After slogging through years of post-secondary education to earn a liberal arts degree, an appealing option for many of us twenty-somethings is the “year abroad” approach to putting off adulthood. What better way to celebrate the completion of your education than by moving to Japan to teach English, or to Brazil to study Portuguese, or to Bulgaria to work on an organic farm (or, let’s be honest, to Australia to party on the beach)?
As young women, there are a lot of very important and often overlooked factors to consider when we’re planning on seeing the world.
DO evaluate your readiness for a big change in your lifestyle. Are you a person who can’t bear the thought of missing a Christmas with your family? Do you have a long-term partner whose work or school would mean they couldn’t come along for the year (or at least come for a visit)? Will taking this gap year help or hurt your prospects upon your return?
DON’T tell all your friends about how excited you are to move abroad until you know it’s really happening. Keep your plans to yourself until things are set in stone, because if you chicken out or are unable to leave after all, you don’t want to gain a flaky reputation just as you enter the job market at home.
DO make a budget. Before you start planning a year abroad, find out if it is even financially feasible. Will your parents help you with the start-up costs in your new home? Will this be a year of vacation, or will you make it a working holiday? Will you be able to save money while you’re away, or does the job market in your destination country make it more likely you’ll break even or deplete your savings?
DON’T take deadlines for granted. Different countries have different processes for visa and residency applications. Some countries have reputations for a lot more red tape than others. In the case of mandatory inoculation, you sometimes need to wait months between doses to get that certificate of vaccination. Start early, double check requirements, and don’t leave things to the last minute!
DO your research on the countries where you’d like to live. There are plenty of countries where behaviour we’d consider normal back home is unacceptable or even criminal. Women can suffer harshly under certain legal systems, even if they don’t share the citizenship or the faith of the people meting out the punishment. Make sure you’re aware of the political, economic, and social issues that will have an affect on your daily lifestyle as a woman.
DO be aware of gaps you’ll find difficult to bridge. Climate, religion, language, food, local attitudes, and your ability to cope with the distance from home should all affect your decision on where to go, but…
DON’T get discouraged, and DON’T let your fears get the best of you! You are intelligent, you are independent, and you are so young. Do it now and have the time of your life!
Photo Credit: Max Barñers on Flickr