How can I work abroad?

  • Becky Kells
  • Last updated 12 Jul 2017

For a school leaver, combining travel aspirations with a career needn't be impossible. More and more young people are finding employment in industries across the world, in tourism, human rights organisations and in teaching roles.




So your school days are over, there’s a rainy British summer stretching out in front of you, and you’re considering working abroad. It might be that you don’t know what career is right for you yet, or maybe you’ve set your sights on working outside the UK for a gap year or longer.  Here are a few opportunities to satisfy your wanderlust and boost your CV…

Teaching English abroad

Teaching may sound daunting (let’s face it, you don’t want to evolve into your least favourite maths teacher) but it’s an incredible way to expose yourself to a new culture and pick up a shedload of those all-important transferrable skills. “But don’t I need a degree for that?” I hear you ask. The answer is no, not always. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a flexible option; depending on the course you take and your destination of choice, you won’t need specific qualifications – being a native or near-native English speaker is all you have to bring to the table! Popular destinations for those without a degree include Vietnam and Cambodia, areas of Eastern Europe, and Spain. Expand your options further by looking into TEFL courses.

Ski and snowboard instructing

Feel like you’ve spent enough time in classrooms? More and more intrepid adventurers are now equipped with ski and snowboard instructor qualifications – many of which offer ‘earn as you learn’ schemes. The seasonal nature of ski and snowboarding resorts makes it an ideal short-term option if you’re on a gap year or looking to try an array of career paths before you settle into the long term. Instructors can work on the slopes in Austria, Switzerland, Canada and Japan, and apart from the obvious ski knowhow, will come away with enhanced awareness about fitness and first aid. You’ll also be living and working alongside fellow instructors and mentors, making this a socially fulfilling job.

Travel and tourism apprenticeship

If you’re serious about working abroad in the long term, an apprenticeship in the travel and tourism industry could be your golden ticket. Big names such as Thomas Cook offer apprenticeships[i] to school leavers – you’ll learn the ropes in UK-based travel agencies and shops, with the opportunity to become an overseas representative arising later in your career. Tourism is a constantly evolving industry, with classic jobs such as cabin crew and ski seasons existing alongside new sustainable ventures such as ecotourism[ii]. In New Zealand’s beautiful Tuatapere National Park, you can embark on a Park Ranger Apprenticeship, learning about Forestry, Agriculture, and Environmental Studies alongside cultural anthropologist Dr David Adams. Life-affirming experience meets extreme CV booster!


Tourism is a constantly evolving industry, with classic jobs such as cabin crew and ski seasons existing alongside new sustainable ventures such as ecotourism.

Summer camp in America

Every child in every American film seems to head off to camp come summer months. It’s summer camp which reunites Annie and Hallie in The Parent Trap, and it’s at Camp Firewood that young love blooms in Wet Hot American Summer. Working as a camp counsellor is a great way to be part of this cultural rite of passage for young Americans. There are general camps as well as those aimed at specific groups – you could take a vocational route and work at a special needs camp or not-for-profit camp. You get free food (think corn dogs, s’mores and other American classics), and when you’re not working you’re free to explore the USA – depending on where your camp is based, you’ve got a wealth of wildly different experiences available.

The small print  

Make sure you’re old enough. There are volunteering schemes for 16-19 year olds, but certain courses require you to be aged 18 or over.

It goes without saying, but once you’ve decided to take the plunge, make sure that you’ve got the necessary paperwork. your passport should be well in date (and an Adult passport if you recently turned 16) and if you’re travelling to a country which requires a visa, make sure you send off for it with plenty of time to spare!  

Insurance – it’s not worth scrimping on travel insurance – if something goes wrong, you want to be in good hands. Bear in mind that for extreme sports you need specialist insurance.

Vaccinations – To visit certain countries you’ll need to be vaccinated, and you may also need malaria tablets on top of that for some areas of the world.  

Although most TEFL jobs don’t require you to be fluent in the native language, it may be worth getting to grips to make your day to day life easier.


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