Are you thinking about moving overseas to gain work experience abroad? Move away from the straight path and head for a fulfilling career, starting with an international working experience.
Research has shown that graduates with international experience on their resume are more likely to be employed in the future, since employers are often impressed by the diverse professional and personal skills one acquires abroad.
Re-locating to work in a different country with unfamiliar customs and culture is not short of its challenges, but we’re here to tell you that it’s worth every bump in the road to your final destination.
Here are 5 steps to ensure a smooth transition to your new professional adventure abroad:
Save Time and Send a Complete Work Visa Application
Since the requirements and processing times vary depending on the country, your work visa application should be done as soon as you get your job offer. Your work visa will be issued by your host country’s government office in Canada, and must be obtained before boarding your plane. No matter what, remember not to book any flights or make travel arrangements before receiving your work visa, just in case there are delays. Additionally, you could purchase cancellation insurance for your flight to make sure you have a backup plan in case delays do occur.
Other than filling out your host country’s unique application form, you’ll need to put together a pile of requested information, which will most likely include more or less of the following:
- Photocopy of Personal Information (passport, piece of ID)
- Employment Contract
- Proof of Funds (bank statements, paystubs from last two months)
- 1-2 of the same recent passport-style photo (full-face, light background)
- Letter(s) of Sponsorship (from parents, relatives, etc.)
- Credit Payment for Working Visa
- Medical Exam*
*May be required depending on country of stay
Apartment Hunting Abroad
Unless you’ve been set up by your agency with an apartment, finding a place to live is your top priority after your work visa is approved.
Fair warning, some apartment applications are challenging to navigate, – especially if the documents are written in a different language, or you have to scan your lease to your parents across the world to sign on as a guarantor, all while avoiding your typical scams. Heed this advice on apartment hunting abroad and be prepared for anything:
- Scope out the neighborhoods where you’d like to live. Keep in mind, you’ll want to choose a location close to your work that is in a safe area. Feel free to ask your employer for suggestions.
- Although you may need it for your rental applications, your credit score does not follow you abroad. Make sure that you open up a bank account in your new city and add your funds into the account by wire or cash to prove you have the financial stability needed to pay the rent.
- Try finding roommates to share the cost of living. This way, you might save on buying the copious amount of house supplies you need, as well as building strong friendships.
- Keep in mind, your first (and sometimes last) month of rent, as well as a security deposit will be required when you sign your tenancy agreement.
Learn the Language and Cultural Norms
Unless you plan on relying on your translation dictionary or impromptu charades, your experience abroad will be significantly improved by learning the language of your new home. It doesn’t matter that you’ve been hired to teach English or work at an international firm with English-speaking colleagues; you need to learn at least the basics of the native language.
- As a new resident, make sure you’ve done your research on currency conversions and the general cost of things, as locals will pick up on your initial tourist vibe and may take advantage of that when pricing items.
- Learn the workplace etiquette and experience the cultural norms to appropriately fit in as a local. It’s a good idea to do your research and read up on the place where you’re moving, including customs, traditions, and what kind of behaviour is expected of you.
- Brush up on your country’s native language by setting daily goals on DuoLingo and master the most useful phrases and words on the Memrise app.
You may be overwhelmed when you first arrive and people are speaking to you at lightning-speed in a foreign language, but embracing your surroundings is the best way to learn; ordering a coffee will be a milestone, and eventually you’ll be comfortable having small talk with your neighbours. Learning a new language will be challenging in the beginning, but push yourself to speak it as much as you can. Your workplace may even have a discussion group where you can meet with other people to speak your new language, or you can sign up for a language class when you’ve moved to your new locale.
Embrace the Culture Shock and Homesickness
Once you’ve landed in your new country, found a place to live, and have gotten the swing of things at work, you may start to experience homesickness. Your first month living abroad will be full of Skype dates home, reminiscing about the things and places you took for granted in your hometown and all of the people you miss. You’ll also experience culture shock; on one hand, one of the best aspects of relocating for a job is being exposed to a fascinating new place, but it can be an initially overwhelming shift. Before you begin to miss the ease of being back at home, remember that these feelings are all temporary. One day this heart-tugging homesickness will fade as you get used to your new way of life. You’ll adapt to your new surroundings and make it yours to call home, filling your life with new friends and new experiences. Besides, moving to an exotic new place is a great excuse for your friends and family back home to come and visit!
Pack Light and Thrift Shop
You’ll realize quickly that you don’t actually need 10 pairs of shoes to survive. Instead of getting charged an extra $200 for an oversized luggage, accumulate your necessities when you’re already in the city you’ve re-located to. Find your housewares, linens, and furniture on your country’s version of Kijiji (Gumtree in Europe), at garage sales, and second-hand stores, because if you ever return to Canada, chances are you aren’t bringing that Wok pan back too. Another thing you can do to cut down on your luggage is to look up the climate of your new country. This way, you can avoid bringing excess clothing you may not need.
Prepare Yourself for the Reality of Being a Permanent Residence
After all the challenges of relocating are over, you may find that you’ve come to love your new country so much that you don’t want to leave. If your contract gets extended for another two years, or you don’t see any career prospects back home and decide to stay, or even if you meet someone special, you have to prepare for the steps and questions that come after your work visa ends:
- Do you need to get sponsored? Or can you simply live off the working visa until you reach eligibility for applying for permanent residency?
- See how you can go about getting integrated with the health care system, and if your work offers any health benefits.
- Think about getting a more permanent cell phone plan and a credit card, to build your credit score when applying for future housing.
Working overseas is a rich cultural experience that broadens your perspectives of the world, and if given the opportunity, should be jumped on with ambitious, outstretched arms. Re-locating to another country is the initial stress of the experience, but the more prepared you are, the easier it is to settle in and get on with living your dreams abroad. So, what are you waiting for?
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