Deciding to Work during an Exchange




Since the end of January, I’ve been working at small English language program for children from the ages one to high school students. This job is so convenient (only a three minute walk from my host family’s house), they work with my school schedule, it pays far too well and playing with the kids is also fun. And, as a bonus, since I’m not paying for any thing in particular, by the end of my trip I’ll have saved quite a bit of money.

This experience working while studying abroad, I thought, was one only few students actually experience. Until I asked around and realized a good amount of students do work while abroad. There are a lot of plus sides to working while abroad too. For instance, more money to fund trips throughout the country, or maybe even a short trip to a country close to the one you’re studying in. Japan is only a two hour to three hour flight to Korea with roundtrip tickets only adding up to $120. I heard from many other students studying in an European country that it’s even cheaper doing quick trips to other European countries.

Another benefit is experience. My title at my job is English teacher and teacher in Japan is used quite differently in the U.S. However, this is still an experience I can use in the future on my resume saying I was an English Instructor while studying abroad in Japan. It shows versatility, a go getter type personality and more. I also think it’s a way of making connections. After my study abroad experience is over, if I decide to go back and work in Japan, I know where to look and how to go about it. You gain a sort of survival type skills.

Now that I mentioned some benefits of working while abroad, there are some negatives. Such as, balancing work, school, friends and not letting your experience be stolen by working. I know at the beginning of deciding to work, I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a job that took over my study abroad experience. So that meant, I still wanted to have dinner with my host family and be able to travel. I also have school for much of the day.

I know some of you may be thinking those factors make it hard to work at all. As I said, I’m really fortunate with the job I have. I work from 3pm to 6:30pm, Monday through Friday. So I get weekends off to travel, it’s only 3 minute walk from my house, right after work I have dinner with my host family and I get paid $15 an hour so I get paid pretty well. Now, not every job will be this way, in fact, I believe God played a heavy part in getting this job. But since you’re a student, even further, a foreign exchange student, most jobs will understand some limitations in your work schedule.

Another thing to note, most likely, the job you’ll be doing will be done in your native tongue. I’m an English Teacher and it can feel a little bit of betrayal speaking English when I came to Japan to learn Japanese. And I don’t have any real advice for that. Create a balance, at work you speak your native language, anywhere else you try to speak whatever language you’re trying to learn. It’s going to be hard. Nothing worth while is ever easy. I believe working while abroad has a lot of benefits that out weigh the bad, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

If you’re thinking about working while studying abroad, I’d say wait until your second semester if you’re a yearlong student. That way you have hopefully traveled to alot of places, know your school load and understand your surroundings. As for semester students, I don’t recommend working at all. Go explore the country, learn the language a little, it’s only a short time before you return home again. I mean, I’ve been in Japan for 7 months, I leave in 4 months, but it feels like I  only arrived last week.

Happy Job Hunting,

Temperance Talley