Spend a Year Abroad After Graduating From College

Students looking for an unconventional, exciting opportunity after college may want to think about moving abroad to work for a year.

During a student’s final year at university, when that Bachelor’s or even Master’s degree is in sight, there is often one major question on his or her mind: “What am I going to do next year?” There are usually two main post-graduation preferences among graduating college students.

For some students, the right move is to continue their education by pursuing a Master’s degree, Ph.D., or a law or medical degree. For others, it’s full-time employment in a nine-to-five sort of setting. And then there are the students for whom neither option is at all appealing. They are tired of going to school after sixteen-plus years, and the thought of sitting at a desk all day is nothing short of nauseating. What, then, would be a good option for these students? A year-long stint abroad to teach, intern, or volunteer might be the way to go.

How to Know if a Year Abroad after Graduation is the Right Move

Students should answer the following questions prior to applying for a temporary position abroad:

  1. Do I know what I want to do with my life?
  2. Do I want to go to grad school or work a 9-to-5 job near home next year?
  3. Do I want to see more of the world before settling in one place?
  4. Do I want to learn a foreign language or improve existing skills (or learn about another culture)?
  5. Do I need some time to figure stuff out?

If a student’s answer to the first two questions is “no,” and the answer to the last three questions is “yes,” then an adventure abroad is most likely a great idea.

Students who have already spent time abroad during college should, however, be prepared for the fact that living abroad for a year to work is a different experience. That doesn’t mean it’s all work and no play the second time around, but the main difference is that there is more responsibility on the former student’s shoulders, as there is no home college or university to serve as a support system.

What Sorts of Opportunities Abroad Exist for Recent College Graduates?

One very common avenue recent graduates pursue abroad is teaching in their native language. Teaching programs, as well as teaching assistant programs, exist around the world. A student interested in this opportunity should talk to the foreign language department or study abroad office at his or her university, and check out organizations such as Fulbright for English teaching assistantship information.

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Internships are another good option for students, though it may involve similar hours to a regular nine-to-five job. Whether it’s for a major company or for a non-profit organization, it’s possible to find a program that will provide a student with valuable work experience and maybe even some career direction.

Volunteer opportunities, with organizations such as the Peace Corps, Cross-Cultural Solutions, or the Global Volunteer Network, are also a great opportunity to see another part of the world and make a difference in a community. Volunteer positions abound in a variety of fields, from education to medicine to community and economic development.

Advantages of Spending a Year Abroad after Graduation

Spending a year abroad to work is a way to stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs and/or graduate school later on. Time abroad may also help a student zone in on a dream career.

For example, a recent graduate who teaches English abroad for a year may decide to go on to get an advanced degree in secondary education. Or, someone who works for a nonprofit organization abroad may consider applying for jobs with similar organizations at home. It’s also possible to turn a temporary job abroad into a career; some recent graduates who take jobs abroad stay in that foreign country for longer than a year!

The above scenarios have a common outcome: a former student figuring stuff out. While this isn’t always the case, many students who live abroad for a year after graduating from college do go on to full-time employment in a field of interest, pursue graduate study, or even stay abroad for another year or two.

Important Information to Remember About Spending a Year Abroad after Graduation

Sometimes, students who have lived abroad may still have no idea what they want to do after coming home. They may shop around in several different fields, switching jobs every year or so until the career track feels right.

Sometimes the point of living abroad after graduation is the personal experience and the adventure, not just the practical advantages of a resume boost in the form of foreign language ability or work experience. Students should know that being clueless about what to do with the rest of their lives is normal, and while a year abroad may help clarify some students’ goals, it may not work out that way for everyone. Regardless of the outcome, it’s definitely an exciting, unconventional option for students finishing up their formal education to consider.

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