Students look to careers abroad
Beyond their internships and studies, some students seek an international career
February 11, 2013, 1:49 am·
For some Penn students, studying and interning abroad is just the tip of the iceberg.
According to the Career Plans Survey for the class of 2012, 9 percent of College graduates said they would be working internationally. This included 42 American students working abroad, as well as international students leaving the United States for employment. Kelly Cleary, a senior associate director at Career Services, said that starting a career abroad is becoming more common.
Cleary is currently writing a dissertation about working abroad and career development, and her “research findings show that it opens up career opportunities for people … [and] can give students a competitive edge in their long-run careers because it’s a global economy now.”
Wharton freshman Grace Chen, who is considering pursuing a double concentration in finance and global analysis, would love to work abroad for an international financial service like Credit Suisse, and sees her freshman status as a reason for proactivity.
Chen recently started an internship at Penn’s Lauder Institute — the MBA equivalent of the Huntsman Program — and is doing research for MBA students who are exploring business models across cultural barriers in Latin America and Asia.
She also plans on interning abroad, and at the very least plans on studying abroad in France to improve her language skills.
Aside from enhancement of language skills, one impetus for deciding to start a career abroad is the desire for cultural immersion.
“I’ve always loved the international experience and experiencing new cultures,” said Chen. “What better way to do that than to work in another country?”
Often, though, if a student’s long-term goal is to have an international career, it is helpful to first work domestically.
“For an employer to send somebody abroad is expensive … there’s a cost to sponsoring, and visas cost money,” Cleary said. “You have to prove your worth to the company and then they will transfer you abroad.”
College senior Ramie Jacobson will graduate with a double major in communications and Italian and is likewise planning on working abroad because he is “interested in learning about different cultures, different lives, and different ways of thinking.” Jacobson’s career path, though, is quite different from Chen’s, as he is planning on teaching English abroad. Jobs teaching English “are the most available abroad, and there are fewer strings attached,” he said. “I’m more inclined to hop around different countries, and teaching English is a good way to do that … because there are availabilities in most countries.”
According to Cleary, students like Jacobson often find it easiest to find language-teaching careers through field-specific programs. Programs provide a safety net of sorts and often will take care of the abundant paperwork associated with finding a job abroad, as well as insurance and housing.
The greatest challenge of working abroad though, Cleary said, is the legal aspect of getting a work visa.
“Recognizing that there are visa requirements” is something that cannot be overlooked as students look for jobs abroad. “American students need to be sponsored to work abroad,” Cleary added. Generally, this sponsorship is provided by an employer.
Despite the obstacles associated with finalizing career plans abroad, Jacobson hopes his exposure to the languages and cultures of multiple countries will put him well on his way to attaining his “dream job” of working for an international nonprofit.
This type of work is what is termed a “common good career,” and Career Services offers resources both online and in person for students pursuing a career in that domain. Career Services also has a host of databases for all international job types, including finance and international marketing.
Cleary’s last bit of advice is that “it is a good idea in the interview process to let them know” of a language skill, of an “expertise on a policy issue or economic issue, and of a desire to work abroad.”