Going Abroad Again: A Starter Guide to Working, Living and Volunteering Internationally

I recently put this together for my Center for International Education! It’s purpose is to help graduate students and/or study abroad alumni to get abroad again, but can be applicable to anyone who’s considering moving, working, or volunteering overseas! Take … Continue reading

Finding a Job in South Africa! (23.9.2014)

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I plan on studying abroad for an entire academic year in Cape Town, South Africa beginning next fall. Because of the difference in seasons and the fact that we’re in opposite hemispheres – Virginia and South Africa, our academic school year calendars are reversed, i.e. our fall semester is their spring semester, their summer break is our winter break, and so on so forth. This causes a dilemma because I will essentially have another summer break while there, a three month period in between our semesters. Because I believe it will take away from the experience, I plan on NOT returning to the USA during that break. I’ve been throwing around ideas in my head as to what I could possibly do during those three months, and here’s what I came up with:

1) Housesit

2) Get a job

3) Travel around

4) Become an Au Pair

Of these options, I found “Becoming and Au Pair” to be the most realistic and exciting choice of them all. Becoming and au pair would allow myself to truly embrace the culture of a community by immersing myself IN that culture. Living with a family from that country will show me how locals live, work, and play.

At the beginning of my research, I had no idea how to become an au pair and/or find a job as one. I decided to post on my favorite travel forum, hosted by Nomadic Matt, and ask my fellow travel enthusiasts if they knew any good ways.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.34.09 PMI found that a common response was to check out greataupair.com. Of course, I checked it out, and it was perfect! Because I don’t know how many times I would be using my account, it was great not to have to pay for membership. I was able to join and create a profile for free. Of course, upgrades are available, but for my purposes, the standard membership page was suffice. Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 10.32.32 PMThe basic membership page includes places to update information such as age, health concerns, qualifications, dates available, experiences, and strengths and/or weaknesses (which I have none of, of course).  They also have this nifty online “interview” where they have loaded 20 or so pre-scripted questions that you can answer. After completion, you can publish these Q&A’s for your potential employer to read.

The website also has a messaging system, so if anyone is interested in your services, they have the ability to contact you without having to post your personal email for the world to see.

If you are interested in becoming an Au Pair, I most certainly suggest this website. Becoming an Au Pair is more then just a place to live, it’s a way of embracing a culture in a way that I personally find the most interesting…immersion. I hope that as my time frame approaches, I will receive more messages and I can find a family that wants to hire me!

Wish Me Luck! Cheers,

Alex

Just The Beginning (8.9.14)

As I’ve alluded to before, I am beginning the process of transforming my dream of studying abroad into a reality! After careful consideration, I have decided to apply for a year abroad in Cape Town, South Africa at the University of the Western Cape.

Why am I telling you? Because I will be taking you all along through the entire journey! From now until the day I depart. This is the first post of many where I will be taking you with me throughout the process of applying, filling out forms, consulting with advisors, and completing various tasks that will ensure a great and successful time while abroad.

Today I made a quick stop by the Center for International Education (CIE), which is located on the 4th floor of Lee Hall. Dr. Sainz, the director of the CIE, helped me plan out my course schedule so I would be sure to fill my major requirements as well as general education requirements.

When registering for classes at your host university, wherever it may be, it is important to make sure the classes you intend to take are pre-approved by the department chair of that division. Don’t worry, it’s a simple task. Inside this nifty folder, that you will receive when you begin the study abroad process, are all the forms you need to get started, including the “UMW Course Approval Form”.

The folder also includes:

     – A complete list of UMW Study Abroad Scholarships

     – An Education Abroad Checklist, which you will fill out over the course of the planning

     – A Course Registration Planning Tool, which you will use to ensure that you are in the right classes upon your arrival BACK to the University of Mary Washington

     – A Global Inquiry/ Experiential Learning Contract that will allow you to earn either one of those          general education requirements while abroad

     – A Request for Study Abroad Financial Aid form to be completed and submitted to Financial Aid

     – A flyer for a pre-approved Travel Insurance company (required while studying abroad)

     – An Information Sheet on transcripts, graduation, and a senior check-sheet

     – A Mail-Forwarding form

     – A Major/Minor Declaration form

I just e-mailed my IES contact and asked her for the syllabi of a few potential classes I would take while in South Africa. They will help convince my professors that the courses at the University of the Western Cape are equivalent to those here at UMW.

UMW Study Abroad: A How To Guide To Getting Started

As International Education Week rolls around, tons of information will be thrown down your throat about opportunities, scholarships, financial aid, etc etc etc. Now while all of this information is helpful, it may be a little overwhelming. Trust me as I would know from experience. You tend to get all worked up, coming up with one cool idea for where to go, and then an even cooler one sprouts up in your mind. For me, this happened about four times, and I STILL don’t know where I’m going.

As the time to get started draws closer and you become more anxious, it’s easy to become flustered and upset because you don’t know what you’re doing. But that is why I am writing this. I am here to help you get started, point you in the right direction, and introduce you to the right people you need to be in contact with.

For starters, the University of Mary Washington’s Center for International Education (CIE) has staff members who are more then willing to sit down one-on-one with you to help you through this process. They will make sure you have your forms filled correctly and that you’re staying on track to have a successful time abroad. If you still don’t know where you’re going, whether you have a blossoming idea that you need to be concreted, or you have absolutely no clue, they will help you.

For those of you who don’t know where you want to go and for how long, you have a few options. UMW offers both Faculty Led programs as well as Independent programs. On the CIE’s website, in a well laid out manner, they display which programs are offered. These can be organized by the region, discipline, or name of the program. Typically, the faculty led programs are during school holidays (i.e. spring break, winter break, summer).

If you were interested in an independent program, the CIE has a list of approved programs that they believe are worthy and acceptable curriculums. There are a few different lengths of study abroad: Semester, Full Year, and Summer. Have no fear! If where you want to go is not on their approved list, it IS possible to petition for it to be approved. It is then up to the CIE’s discretion whether or not they think it is an appropriate program.

Many of their approved programs are through third party companies. Some of the major ones include SIT, ISA, IES, GoAbroad and so on. It’s not hard to find programs, all you have to do is a little research.

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to do, the CIE advisors will have you register for it on EagleNet. This just helps them organize who’s attempting to study abroad and where they’re interested in going.

When the time comes, you will apply to the university/program you’re attempting to attend. Assuming you get in, UMW and the international program will help you through the next few steps. These include, but are not limited to:

1) Payments

2) Class Registration

3) Finding housing (if the host university does not provide it)

Once everything is set in stone, you’re ready for your trip. The two main things both universities want you to get from this experience is 1) Broaden your knowledge and gain useful knowledge and 2) have fun. Traveling is something that not everybody gets to experience. Enjoy your time, have fun, but don’t forget why you’re at school; to get an education.