Looking to get away for longer than just a couple of weeks? There are a variety of ways to explore another country with greater depth than a brief vacation, but without the commitment of completely moving to another country. Whether you’re just testing the waters for a permanent move, or just curious to learn more about a country beyond the usual tourist routes, these extended stays are a few ways to “try out” a country for a few months to a year.
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A popular and easy way to explore another country for an extended period of time is to study abroad. Studying abroad is a great opportunity for students to go for a semester or full year, to explore other cultures and earn academic credit at the same time. Many colleges have study abroad programs for a variety of majors; and going to another country for a few months while at school is much easier to do than when you have things like rent, a job, a family, or other responsibilities.
Studying abroad is not only for those in college, however; many continuing education programs also offer programs that allow participants to travel for a semester or more to explore another culture.
The key to a successful trip abroad (study programs or otherwise) is detailed planning. While many programs provide the basics like housing, major transportation, job/study program, etc., it is up to you to figure out other living incidentals like food, day-to-day transportation, job (if not provided), weather, cultural norms and language.
Ideally, you should educate yourself on some basic and important phrases of the country’s language and know how not to insult your prospective host(s). Be sure to confirm your flight and travel details, even if the school is making the arrangements for you.
Additionally, you will need to make sure you have the correct visa to study abroad. Student visas allow you to stay in a country for an extended period of time, though you will have to demonstrate that you are enrolled in an accredited academic or university program.
Some countries, such as the UK, don’t require a visa if you’re staying for a semester less than six months, while others require a visa no matter how long your stay will last, in which case a two to three month travel visa would be more appropriate.
For those who have graduated, or would rather travel outside of an education program, volunteering is another excellent way to explore a culture while contributing to their community. Volunteering abroad is a good choice for those who wish to make a difference in people’s lives, or to explore what it is like to live fully immersed in the culture, or to gain new skills.
Some volunteer programs do provide a small stipend (like the Peace Corps), but some other volunteer opportunities will require you to pay for the experience. That cost usually includes housing, food, major transportation, and also a donation as part of the volunteer opportunity.
Most volunteer programs involve teaching, construction, agricultural expansion and development, engineering, or animal welfare. If you are interested or have a background in these subjects, volunteering abroad may be a good way for you to explore or expand your talents while learning about another culture firsthand.
As with students, be sure to review the visa situation in your country of choice; while many allow for travel up to two or three months, review options for extension before committing to a program that requires a stay beyond the standard visa.
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For those who either need or want to get paid while exploring another country, working abroad is a possible option. The benefits of working abroad, other than the income, is that it also allows you to discover the country on your own terms. You will have less of a set schedule or group of people, as is often less of a program. You will, however, also be much more responsible for all the details of your stay—from housing and transportation, to food and the employment itself.
Those best suited for work abroad programs are those looking for an experience for a year or less and would be comfortable in a service or labor-oriented job. As saving money can be difficult, depending on the position and the cost of living, those who seek to work abroad should have an amount of “cushion” saved prior to embarking on the journey.
The easiest types of jobs to secure, if you travel to an English-speaking country, are service positions. Teaching jobs are often in demand as many other countries have English language classes, and you can be qualified even without teaching experience as long as you obtain your TEFL Certification. As for working outside of education, if you are fluent in the language of the country you are visiting, you might be able to secure an office job, depending on the economic climate of the country.
In many countries you can get a work holiday visa, which allows you to work any job you can get, in any village, town, or city of your choice. Please note that working visas often have age limits. For US citizens, working visas are limited to Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, as the U.S. government does not offer working holiday exchange programs with any other country.
Regardless of the type of program, if you are interested in extended travel, you should make sure you have your documentation prepared and valid for at least six months beyond your stay. Additionally, you should get a check-up and immunization for the country of choice prior to leaving—some immunizations require several visits over a period of months, so be sure to start that well in advance.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. Her writing has covered everything from health & wellness, tech and marketing. She’s had the opportunity to go abroad several times, loved each experience, and recommends traveling to anyone she can!