What better way to spend your teenage summers than seeing the world and making some cash-monay? It’s time to graduate from that lemonade stand and travel with a purpose. Working internationally is a huge resume booster, especially if you do it before you start college (#motivated). It shows that you’re willing to escape the, well, comforts of your comfort zone, that you’re open to learning new language, and that you love a challenge. Working abroad is where adventures meet paychecks. While most high school jobs abroad are for teens ages 18 and over, you can still gain international experience from things like internships or volunteer jobs, so let’s jump in!
Why Work Abroad in High School
Up your work experience by building your resume before even setting foot on a college campus. Working abroad as a teenager sets you apart from others (handy come college app time). Your friends may choose to stay home and mow lawns or lifeguard at a pool to earn cash. Even if you did that kind of work abroad, you’d still discover WAY more of what you’re capable of. You’d grow in more profound ways by adapting to the new lifestyle and culture.
Every country has a unique workplace culture, so be sure to check your expectations of what you think your new job will be like. In Thailand, it may be normal during workplace meetings to engage in small talk before getting down to business. In some cultures, it’s considered rude to be too direct, because building trust is more important than efficiency. In England, workplace meetings may be efficient, no fluff, and statistics-driven.
When you work abroad in high school, you become more reflective about the workplace. “What’s wrong with asking how people’s families are before debriefing the company’s weekly sales, after all?” you may ask yourself. You’ll learn to do and see things differently. You’ll see how different companies and jobs function and you’ll adapt to the company’s needs, and they’ll love you for it.
As you check out work programs for teenagers abroad, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that providers make safety a priority. Meaning, they will place you in a safe work environment and will support you the whole way. Providers know how daunting it can be to work abroad for the first time, which is why many of them offer language reinforcement. If you’re still nervous about working in a country with a foreign language requirement, then working in a country where you do speak the language will still give you the international work experience that will make you stand out from your classmates.
Spain is a popular summer work destination because it offers so much more than just Spanish practice. Aside from earning money, you can see a flamenco performance (or join in if you’re brave enough to dance), go hiking, peruse Picasso paintings at the Prado museum, and learn Catalan, one of several regional dialects. Spain is a relatively safe country. It’s not uncommon to see families go for walks in Madrid after a 10 p.m. dinner. Just don’t leave without bringing back some Jamon Iberico for your parents!
If you are under 18 and looking for volunteer work opportunities, Kenya is calling. This is country of stark contrasts. Kenya has a whopping 19 national parks and reserves boasting lions, zebras, and pygmy hippos. While there’s an amazing bounty of wildlife, about a quarter of the population earns less than $1 per day. Kenya’s tourism industry is booming, but most of the revenue returns to the most wealthy. You can help change that by volunteering in orphanages, with micro finance projects, or in schools.
China is a country that over a billion people call home. With so many people, you can bet there are countless options for work and play. It’s not only an economic powerhouse, but a cultural wonder as well. Head to Beijing for its job market as well as the fact that it is a popular jumping off point for exploring the Great Wall of China. Shanghai is sparkling gem with a European influence. Take a stroll after work along The Bund, or riverside walkway, while marveling at the city’s East-meets-West feel. Whether you want a headstart in teaching, marketing, or accounting, China has endless job options for you.
High School Work Opportunities
Work programs designed for high schoolers aim to immerse participants in another culture while providing them with work experience abroad. No matter your job description or length of stay, you’ll be immersed in the language, customs, and lifestyle of another country. Although having a working knowledge of the country’s language upon arrival will get you further during your time abroad, it’s not a requirement for all work programs. Working abroad is an excellent way to practice a language, and it will become easier and easier as time goes by. Once your job ends, you won’t want to leave!
If you’re over age 18 and interested in practicing a new language, working abroad as an au pair is a great option. You would pay an initial fee to be assigned a family who you would live with. They’d provide you with free room and board, as well as a humble monthly or weekly salary. Au pair jobs for high school students don’t require much experience, as students will mostly be in charge of light domestic work and caring for the family’s children. Parents love au pairs for many reasons; they are a pair-fect (zing!) way for their children to learn about people from other cultures, not to mention they make household chores less of a headache!
Interested in caring for adults instead of kids? Get some work experience abroad in hospitality management. The better your foreign language skills, the higher paying job you’ll get. First, you’d pay a fee to be matched with a hotel. The longer you stay, the more you’ll earn to make up for the initial sign-up fee. You’d live and work in a high-class hotel or nearby apartment while paying for your stay. Food would mostly likely be included as well. There are many different hospitality job opportunities for you to choose from, such as working as a waiter or waitress, concierge, receptionist, cook, or kitchen assistant. If you impress your colleagues then you might even be offered a full-time job at the end!
Even if you don’t get a paid job, you can still make a difference while building your resume abroad. Teaching English is a great way to overcome the language barriers you’ll face, since you’ll have to speak mostly in English at work. Volunteers and interns usually aren’t required to speak their host country’s language or have special training in order to teach English internationally. By teaching English abroad as a teen, you’d polish your public speaking and cross-cultural communication skills. Outside of class, you can dabble in a second language too, whether just walking to the market or watching TV.
Benefits & Challenges
A perk of gaining international work experience in high school is the ability to practice a new language in a setting you’d actually need to use it in! Some work programs require you to have a decent grasp of the local language, so if you are a bit rusty with the native tongue, then research job placement programs with language reinforcement courses. Some work opportunities for high school students abroad will offer in-country courses taught by native teachers as well as virtual classes via Skype.
Work experience abroad is more than just swiping in, scanning some items, filing a few papers, and swiping back out. There’s going to be a lot of unexpected factors that impede productivity. So, say goodbye to unrealistic expectations. Be realistic about what you can actually accomplish in one to three months, and don’t be disappointed if you feel like you’re not getting as much done as friends back home. They’re not dealing with new languages, social etiquettes, and work mentalities!
Cultural differences in the workplace, such as it being completely acceptable to be late to a meeting, or taking a day off to observe your city’s patron saint may surprise you. Things aren’t weird abroad, just different. As long as you see these cultural differences as learning opportunities, then it will make your time working abroad less stressful and more rewarding.
What is more exciting than telling your friends that you’re buying a plane ticket to work abroad during high school? Whether you’re working a paid or volunteer job, you will become a more well-rounded person who isn’t afraid of taking chances. Your fearless attitude will impress your future employers, and yourself!