Okay, first of all: deep breath in, deep breath out. In through the nose, out through the mouth. You can do this!
Some plan for years and others move abroad on a whim; either way, there are logistics-a-plenty to deal with after you hit that flight booking confirmation button. Don’t fret! There’s nothing a to-do list can’t handle and we’ve even made it for you!
Let’s get down to business, here are 11 steps to help you prepare for living and working abroad.
1. Call Mom & Dad
Call your friends and family to let them know your life plans have recently gone in a new direction (a.k.a. you’re going to close up shop and begin a new job abroad). Assure them that you’ll be fine, even if you still haven’t convinced yourself of this yet (fake it til you make it, right?!).
2. Sell Yo’ Stuff
It’s all deadweight anyway, seriously. Repeat after me, it’s all deadweight (we promise). While we’re sure you treasure your boxes full of belongings, you don’t need them and they probably won’t fit in your backpack (or super new apartment) anyway. If you handle the sale of your old stuff effectively, you can even earn a decent amount of money to divert toward your new adventure abroad.
When it comes to selling all your goods, Craigslist and eBay are your friends. Yard sales, on the other hand, not so much. Why? As thrilled as you may be about your impending journey, it can cause distress and anguish to stand by while strangers crowd your front driveway, pick through your memories, and significantly bargain down the childhood skateboard your grandmother gave you This is NOT a time to encourage nostalgia!
Those with a sentimental streak may find certain items hard to part with. For these items, there’s always Mom and Dad’s basement, or a friend willing to store your precious goods. If you can’t find someone who is willing to house your stuff until your return (though we hope you don’t plan on returning to your old life someday), then renting a storage space is a possibility, or you can bury your stuff in the backyard of your childhood home if you want to have closure too.
3. Set up a Travel Fundraising Campaign
Your friends and family are invariably excited for you to embark on this (admittedly slightly crazy) adventure of working abroad. Beyond emotional support, another source of encouragement can be to help you offset those heavy upfront costs of traveling to your new home, which is an incredible burden to even slightly lift off of your shoulders. But how, you may be wondering? Enter crowdsourced fundraising websites like FundMyTravel!
You can quickly sign up, build your profile, and establish your fundraising goal (don’t be too greedy!). Then it’s time to fire up your Facebook status and hustle a little by sending your campaign link to literally everyone in your network. Get all of your cheerleaders near and fara to take part in you earning an “expatriate badge”!
4. Prep Your Language Skills
Is English the national language of the country you’re moving to? If the answer is no, can you speak the language? If no again, it’s time to hit the books, the audiobooks, or the App store. Stock up on useful tools and resources to introduce you to the local language and help you commit some of it to memory before your arrival!
Sure, there are some countries, such as the Netherlands, Thailand, and Sweden, where the majority of the population speaks English along with the native tongue. Therefore, you might be tempted to think that there’s no need to bother learning a new language, but think again! While you might be able to get by using English, being proficient in at least the basics of the country’s language will not only smooth your transition process, but it will ingratiate you with locals (especially your colleagues) and immediately up your chances of making new friends.
5. Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork
Depending on what type of job you obtain abroad, it can be a good idea to have a few copies of your diploma, your resume, or other relevant educational documents on hand. Beyond the physical copies, be sure to have access to digital copies as well (it never hurts!).
While on the subject of documents, it’s worth reminding you that you’ll need to get your passport and visa thingumabobs in order. Check with your destination country and employer to not only prepare the regulations for entry/exit, but also to figure out the legalities of working as a foreigner in your country of choice.
6. Time for a Check Up!
It’s high-time you had a good catch up sesh of last season’s magazines while in the waiting room of your family doctor. Call up your family practice and schedule an appointment for your annual physical before you depart your homeland. Before your appointment be sure to research your destination (and any countries you think you might travel to during your time abroad) to ensure there aren’t any recommended immunizations you should get, or specific medications you should have on hand to ward off creepy diseases. Be sure to ask your doctor(s) for a copy of your medical records, in case you have to visit a doctor while abroad.
Before you leave make sure you stock up on your favorite over the counter medicines too (such as a healthy supply of DayQuil and NyQuil), and make multiple copies of your physician’s contact details if you ever get desperate.
One last visit to your friendly neighborhood dentist wouldn’t hurt either. Once you move abroad it could be a few years before you’re able to get a good deep-clean, scrape-down of your pearly whites. The only thing worse than a toothache is a toothache abroad when you are unprepared; prevention is the best protection!
7. Sign up for Traveler’s Insurance
Nobody likes getting sick, and we all hope it doesn’t happen to us, but it’s best to be prepared. Chances are, if you just bought a one-way ticket to a foreign country, your life is in a bit of upheaval (no judgement, we’ve been there too). If you’re planning on staying abroad until the end of time, consider researching and investing in some local health insurance policies.
For the rest of you folk out there that don’t have a clue where you’ll be six months from the date of your arrival, check out some of GoAbroad’s recommended travelers’ insurance companies that can offer you greater flexibility and security. You can sign up for multiple plans with varying degrees of coverage too, and you should probably consider natural disaster and lost luggage policies just in case too. Be sure to shop around until you find an insurance provider that is as comprehensive as you desire.
8. Secure a Job Abroad!
While you *could* opt to go door to door soliciting for work opportunities once you’ve landed in your desired new home, prepared travelers know that having a job secured before arrival will, more than anything, bring you a sense of peace (instead of panic) in your final days before departure. Having a guaranteed source of income as well as the promise of a support-network in-country are two incredibly valuable things.
You can find paid jobs abroad through work abroad program providers or by scouring highly local classifieds online. The perk of the former is the confidence that your job will run smoothly and there will be no unexpected setbacks (er, surprises…) once you arrive. After you have an offer in place, make sure you go over your contract (and go over it again, and again) before you formally accept any job abroad. Then again, after you accept it, finalize all the details and expectations of your position before you leave the comfort of home.
9. Pack Your Bags
As your day of departure nears and the packing that you’ve been putting off again and again “until tomorrow” can finally be postponed no longer, remember to think sensibly about each and every item you choose to bring with you. Sure, you could haul around four over-sized suitcases stuffed to the brim with outfits for every conceivable weather and social situation. But should you?
Ultimately the decision is yours. Just keep in mind the extra airline fees those bags will rack up, not to mention the struggle you’ll face dragging them around town and up and down five flights of stairs if your lodging doesn’t have an elevator!
10. Feed Your Soul
Other than packing, you’ll probably want to spend the last week of your life in your old haunt soaking up time with friends and family, calmly contemplating what life will be like abroad as you strolled around familiar streets, and just generally stuffing your face with as many comfort foods from home you aren’t sure you will be able to get abroad as you can. You should consciously savor every moment of those powerful flavors on your tongue or those familiar voices in your ears, while recognizing that it will be a while before you get to experience everything from home again.
11. Pat Yourself on the Back
Congratulations on being so bold as to venture into a world unknown! It’s not always easy to break away from the “normal path” in lieu of the unconventional. But you’re doing it, so GO YOU!
Remember that there is something greater going on than you simply finding a job abroad during or after college.
The more people that work abroad and commit to becoming a global citizen, the more a life full of adventure and purpose will be normalized.
Each individual who finds a job abroad and decide to live abroad for a period of their life generally returns a more sensitive and compassionate individual. All things considered, these are all pretty advantageous characteritics to pass on to future generations.
All the best for your work abroad journey; we’re positive the gains will overflow your wallet and your heart.
Any other preparation advice you would offer work-abroad-bound peeps?