Work Experience: Choosing to go abroad


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The Independent Online

If you're looking for a way to bump up your CV, and you want to get away from the UK for a while, you could always look into doing work experience abroad.

Working abroad will not only help you develop skills in your chosen area, but will be great to show to potential employers, who are likely to be looking for someone with something extra - they want a well-rounded person with 'life' skills who can easily adapt to different environments. There are loads of companies to choose from, and loads of countries you can work in. The world is your oyster, but the down-side is that it will cost you, and there are extra issues to take into consideration.

Hidden costs

Placements start from around £1,000 and can be anything up to £4,000 depending on where you go, who you go with, and how long you go for.

It’s worth bearing in mind that sometimes these placements have extra costs associated with them. Most companies won’t include, for example, flights to and from the country, but they may include insurance. Sometimes they won’t include certain meals or visas. Make sure you check their website carefully, or speak to a representative about what is included and excluded from the price before you book a placement.

Health comes first

As with travelling anywhere, it’s important to take care of your health – you’ll be of no use to anyone if you fall ill! If travel insurance is not already included in the price of your placement, make sure you sign up for insurance that will cover you for the length of your stay.

Be prepared and take a mini medical kit – plasters, painkillers, insect repellent and water purifying tablets are a good place to start.

Speak to your doctor about the vaccinations or tablets you may need to take before you travel. Arrange an appointment at least two months before you’re due to go, and discuss with them exactly where you are going. They will be able to advise you if you need any vaccinations, booster shots or malaria tablets for the region you’re visiting.

Research the company you want to go with

Sometimes the company you go with can make or break what should be an incredible learning experience. Check message boards and online forums for information on companies, particularly negative experiences. Don’t just read the testimonies from happy customers on their website or brochure – ask for an email address of someone who has been on your placement previously, and email them with any queries or worries you may have. If the company run them, go to an open day where you’ll have the opportunity to speak with staff and previous volunteers.

Research the country you’re going to

It sounds obvious but it’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into. Is it generally safe for tourists there? Have there been any problems in that area in the last couple of years? Will you be staying in accommodation with other volunteers or with a host family? Are you able to travel on public transport alone to and from your work placement? If you like going out, do some research on the night-life in the city you’re going to, and how much it’s likely to cost you. It’s also an excellent idea to check up on cultural customs and the local law – you don’t want to accidentally insult your host family, breach cultural dress codes or end up on the wrong side of the law!