What’s so great about being an expat? Plenty! You keep your American citizenship while immersing yourself in another culture. It can be exciting, rewarding, and one of the most challenging things that you ever do.
Expat (short for expatriate) work isn’t for everyone. But if travel is in your blood and you long for far-off destinations and you want to contribute your skills abroad, here are some important points about working, living, and maybe even staying outside the U.S. long term.
Expat Life Offers Major Experience
Naturally, day-to-day life as an expat depends on where you live and work. Your experience as an engineer in Luxembourg would bear little resemblance to living and working in Equador. The culture, food, economy and housing all factor into the overall experience. But experience, you’ll get.
Some people long for the chance to help build a country that needs it. And then some want to learn from the inside out what more luxurious locations might be like. Wherever you go, one thing is certain. No city in the world is exactly like your hometown.
But it Can Also be Tough
With all of the interesting things that you’ll do and see, there’s also a downside to being an expat. The biggest is loneliness, at least for some people. The New York Times says that for people who leave the U.S. long term, “home” can take on a fuzzy definition.
When you’re newly abroad, it’s a novelty. But the longer you stay, the less you have in common with the place of your birth. That gives some expats the sensation not of having a wide expanse of roots, but of being essentially rootless.
Expat Job Boards are Your Friend
Finding work outside the U.S. isn’t all that difficult. While this part of the world still relies heavily on Monster, prospective expats use international job boards for engineers. These resources work like any other job board. Type in your search term, get your results, and apply for a job through the platform.
Some job boards require membership and some don’t. You can search some of them without an account, but you’ll need to sign up if you want to do more than browse. Searching is a great way to get an idea of what’s available in different parts of the world long before you’re ready to commit.
Focus on the Right Job Boards
After you’ve searched for a while, you’ll get a feel for which job board has what you’re looking for. Some have a more generalist approach, and others hone in on a certain niche. Don’t forget about LinkedIn, as well searching independent expat engineer job boards.
Engineering.com lists these searchable sites and explains how they differ:
- Devex: Devex caters to people interested in global development. You can find positions in the public and private sector.
- USAJobs: This site helps connect engineers to U.S. federal government and government agency jobs abroad.
- North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): Nato’s career portal shows engineering job vacancies in the NATO organization. This includes potential work in Brussels, The Hague, and all other NATO locations.
- United Nations: The UN lists engineering work that could place you in Bangladesh, Haiti, or other parts of the world where humanitarian and disaster relief is critical.
Living abroad brings an enormous opportunity for personal and career growth. And as long as the world is still developing and improving, engineers remain a vital part of it.
It’s not easy to hop on a plane and settle in another country, especially if you’re not sure when or if you’ll return. It’s not for everyone. But if that sounds like an ideal situation, opportunity waits, and it’s just a few clicks away.
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