Sarah Erdman - 2015 Program Participant

Loch Ard Gorge along the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Stop, drop and yoga at Loch Ard Gorge along the Great Ocean Road

What made you decide to work abroad?

I chose to work abroad because I was at a major crossroads in my life. I had just finished college, obtaining a degree that I no longer wanted to pursue in the professional world, but I was not sure what else I could do. I knew that I wanted to travel, but financially could not just travel for several months alone. I decided working abroad was my only option. Luckily, I had a few years of serving experience and hospitality is one of the top industries for young people to work in abroad.

Why did you select Australia for your overseas work experience? 

I chose Australia for three simple reasons. First, they speak English, which made being alone in a new country much less daunting. Second, their seasons are the exact opposite from where I live, so I would be going from the end of summer at home to the beginning of summer in Australia and then back to the beginning of summer at home once my six months was over. The final reason was that I had studied abroad for a month in New Zealand while in college, and I had to find out which country was better since they have such a rivalry.

These are not the most profound reasons, in fact they are quite simple and maybe even a little silly, but it was all the reason I needed to go.

Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef

What was the most memorable experience you had in Australia?

The most memorable experience I had while working abroad actually did not come until my last day of work. I loved my job and I knew I had made some good friends and lots of great memories, but I did not realize how much of an impact I had made on my co-workers. My last day of work was filled with lots of hugs and even more tears. Those people were more than my coworkers; they were part of my Australian family. When you are alone in a new country, your co-workers often become your best friends, and in my case they became my family too. I know if I ever go back to Sydney, I will have my family there waiting for me with open arms.

Surfing lessons at Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia

Sarah and a friend after they learned how to surf from some locals at Kuta beach in Bali

What was the biggest challenge you faced working abroad in Australia?

The biggest challenge I faced while abroad was running out of money. Halfway through my stay in Sydney I completely ran out of money. Business was slow at my job and I had not worked in a couple of weeks, and right before this happened I went on a vacation to Cairns and overshot my budget a bit. I spent a couple of weeks doing nothing but sitting at home and rationing out my food. It seems silly to think about it now because it was such a short period of my stay, but those few weeks felt like an eternity, especially since I refused to call home and ask my parents for money; I could not admit to them that I had failed. But in reality, I did not fail, it was merely part of the experience of being abroad.

What advice would you give others who are considering working abroad?

If you are at all interested in working abroad, do it. Just go. Pick a date and save a little money and leave. You will never regret it. Even if you go broke or get really homesick at some point, you will never look back on your time abroad and wish you had not gone. People always say you will only regret the chances you did not take, and I completely agree with that statement. Make the most out of your life while you can before you get tied down to a job, to a spouse, or to children. Once all that happens in your life, you probably won’t ever get an opportunity like this again.

Girls at Katoomba Falls in the Blue Mountains, Australia

Sarah with her two best Sydney friends at Katoomba Falls in the Blue Mountains

How did working abroad in Australia impact your life?

Now that I am home, after being gone for over six months, I do not in any way feel like the same person who left Minnesota back in October. I have a greater appreciation for my friends and family; I have a passion for my life and career that I have not felt in a long time. And on top of all of that, my eyes have been opened to the true beauty that our world is.

There are beautiful places and people and things surrounding us every day that we go blind to out of familiarity with those things. I think that even if people cannot go and see the world, they should start to just notice again the beauty that surrounds them.

As I write this, I am sitting on my patio looking out at my backyard, but it does not seem like the same yard I’ve known for the last twelve years. It is green, rich, and alive, and I cannot believe that it took travel across the globe to notice that.