Leveraging Study Abroad in Your Job Search


Living & Working Abroad After Graduation

Dear graduating seniors,

Are you tired of everyone asking you about your new career? Wish you could study abroad again?

It seems graduating from high school meant you no longer have to raise your hand for permission to go to the bathroom. Graduating from college evidently means aunts, uncles, and family friends can ask you what you want to do with the rest of your life?


Instead of trying to define a career in one job or explaining lots of lofty life goals, I focus on just the next step. I am working on my capstone thesis proposal and looking for an internship. These projects will come and go in 2019.  Remembering many college seniors are in their early 20’s lessens the pressure.  We have time on our side. We have several years to explore and try new things.


If my blog readers have no idea what they want to do and hanker for time to figure things out, then check these international opportunities out!  {Kudos to our GEF team for the links.}


TAPIF – Teaching Assistant Program in France http://highereducation.frenchculture.org/teach-in-france This program funds people to spend 7 months in France (including opportunities in the French Caribbean), teaching English. You get paid a basic living stipend, only have to teach 12 hours/week, and just need basic proficiency in French (the equivalent of at least 3 semesters of college French.) You don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree for this one: you just need to have completed at least 3 years of college before the program start date and be between 20 and 35 years old. About 60% of applicants are accepted.

Are you ready to expand your horizons and share your language and culture with French students? Applications are now closed for the 2019-2020 school year.  Applications will open again in October 2019 for the 2020-2021 school year at tapif.org, the deadline for 2020-2021 applications will be January 15, 2020.



Spain Auxiliar Program http://www.mecd.gob.es/eeuu/convocatorias-programas/convocatorias-eeuu/auxiliares-conversacion-eeuu.html Very similar to TAPIF, but for Spain rather than France. Again, you’re working about 12 hours/week teaching English in exchange for a basic living stipend and the chance to reside in their country for a year. You need basic Spanish, but as long as you manage to navigate the (Spanish) application website, there’s no additional test. The application operates primarily on a first-come, first-served basis as long as you’re minimally qualified.

Información sobre el programa de Auxiliares de Conversación norteamericanos en España.



JET Program – Japanese Exchange and Teaching https://jetprogramusa.org/ This program funds Americans to “work and to represent the United States as cultural ambassadors to Japan” – usually as assistant language teachers, although there are some other opportunities, as well. Although they want you to be interested in Japan and make an effort to studying the language before and during your time there, they don’t have minimum Japanese proficiency requirements. This is closer to full-time hours (about 35 hours/week), but the pay is better and there’s the possibility of extending your experience for up to several years. Roughly 25% of applicants are accepted.

Welcome to the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. Founded in 1987, JET has sent more than 66,000 global participants (including nearly 34,000 Americans) to work in schools, boards of education, and government offices throughout Japan.



EPIK – English Program in Korea https://www.epik.go.kr:8080/index.do Another English teaching program, which requires a bachelor’s degree but not much else. You don’t need to know Korean, the pay is solid, and there’s the opportunity to potentially extend for an additional year.


Consular Fellows https://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/consular-fellows/  The U.S. State Department is actively recruiting speakers of Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic (any dialect), or Russian to work as visa adjudicators in relevant countries. Although there are no guarantees of being able to move from this position into working as a Foreign Service Officer or elsewhere in the state department, it offers a real foot in the door to those other career opportunities (which are almost impossible to get into straight out of college.)


What $5.7 Billion Could Buy

One of the low points of this year has been the ongoing conflict over the Mexican border wall and immigration policy. This has lead to even more violence, tragedy, and tension to a political climate already in turmoil. We’re currently under a government shutdown over Trump’s “plan” for a border wall/fence. So what could the estimated $5.7 billion dollars that is being asked for this project be directed to that could actually make something positive?

  • Fix Flint Michigan’s water pipes 103 times over
  • Cover the dental insurance of 15 million Americans for a year
  • Install solar panels on 200,000 homes (which last for 20 years)
  • Keep Wikipedia running for 228 years

And many economists estimate that the wall would cost much more than 5.7 billion.

GEF Panel

This semester I had the opportunity to join a panel of other fellows as guest speakers for Bushra Asif’s global engagement class. I’m very grateful for this organization and eager to share my experiences from my two trips abroad, so I was glad to join the discussion.

Studying abroad in general can be a somewhat stressful experience, but it can open your eyes and broaden your horizons in so many ways. My study abroad trip in South Korea was a whirlwind of new experiences and new friends to share them with. For many of these students it may be there first time leaving the country or just being away from home in their life. It was a heartening experience to answer their questions and assuage some of their worries.

I also found the other panelists remarks to very insightful and interesting. The differences in some of our experiences were evident, but there were some surprising and sometimes humorous through-lines that we found during the discussion.

CEA Panels

This semester I attended two events hosted by CEA to help inform students about their programs and resources prior to their trips. Having just traveled with them for my month long summer trip to Costa Rica, I was able to offer up some first hand experience.

The first was more casual and took place in the Bird’s Nest at Blackbird restaurant. Several students came with questions for the CEA representatives and the post-trip students present. It was wonderful to answer peoples questions and share some of my experiences abroad to help prepare others for their own journeys.

The second event was held in Price Hall as a larger lunch QandA that was more focused on gaining and maintaining internships while abroad, which I did during my semester in Korea at KNU. This featured a panel of students being lead by a CEA moderator.

Presidential International Travel Fellowship

I’ve heard about OU’s various study abroad opportunists and the various scholarships, including President David L. Boren’s ‘airline ticket’ scholarship, for many years. This is because I’m lucky enough that my Mom has worked at OU since I was about four years old. In fall of my senior year of high school as I completed the OU common app and my first FAFSA, we found out that I was eligible for Pell Grant. This award meant I’d more than likely receive the “Presidential International Travel Fellowship” [PITF]. It was a comforting realization to know the President of my university promised to help me live in a foreign country, if I was brave enough to do it. More so for the fact that without my myriad of scholarships I wouldn’t have been able to even if I wanted.

But then my positive opinion of OU was challenged. The spring I graduated from high school, OU students were recorded singing an awful racist song about hanging people from trees; the video went viral on social media. Very soon after this happened I received a special letter from President David L. Boren asking me to understand this was not what OU stood for and that the OU family was founded on diversity and inclusion. I kept this letter with my acceptance packet because although it could not erase what happened, it did convince me President Boren was dedicated to students of all nations, religions, races, and orientations.

In fall of my sophomore year I applied for and received the PITF to go to South Korea for the next semester. Once the decision was made, it only took a few weeks to get the scholarship check. I used the money to buy my airline ticket, just as we’d planned so long ago. My semester in South Korea was amazing. I learned a little Korean language, Korean history and culture, but I also experienced being a racial minority for the first time along with several other cultural challenges. After studying abroad, I have friends who study at universities all over the U.S. and the world.

It’s my senior year at OU now. Looking back my semester in South Korea is definitely a high point, but I also reflect very fondly on President David L. Boren’s impact on my academic life. He valued students and protected their diversity as much as he could. He also helped make it possible for me to live abroad in a country very different than my own. The PITF made studying abroad almost a requirement in my Mom’s eyes. It was my ticket to a new place and the opportunity to grow.

Costa Rica Weekend Trips

1st weekend

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My first weekend in Costa Rica we got to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We went on a night hike and saw vipers, sloths, and some other indigenous wildlife including stickbugs and a tarantula. The park has a complex ecosystem which is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds, insects, and plants, including many endangered species. In the morning we trekked up to the hanging bridges, which were absolutely breath taking. But the most impressive creatures were the Howler monkeys. Being able to see them up close was amazing. They were also incredibly loud and their bellowing seemed to carry for miles. Afterwards, we explored the Biological Reserve and went on a chocolate and coffee tour. Our group got to make chocolate from the raw materials and see how the entire process worked. It was probably the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The hotel was very nice, along with our other accommodations. It was fantastic way to spend the weekend in mid-July.

2nd weekend

Tamarindo beach weekend! Although there are surfers, sport fishermen, and divers, Tamarindo has a small town vibe. I was very excited to tour the Guanacaste beaches, which are nesting grounds for leatherback turtles and other species. However, strep throat, fever, and pain interfered on the first day. Our team leader found a doctor to come to the hotel for me. Very quickly I had a diagnosis and prescription. After a full day of sleep and medicaation, I was able to venture out to the turtle habitats and get some sun sitting on the shoreline. The sand comes in so many colors there: white, gold, gray, black and even pink.

3rd weekend

I studied Sustainable Development and Environmental Awareness at Veritas University. This private college very small, only about 2,000 students, and approximately 500 of them are international. Veritas offers a range of courses in fields like architecture, business, cultural studies, environmental science, health sciences, and zoology, and it’s located in the Zapote District of San José. My class took a field trip to an organic farm called El Tablazo Finca Agroecologica. We got to make lunch with fresh produce. The chief goals of El Tablazo are the conservation and protection of natural resources, the practical application of sustainable agriculture, and the implementation of integrated ecological and organic farm processes. They have a database of customers managed via whatsapp for weekly delivery of vegetables. https://www.facebook.com/fincaeltablazo/ The professor also organized a weekend trip to Cirenas [Center for Investigation of Social and Natural Resources] nature refuge very near the coast which was absolutely gorgeous and included a beach clean up event and night patrols along the beaches to collect and care for the incoming nesting turtles and taking their eggs to a nursery where they would be safe from poachers, which are currently a big issue in the area. http://cirenas.org/

Costa Rica and Being Adaptable

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Having spent a full semester abroad in South Korea and having studied Spanish for many years I felt very well prepared for my five week stay in Costa Rica this summer. However, there were several differences that became very apparent about two weeks into the trip. Although I’ve lived in dorms before, I’ve been living alone for over a year now, and the adjustment back to the cramped but cozy home-stay with eight other college girls from all over the country definitely took some getting used to. I found it difficult to bond with people that I knew I’d only be around for a month, which was starkly different to some of the friendships I forged during my semester trip. However, I adapted and tried to spend this trip in the moment, leaving behind some of my regular anxieties and habits.

Aside from adapting to my new living situation, I had to adapt to a change in plans for my trip in general. There was an unfortunate mix-up with my plane tickets to San Jose, which resulted in a much tighter budget than I was initially planning for. I was still able to go on all the excursions provided by the program and my Environmental Sustainability class, but it did mean I had to limit my travel and spending as much as possible. I found the cheapest places to have lunch around campus (which wasn’t difficult, nor was the quality wanting) and I opted out of several weekend trips that would have been hundreds of dollars more. However, I found many affordable alternatives. I got to explore downtown San Jose and all of the bustling museums, markets, and restaurants. One of my favorite days of my trip was spent simply challenging myself to find as many new things as I (safely) could.

Luckily, the Pura Vida lifestyle along with the wonderful accommodations and home-stay mom, these adjustments were made much easier. I had such a memorable and positive experience, and forcing myself out of my comfort zone was a major factor in that experience.

LGBTQ+ Abroad

It can be both inspiring and heartbreaking to read about LGBTQ+ issues around the world, especially in our current global climate. News stories jump between the legalization of gay marriage in Australia and the almost doubling of LGBTQ homicides in the U.S.  I’ve been reading reports from Amnesty International and the [U.S.] National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.  Digesting the data is difficult due to fear and associated violence.

“The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today [February 22, 2018] as it launched its annual global assessment of human rights.” Amnesty International

Over 50 LGBTQ individuals were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in 2017, a rise of about 86% from 2016, according to a new report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. https://avp.org/ncavp/

I’ve marched in the OKC Pride Parade for years and can share the event is usually a glittery weekend of peaceful demonstrations. Oklahomans who are LGBTQ+ or allies and supporters might want to attend the OKC Pride Parade in late June.  https://okcpride.org/index.html#home

If readers are of Jewish decent and want to travel to experience a Pride parade, the LGBTQ Tel Aviv Pride events are also in June each year and are very affordable, nearly free, due to donations and sponsors.  Although many countries in the Middle East have long standing anti-gay laws and customs, Israel is the most advanced country in the region in terms of LGBTQ rights & community activism. They visit Masada, the Dead Sea & the Western Wall.  https://www.birthrightisrael.com/


 Although in the U.S. LGBTQ+ is commonly used, in the Amnesty International uses LGBTI+.

Amnesty International’s annual report:


Australia legalized gay marriage in December 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/world/australia/gay-marriage-same-sex.html

Anti-LGBTQ homicides almost doubled in 2017.  https://avp.org/ncavp/

Cultural Adaptation and Post Study-Abroad Depression

3820145201700031k_FloatingWishes-1A few weeks ago was the Dalgubul Lantern Festival hosted by the Daegu Buddhism Association and Colorful Dalgubul Lantern Festival Committee. The night sky is filled with golden lanterns. Families and friends celebrate the Buddha’s birthday in a peaceful and lovely tradition. I miss many things about South Korea, the friends I made while studying there, and my freedom to explore and travel. There are many articles about cultural adaption and post-study abroad depression. Education Abroad offers an event in the fall semester called “You’re Oklahome” and helps students with the transition back to Norman. The fall semester was okay, but the winter was bit rougher.

Upon return to the U.S. I once again could read the headlines of political scandal and strife, university classes began again, and I rejoined many campus clubs. I’ve experienced many highs and lows of cultural transition and adaptation. It was great to be home again. I’d missed my parents, brother, and grandparents very much. After a great semester of being back, things lost that luster of newness again. I lost a lot of sleep this semester and had very poor mental health in general. Below are some great tips from an article written by Alisa Tank in January 2018 for GoAbroad.com.

“10 Tips for When You’re Feeling Depressed After Studying Abroad” are:

  1. Go for a walk. [While abroad we walked a lot, exploring and experiencing new things. Walking around Norman Art Walk/2nd Fridays and other similar events can help capture the same spirit.]
  2. Go out with friends. [This has been a major one for me personally.]
  3. Read the news. [I can argue against this, since the news can be so depressing.]
  4. Look for support. [Goddard offers counseling for students at affordable rates if needed. 325-4441]
  5. Find a new hobby.  [Having activities outside of classes is really important for me to relax and stay positive.]
  6. Keep your skills up. [I’ve continued to sing with the Crimson Chords a capella group as well as write and draw.]
  7. Take up a cause. [I joined an environmental group.]
  8. Reflect on what you’ve learned. [GEF blogs are great for this.]
  9. Plan your next trip. [I’m heading to Costa Rica in July!]
  10. When all else fails – watch cute animal videos.  [The little things can really help.]


Most adorable kittens ever!