• Steps to Adapting to Working and Living Abroad – Part 1

    By Jill Arcaro Gordon

    When I worked in the registrar’s office of Boston University during my studies there and I cried every day. I did not know my professional or personal goals at the time and if I had I would not have known how to achieve them. I just knew I felt stifled, bored and on a dead-end road. Today I have come to realize that I was actually in the right industry (education) but in the wrong job because the learning was minimal and the work repetitive, when I needed to expand and use my creativity. Not until I decided to study Art History in Florence for an academic year abroad did I begin to piece together, through trial and error, my professional and personal path.

    Living Abroad

    “A successful life is one that is lived through understanding and pursuing one’s own path, not chasing after the dreams of others” (Chin-Ning Chu)


    Working and Living Abroad

    This article is written in the hope that it might afford you some guidance and help you from having to use the knee jerk method I used, to manifest your live and work abroad goals.

    According to Gallup poles only 15 to 20 percent of the work force in the US feels engaged with their professions. Then, unfortunately there are another 15 to 20 percent that despise their work, while the vast majority of workers are just treading water, as I say, or punching the clock.

    The primary goal of Best Programs’ intern abroad participants is to improve their foreign language abilities in a professional atmosphere. Most of them find us through the popular search terms “live and work abroad”. I find it interesting that in spite of running an internship placement service abroad, what the majority of people have in mind is not so much tied with any advantage in the work market as it is a drive for self-improvement or learning, within the non-academic atmosphere of the work place.

    Step One

    Given the three aforementioned sources (personal experience, Gallup Pole and Best Programs’ participant feedback), the number one step to achieving your professional and personal goals while living and working abroad is to make sure you expect, appreciate and take advantage of the lessons in the experience which will direct you towards your deeper purpose and life plan.

    Tips on Livieng abroad

    Step Two

    Step number two is to take into consideration that, because of our hard-wiring, starting something new makes us feel optimistic. An open positive, can-do attitude is essential especially at the commencement of any venture, or adventure.

    Living abroadGoing abroad, whether to intern, study, volunteer, work or just to live, entails excitement and high expectations. Biologically, there is a primitive physical response in which our brains release the hormone dopamine that makes us feel good when faced with new challenges. This is programmed into our DNA to prepare us for activities like fleeing prey, but you can get the same feeling from many different activities now-a-days like having a massage, doing exercise, eating chocolate, breast feeding or having sex! (Wow, this is getting good!).

    Step Three

    However, short-term is just one end of a continuum and not necessarily always a good cause. If you are unfocused and inconsistent you might not find yourself in the physical danger of being attacked by a wild beast, but your goals will probably be jeopardized. So, if step two is to be aware and open to new situations, step three is to be able to focus and stick to our plan to be successful.

    To make a long story short, all of us have probably had experiences where a clear, passionate desire, motored by necessity has made us commit to and align in our hearts and our minds with a medium or long-term goal and succeed in them. Any and all steps taken in the direction towards discovering one’s deeper purpose and life plan should finally assure goal’s achievement. In my next posting, I follow this up with two other tips to facilitate the experience of learning and growing in an international atmosphere. (See here the second part of this article)

    © BEST Programs, 2013 (2nd edition, 2016)


    Jill Arcaro is a journalist and founder of BEST Programs which has have been lessening the initial shock of living, studying and working in Spain since 1990. Her main interests are non-academically focused education along with culture and well-being. As an American living abroad she knows what it is to live a life true to yourself and not what others necessarily expect of you. You can have a “homebase” situation right when you arrive in your destination country, and do it economically through BEST’s programs. Whatever you would like to do in Spain, Russia, Belgium, Thailand, Cuba, Italy, Colombia or the USA, whether it be interning, working, studying or simply living, BEST can help you or knows who can. Jill is currently in South-East Asia working on a program to enhance the physical and emotional lives of hill tribes, orphans, disabled and elderly people.



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