I used to be that aspiring globetrotter in college. I was about to graduate, and I desperately needed a job, and I was certain that I wanted to work abroad. I have always been filled with wanderlust, and what better way than by working abroad?
I did not want to volunteer or do the Peace Corps, I wanted a real job where I could stay on working and living, buy a car, and have a normal adult life. You know, a job where you get paid. I was stubborn about this desire. I e-mailed hundreds of companies and organizations, and kept on receiving no responses, or the advice to volunteer or work for free. I was frustrated and fed up. I ultimately read online and heard from other expats the same story time and time again, just move to the country and then do your job search. But who wants to move to a country when they have no job offer and no healthcare? It’s scary!
I was coming to the end of my senior year, and I realized that if I continued being stubborn, I would be stuck at home while the rest of my friends went on to pursue opportunities. Finally, I ended up accepting an offer with an NGO (non government organization). There was no pay, but it was work experience nonetheless. I did exactly what I said I would never do, move to a country without healthcare or a stable job. I took the little money I still had with me after graduation, packed up, and left for Ghana.
The NGO I worked for helped students reach their educational goals by providing tutoring services. Every day was gratifying and rewarding. I traveled on my shoestring budget and was still able to have adventures. Living in West Africa, even going over to the neighbor’s house could serve as an adventure of sorts. Not only that, but the NGO gave me management experience, it gave me teaching experience, and it most importantly gave me on the ground experience.
After a year and a half in this role, I transitioned smoothly into a full time position with an international school. I could finally live the life I imagined, residing in a house and having healthcare. That dream that I had so long ago was coming true. I couldn’t be happier, and all because I listened to advice and followed in the bold footsteps of those who have gone before me.
I now stand on the other side of the hill that is becoming an expat. I receive the e-mails and questions from people getting ready to graduate, asking me how I got to be an expat. And I have to dole out the same frustrating advice that I used to hear regularly, sitting at home browsing jobs from my couch in the United States. Just get up and leave, find a charity, work for the Peace Corps, and get your foot in the door. Once you are in your dream country, opportunities begin to unfold. It’s scary, but it’s definitely worth it.
Also published on Medium.