let indentured educated citizens know that there are other options, and that they can find fulfilling opportunities beyond U.S. borders.
Johannsen: Where have you lived abroad?
Respondent: China, just outside of Beijing.
Johannsen: Why did you choose to go abroad?
Respondent: Many reasons . . . [I left] for the cultural experience, and to expose myself to new things. [I also wanted to meet new] people and to travel. Also, to a lesser extent, work was not so easy to come by. I was not thrilled with the job I had in the U.S. [I wanted] CHANGE!
Johannsen: Where are you living now?
Respondent: I'm back in America, not too far from New Haven, Connecticut.
Johannsen: If someone were to come to you and express an interest in living abroad, what tips would you give them about the process?
Respondent: Do your research, [if you're thinking about teaching abroad] google school names, check to see if they are on any black lists or forums. Ask the school to provide the email addresses of at least three current teachers. Verify that these three + people are legit. Ask them questions.
Johannsen: That's a great point. There are a lot of expat forums that provide you with good information about good and bad schools. For instance, Dave's ESL Cafe was a place I spent a lot of time reading before leaving for South Korea. I still rely upon it, now that I am thinking about and actively looking for another job abroad. Of course, it's important to keep in mind that when people are angry and unhappy about work conditions (and I think a lot of those complaints are justified), they are going to be the ones complaining on the Internet. However, Dave's offers different perspectives. That's why I think your advice is great. You should obtain the names of current teachers at the school that is offering to hire you, and ask them lots of questions.
Finally, do you think it's important for people your age - millennials - to be thinking of careers outside of the U.S.? If so, why?
Respondent: It can be a (temporary) solution to poor job prospects in America, and that is if someone exhausts all possibilities stateside (which seems to be more and more [common], and happening to more and more people). Perhaps spending a year in a foreign country can also allow the person to continue a job search stateside. Nothing comes up? Renew the contract and keep searching and networking.
Johannsen: Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
Respondent: Prospective employers should value foreign work experience more. It clearly shows that a person has the ability to adapt quickly and has a great deal of flexibility. People do indeed gain valuable skills outside of the country.