Working abroad – What are you waiting for?

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I remember it as if it was yesterday. The cold January morning, waving goodbye to snowy Norway, boarding a plane, crossing the Atlantic, and there I was. Six months after applying for my ultimate dream job, the wait had finally come to an end. I was there. Finally, I was in Orlando, Florida.

Filled with emotions, expectations, excitement and even more nervous than back when I was fourteen and was about to get my first kiss from a tall, skinny guy with the most unfortunate acne breakout. Imagine that. Or don’t. Disney World was way more exciting than any kiss I’d ever gotten from anyone ever. I say that, because I’m a big kid and always will be. I also say that because I believe that there is such a thing as a fun job. A job that will make you feel good about yourself. Motivated. Happy.

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Sometimes it’s not even the job itself that has that effect on you, but the feeling of starting over with a blank canvas. Leaving everything behind and starting over is obviously a very big risk, but I’ve never met anyone who ever said they regret doing it. Even if the job itself wasn’t that great, or the location wasn’t what they’d expected it to be, everyone I’ve met who have worked abroad, all agreed it was a life-changing experience and not in a million years would they have done it any differently.

My latest work experience abroad was also my most recent regular kind of job. Last summer I worked as a Norwegian language teacher in Paris. I was headhunted by a company who needed someone to teach beginner’s level Norwegian to French professionals planning to relocate. My students were wonderful people and fun to work with, and the experience itself was as educational for me as it was for them, as I learned to view my own first language from a different perspective. And can you really complain when you’re able to see the Eiffel tower from your workplace?

I asked some people to share their own stories from working abroad

Nicole, 30, from the US: “I have been working in Berlin, Germany for almost six years, including two one-month Project Management gigs in Dubai through a German client. I was a freelancer in everything from Admissions at an Executive MBA program, field trip leader for a Harvard summer program abroad, translator, Project Manager, remote Costumer Service for a German start-up, Relocation consulting for new expats and now I’m a College Registrar at a small private Liberal Arts University part-time (that last one is not freelance). I also taught English in Prague for six months in 2009-2010. As you can see, it’s quite a variety of experience and I have a lot of stories!”

Esther, 32, from California: “I taught at Cambridge International School in Bratislava, Slovakia about 4 years ago. It was awesome! The school at the time was still in start-up mode so it was a lot of work, but I loved what I did and I loved how far my money went in Bratislava. I lived like a queen! I taught PreK, 5th grade, and 7/8 art, science and drama to students from around the world. The best part was my students. They loved me and would draw me cute pictures or tell me sweet things everyday. Now I am moving to Bali with my son to teach at business retreats there. The journey never ends unless you let it!

Danielle, 25, from the UK: I’ve done quite a few jobs abroad so feel free to pick and choose! My first job abroad I was 19 and worked for First Choice, a big holiday company, as a drama and singing teacher in their hotels. I was teaching kids from the age 4-17 who wanted to do some performing on their holidays! I did this two summers in a row. First in Portugal, then in Turkey. Next I worked as a circus coach with a travelling circus school in America. We traveled all up and down the east coast teaching kids some awesome circus skills and then putting on a full on show with them at the end of the week. Then, when I finished university, I moved to Kyoto, Japan to teach English. I worked with all ages from babies to businessmen! Finally, I currently live in Tenerife, a Spanish island off the coast of Africa, working as a social media executive for a digital marketing agency!

Erinlee, from Canada: I’m a personal support worker and most people think that’s just helping people with toilet duties. There is a whole side of life able bodied forget non abled bodied people do. That’s travel, vacation. I’ve been blessed to go to Mexico with my boss and the Bahamas, and although I went with a family friend, their request was to nanny with mom of 3 back to Sudan. Now that was short and sweet, but amazing!

After reading all this, I’m sure you’re feeling inspired and motivated to get out there and land a cool job in a foreign country!

So what is the easiest way to find your dream job abroad?

Obviously, there is the option to travel to the destination of your choice first, and then ask around and hand over your CV to different businesses. However, the easiest and most economical way to do it, is to search for a job online. Because, face it, you don’t wanna sit around at your rental apartment or hotel room and wait for who knows how long. You’ll lose time and money. Besides, we live in a digital world!

We all know how easy it is to get lost in the sea of job service websites and it’s not always easy to know which one’s to choose or where to start.

Personally, I recommend SearchJobsAbroad.com as it’s a very user-friendly job service with a large range of jobs worldwide to choose from. All you need to do is upload your CV and start browsing!

As summer is just around the corner, there’s plenty of companies looking for seasonal workers. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to spend the summer entertaining kids in Italy or working at a theme park on a Spanish island (those are actual listings on the site)! There’s also a lot of companies looking for someone to stay with them long term. I mean, working as a costumer service agent for a fashion brand in Barcelona sounds like something I’d love to do. Or as a photographer in Mumbai? That’s awesome! Or maybe you’d rather teach English in Vietnam? Or be a fitness instructor in Thailand? Work at a luxury resort in Morocco? And the list goes on…

Take my advice. Stop daydreaming and start taking chances. Who knows, you might end up having the time of your life!

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Work Abroad: My year as a Disney World cast member

Once upon a time there was a girl from the far, far north. Her name was Kristine and she was as pale as the snow that was covering the city she once lived in. Her life was a bore and she wanted to break free from it all. She wanted to spread her wings and fly far away,  across the Atlantic ocean – to work for the Mouse in the Sunshine State. One day she received the magical message she had been impatiently waiting for: Mickey Mouse was excited to welcome her to his team and rescue her from her old, boring habits. The pale northerner was the happiest she’d ever been and couldn’t resist the urge to break into song and dance, with the sound of wind howling outside. On a magical night in January 2014, her new life began. A beautiful new life. And she lived happily ever after…

…Or at least for one year, until the contract finished and the temporary worker visa expired. And was it really all that “magical”? Why did they recruit someone all the way from Norway to work in Florida?

I’ll explain all of that – and more. First of all, I didn’t work at Magic Kingdom, which is the main park and what most people associate with Disney World because of the iconic Cinderella castle, all the meet & greet’s and obviously all the fun attractions, like the “Pirates of the Caribbean”-ride and Space Mountain. A lot of people who have never been to Disney World, seem to think that Magic Kingdom is the only park there. Well, guess what? There’s five more (including the two water parks).

I worked at Epcot, a park dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, technological innovation and international culture. Epcot has a “world showcase” themed area, containing 11 pavilions which are all themed and dedicated to represent a specific country (Mexico, Norway, China, Japan, USA, Canada, France, Italy, Morocco, UK and Germany). The title of my position was “cultural representative” for the Norwegian Pavilion and I was given the option to work in merchandise, food & beverage or attractions. I chose merchandise, as I was already experienced as a merchandiser.We sold high quality Norwegian outerwear, cosmetics, miniature trolls and other figurines, candy and canned foods, books and obviously toys and other merchandise from the movie Frozen. At Disney World, there’s no such thing as staff or uniforms; you’re a cast member and you’re wearing a costume. It sounds a lot more fun that way, doesn’t it? And it was. It made us feel like we were playing a part, just as much as any Disney character would. And why wouldn’t I wanna feel like a Disney princess?

An important part of the program was the housing situation. Disney World provided housing for all their international workers, with apartments ranging in size from 1 bedroom to 4 bedrooms – which were all shared with others. In the US it’s quite common to share a dorm room with another person, but in Europe – at least in Northern Europe – we’re not used to sharing a bedroom with someone we don’t know. The lack of privacy obviously caused a lot of challenges and sometimes led to conflicts between people, either due to cultural differences or personality differences. I was told a fair share of scary stories during that year and witnessed some as well – and during my program I heard they added even a third bed into most of the apartments. Who knows? You might become best friends with your roommates. You might hate their guts. Maybe you’ll be indifferent.

Still, the most amazing part of the program was meeting wonderful new people. I made some of the greatest friends I’ve ever had, made amazing memories with them and together we all celebrated Christmas, birthdays and other important events that would have made me feel homesick if it wasn’t for these people. Our managers at Disney World were fantastic as well. My father passed away while I was working in Florida and the managers comforted me as if they were my real family. I will never forget how supportive and caring they were. I will never forget how happy I was being part of the Disney family.

And you know what else made me happy? Getting free access to all the Disney Parks whenever I wanted that year! If I could have traveled back in time and told 5 year old me that I would later work for the Mouse and hang out in Disney World as much as I wanted, I’m sure 5 year old me wouldn’t even believe it. Because it kind of sounds to good to be true, right?

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