I’m about to graduate – now what?! Looking for volunteer/work positions abroad ~

By Nicole Brownstein, API Paris Fall 2009 student, and API Peer Mentor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The imminent start to the spring semester is usually a point of excitement for me. After a long and mostly dormant winter break, I always look forward to seeing my friends again and getting off the couch and into a classroom. Plus, the end of winter break always means only a few more months until sunshine and summer dresses! This time around, I am less than excited. Actually, I think the word I am looking for is terrified. It is my last semester as an undergraduate and I am not ready for the real world.

After the millionth person asked about my post-college plans, I decided to make a list of what I want to do before settling into a career and a family and whatever it is that adults do.

I have four things on my list (in no order):

  1. I want to learn, but not necessarily in the traditional classroom way;
  2. I want to become more independent;
  3. Since I have to work, I want to do something that is meaningful;
  4. And finally, I want to eat really well!

After trying to explain this to my academic advisors and career center counselors, I realized that I have already experienced something that incorporates everything on my list—I studied abroad! In Paris, I learned basic grammar skills in a classroom, but spent most of my time practicing simply by interacting with my surroundings. I was more independent than I have ever been in my life! I moved to a city I had never been to before where I did not know a single person and left having memorized the Parisian metro system and with a ton of new friends. I taught English at a small private high school and realized that I really enjoy teaching. As far as eating well goes — I mean — I was in France.

Since the creation of this list and the realization that all of these things could be fulfilled by going abroad again, I have done some extensive research on how to live in a foreign city and get paid for it.

The first websites I found were run by GoAbroad.com. Their volunteerism site (http://www.volunteerabroad.com) was very easy to navigate. The search engine allows you to choose a region of the world and specify the type of volunteer work you are interested in doing. You can even search for programs based on the length of time you are able to commit to a project. I like VolunteerAbroad.com because they offer programs in parts of the world I never even considered going to (agricultural village in Bolivia, anyone?) and provide resources for cheap airfare, housing, and international cellphones, to name a few. Unfortunately, the nature of volunteerism means you will have to pay for your experiences, but Volunteer Abroad does have scholarships available. GoAbroad also has a work site called Jobs.GoAbroad.com for those interested in paid positions abroad.

Another GoAbroad.com site I liked has to do with teaching abroad, something my API Paris internship helped me realize I am actually interested in. The site, http://www.teachabroad.com, works in the same way as VolunteerAbroad with a similar search engine.

You can follow these GoAbroad sites on Twitter at:

Other interesting teaching opportunities were found on http://www.languagecorps.com. I know a few people who have spent time teaching abroad and many of these programs provide airfare, housing, and a stipend. If you are interested in the API teaching internship, I would definitely look at these sites because they provide a similar experience.

Lastly, I spent a lot of time on http://www.idealist.org, a job search website that specializes in volunteerism, internships, and governmental jobs. I have used this site before to find internships in the US, but I have just learned that you can actually specify which country you want work in. Idealist.org is great because they list both volunteer positions AND paying jobs. I ultimately want a career in food policy and Idealist has a lot of options within that field, among others.

Today, with only a few days left before the semester starts, I am still looking into abroad programs and, perhaps more importantly, where exactly I want to go. If you have any suggestions or experience in working abroad, feel free to comment!

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  1. The following tweet by @gregoryhubbs of Transitions Abroad a few days ago might also be of interest/helpful to many “On Finding Your First Paid Job Overseas: http://tinyurl.com/2c7devb“. Also, don’t forget about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program at http://us.fulbrightonline.org/home.html

  2. You might want to be aware of the “Discover Your Value” series on the GoAbroad Blog. The series is dedicated to helping individuals around the world learn how to communicate their value to others with an emphasis on their international experience. A valuable resource for those entering or taking their next steps in the job market, it teaches — step by step — how to incorporate things you learned from your abroad experience and use them in your resume or in job interviews to show the job skills that you gained.

  3. i truly understand what you mean my last semester began today and so many of my friends have already decided what they are doing after and for me am still so confused and unsure as to whats next for. All i know is that i would love to go abroad volunteer, intern or teaching not sure which one. Just need to find the least expensive option and the one am most interested in. but anyways good luck with you search and all the best with your final semester

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