Opinion, Travel

An Honest Look at What Working Abroad After College is Really Like

If you’ve been following my journey for a while now, you know that I chose to work abroad after college.

I spent my first seven months after graduation teaching English in Thailand and am currently working in a hotel in France.  What you probably don’t know is the amount of time I spent convincing my mom this was a good idea.  I spent months preaching about how I knew this would benefit me in my future career goals.  Many conversations revolved around persuading her that this was more than just a vacation.  While I’ve never admitted this to her, I was just looking for a vacation (sorry, Mom! Guess you were right all along).  I honestly wasn’t ready to face working life in America and I thought this would be a nice break from reality.

From the second I moved abroad, I started receiving more and more comments from friends.  Things like, “I wish I had your life”.  Or “living vicariously through you”! And “so jealous of you right now”!  And while I may spend some weekends exploring different countries and taking on new adventures, choosing to work abroad after college has been far from perfect.

It wasn’t until about month two in Thailand, that I realized I wasn’t on vacation at all. 

Sure, it wasn’t your typical corporate job in America, but it certainly was no walk in the park.  I spent many days on the verge of tears trying to control my class.  Most days consisted of me attempting to not scream at the five year olds sitting (aka somersaulting/running/jumping) in front of me.  While my challenges may have stemmed from language barriers and culture shock instead of team meetings and spreadsheets, it didn’t make them feel any less real.  If anything, they felt more real than many obstacles I’ve faced in the past.

work abroad after college, teaching in thailand

Currently, I live in the South of France and am working in a hotel.  Sounds amazing, right?  It is.  Except for the fact that I am working as a housekeeper (which is honestly kind of ironic because I don’t remember the last time I cleaned my own room).  Except for the fact that I am essentially the only person that speaks English in my town.

For me, working abroad after college has proven to be both the greatest challenge and the greatest decision I’ve ever made. 

It means I’ve been incredibly lonely at times.  It also means I’ve met some of the most amazing people I know.  It means I have been so homesick it hurts.  And it means I’ve felt more at home, eight thousand miles away, than I have felt in a long time.  It means I’ve watched as my friends get promotions at their jobs while I’m stuck cleaning up other people’s shit.  It also means, I get to live in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been that I wouldn’t have known existed if it weren’t for this shit cleaning job.  It means I’m missing out on baby showers and weddings and graduations.

work abroad after college, saint lary soulan
Saint Lary Soulan, France aka home for the next few months!

My point is, working abroad after college is a roller coaster of sacrifice and balance. 

It will be the best decision you ever make, but it sure as hell won’t be easy.  You will get to see places of the world that many people will never be able to see, but you may not be able to share it with the people you love the most.  You will probably feel so uncomfortable in this new world that, at some point, it becomes your new comfortable.

Working abroad after college is different for everyone.  But one thing I think we can all agree on is that it’s worth it.  So if you’ve been thinking about it, stop questioning yourself and take that leap of faith.  Because I promise you, you won’t regret it.


60 thoughts on “An Honest Look at What Working Abroad After College is Really Like

  1. Of course I’m crying. What you don’t realize is I’ve been so homesick for you it hurts, but I wouldn’t trade my decision to support you in you adventures for anything. You’ve grown and conquered hurdles that I couldn’t imagine, you’ve worked harder than many people I know, and yes I know how much you’ve sacrificed. You haven’t compromised on your goals, and you’ve made your own way in this world on your own terms. I couldn’t be more proud of you and have any more admiration for you than I do today. I love you Tar Tar:)

  2. OMG!! You are one amazing lady. Please stay safe, enjoy the moment and fullfill your dreams. See you soon. xoxo

  3. I love this and it is all sooo true!! I just know that your decision to “travel” will greatly impact your personal and professional life. It will teach you so much more than any job here in the US will. I can tell that Patrick has learned to become comfortable in very uncomfortable situations. It takes so much strength and perseverance to plow through it all. Great Job Tarah….I love your spirit!! Thank you for sharing your honest perspective on what seems to be a “trendy” choice. You have learned to dig deep and that will only take you closer to your dreams!!

  4. I worked abroad in Sydney after graduation in banking but you had quite the different experience in Thailand! Such an enlightening time.

  5. Working abroad might be difficult but its part of the exciting challenge. And a great opportunity to enjoy other life out of your comfort zone.

  6. More than the post, I found your mom’s message so heart warming and encouraging. I could not help but read that and I must say that your biggest reward is the pride in your mom’s voice. Following your dreams is not easy but when you do it, lots of people respect you for it!

  7. This is such a wonderful thing for you to do 🙂 Really feeling proud of you as a lady and a free spirit. Enjoy this phase of your life and the various experiences you gain.

  8. A beautiful, heart felt post indeed! Traveling, leading a nomadic life, may sound absolutely incredible and dreamy! But the sacrifices are our own! Another factor is that while our friends in corporate job, who envy our lifestyle may have built a decent bank balance while we spend most of our earnings in travels!!!!

  9. I’m currently in the stuck situation of working at home, instead of abroad after college, and I’m realizing it’s not for me. I want to be outside my limits trying new things! This is such a great thinkpiece!

  10. I think that you were able to learn so many things while you lived on your own in different parts of the world than you’d be able to learn while sitting in the office.
    If you decide to go back to the corporate life in the States you will be a very qualified candidate for any job you choose to apply to! You are amazing!

  11. I totally loved working aboard and embraced it. Didn’t get homesick at all. But I was working and living in Paris and London is a 2h20 train ride away 😀 😀 😀

  12. It sounds like you have had some amazing experiences and it does open up travel options! We are moving abroad this year to teach at an International School so should be an interesting journey! Thanks for sharing your honest reflections 🙂

  13. I worked abroad after college too and TOTALLY agree that it’s an amazing experience — even though it’s not always the dream job you’ve studied for. I see learning about new cultures as a continuing education 😀

  14. Very beautiful and inspiring post! I feel that majority of the people take the simple path in their life but real adventure is in taking a road that is less traveled. You go gal and live your passion because life is all about experiences.

  15. I love your post, I think that although it’s a challenge to work abroad after college is also one of those experiences that change you forever, so it’s always good to get out of your comfort zone . Regards!!

  16. Loved how honest this was 🙂 Could definitely relate to a lot of it. I’ve never worked a full time job abroad but even working online (while abroad) has a lot of the same challenges you mentioned, especially the loneliness bit. It’s all worth it in the end though. Thanks for sharing this, girl! <3

  17. I applaud you for honesty! Many people would only write about the nice things and never ever admit they are homesick or even disclose the jobs they have. I’ve worked as a maid in Austria, and it was very hard for me to be open about how much I hated it. But it gave me the strength to continue working more towards the goals I had once I was back home. And actually, despite it being Austria, I learned English there quite well, so, this was instrumental in my future career choices!

    1. Thanks so much 🙂 I’m sure you can definitely relate since you worked as a maid in Austria haha not the most glamorous job, but everything works out in the end! So glad you were able to learn English, that’s amazing! I’m attempting to learn French and failing miserable haha

  18. Tarah, as I keep reading your posts, I get more and more inspired from you. You are really a brave girl who took a tough decision at a young age to follow your dreams and passion. It is really tough to say no to promotions and paychecks. But too, believe travel is all about experiences and it teaches you the best lessons in life. So, go Girl and fulfill your dreams.

  19. Working and staying abroad is really the best path to self discovery. I moved to USA 15 years ago to study and honestly this was the best decision I ever made. Kudos on your decision and I hope you have many awesome years of travel and discovery ahead of you.

  20. I think it’s a very brave thing to do on your own and really glad to read that, despite the downsides, you have found it so worthwhile. I spent a few months working overseas after school / before university and so really appreciate some of your comments. I’m so glad I did it though!

  21. Great post and insight into what your life is like working and living abroad! We have been on the road for over a year now and also get incredibly homesick at times, but we also would change it for anything! Your mums comment is so lovely too!

  22. I have worked abroad 3 times now, in New Zealand, Colombia & Mexico. I have had amazing times and experiences but also it can be hard when you don’t have your normal support network there. In Mexico I hated it as the only people who talked to me were the taxi driver to work and the guy in subway!!! In September I start a job managing a hostel in Peru, I can’t wait for that experience as that place certainly feels more like home to me than the UK!!!

  23. I think it’s always hard to leave your home, but I’m glad to read you at least found something that fulfills you 🙂 I moved to Finland only 6 days after graduating to live with my boyfriend (now husband). I feel like I had to sacrifice a lot for it, including friendships, but I truly wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

  24. Beautiful post. Really. Try to enjoy your free time as much as you can, visiting new places, meeting new people. And try to learn French, it will always be a plus in your CV. Next time a Spanish speaking country? 😉

  25. A very honest and heartfelt post. However hard it seems being away from friends and family, and working in a less than glamorous job, when you look back on this time you won’t regret it! As part of my degree I taught English in France for a year. It was tough in many ways but I’m glad I had the experience. And there’s nothing like being the only English speaker in a town to get your French improving quickly!

  26. Such rewarding and rich experiences. I have never lived aboard but attempted it twice. Turns out I am much better at travelling and then coming home :). Arhhh your mums comment!! SO beautiful!

  27. Loved reading this post. It is so candid and frank and looks at the issue threadbare. One needs to be aware that working abroad is not all glamorous and rosy as it may seem. It has its own share of challenges that need to be faced.

  28. I’ve always considered working abroad as an option after university as I’m also not really to face the stressful life society expects all of us to do! Love hearing from someone who’s been doing this!

  29. It certainly is not easy working abroad as I am doing the same too. You get to visit places you never knew existed but you also get to experience things that you wouldn’t have experienced if you stayed in your comfort zone aka “home”. But it’s very exciting to be in a different place. You are very strong and you made the right decision! Good luck on more of your adventures! 🙂

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