Based out of beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia and Rouen, France, Jeanette Kramer is a study & work abroad professional, entrepreneur, photographer, traveler & lover of social media. She started her travels 15-odd years ago as an international student & au pair; first in France and then in the Netherlands. Her own study & work abroad experiences were so wonderful and so profound that she has been working in the study & work abroad industry ever since.
Jeanette blogs and shares her photography over at Love & Passport. She is the owner & operator of Latitude International Education Consulting which provides youth travel programs including professional internships in Canada for international students and au pair in Europe. You can follow her on Twitter: @jeanettekramer.
I spent 2 years studying & working abroad as an pair after finishing college. When I returned to Canada from Europe in 1999, I started working in the study & work abroad industry which took me around the world promoting these programs for public and private schools in Canada. Since then, I’ve had another 2 years working for myself abroad while on Working Holiday visas and am right now waiting for a new visa for France. I own my own business working with both young Europeans & Canadians who want to study & work abroad so it’s easy for me to go back and forth between Canada & Europe. Basically, I have first-hand as well as behind-the-scenes business experience in this sector.
–There are loads of people who just wish to pack up their belongings and to hop on a plane, but most feel stuck because of money, but working abroad is a great way to travel AND to handle the money situation… What tips can you offer wannabe travelers who can identify to this exact problem?
I would say plan ahead. Be well prepared, save some money in advance and know the working terms & conditions of your visa(s). There are a lot of programs that offer work in exchange for accommodation and / or “pocketmoney”: au pair programs, farm or hostel work, internships or live-in tutoring but the visa rules may all be different so be aware. With the right program and careful planning a person can have quite an affordable experience abroad.
–What are the things that these people should know and think about ahead of time, before making a big transition like this… What are the difficulties of working abroad? What about typical unforeseen issues?
Think about taking a language course immediately upon arrival. Even just 2 – 4 weeks. This will help immensely with the transition and with meeting new people. I also suggest making a list of must-do things in the first week or so such as: totally tackle transportation and know how to get around, find your nearest grocery or convenience store, get a local sim card and find a great place to relax and take a coffee.
Depending on where you’re going or coming from, culture shock can be an issue and reverse culture shock can be an issue too. Google how to deal with that and you should find something helpful like “accept you’ve changed”. Lol. Reverse culture shock can be more difficult than culture shock.
Regarding unforeseen circumstances, the #1 piece of advice I can give is have medical insurance!
–There are so many different ways someone can ‘work abroad’ now-a-days… You can backpack around and work at a hostel or on an organic farm. If the company you work for is based internationally, perhaps they may send you abroad. You can flit from place to place, holding a real job for sometime before moving on again. Or you can own an online business and/or freelance (like I do), working simply on a laptop, where your location doesn’t matter. Could you offer up a sentence or two for each route highlighting how an individual who’s interested in these types of working lifestyles, may get started?
I’m a stickler for visas therefore, I think it’s really important to be sure you know what visa you may need and what it allows you to do in that country.
Backpacking combined with service industry or labour work may be the easiest to pick-up after arrival if you check at your hostel and also with other travelers. Just be sure to have a working holiday visa before you go, if possible; it will make things easier and likely let you stay longer than showing up as a tourist.
For internship & volunteer programs, I highly recommend researching, finding and applying for a program before departure. You should do this at least 3 months before departure and the company you use should help you a lot!
I traveled on company time & money for quite a few years, again visa rules came into play even with short trips China, Brazil and Turkey so don’t embarrass yourself or your company and know before you go. Regarding company transfers, I don’t have enough experience to comment on that other than imagining that it may all be easier if the Human Resource department takes care of it.
As an independent professional, photographer and freelancer of sorts, I lived abroad for a year and a half without ever being employed by anyone in Italy or France. Now I’m moving on with a 3-year competencies & talents card for France. Many European countries have an independent professional / freelance visa available if you can just get through all the hoops and prove you’re worth it.
–Would you please tell us about your own travels? Favorite places? Least favorite destinations? Most interesting thing you’ve done? What’s the best and worst situation you’ve been through, and what did it teach you?
The vast majority of my travels have been business travels, with a few stints of living abroad. My business travels took me to over 20 countries, some of them more than 20 times. But being business travel, it hasn’t been terribly adventurous but I’ve had very many fantastic meals with colleagues all over the place from eating on the street to catered meals at embassies, it’s always been delicious and interesting. Tokyo is absolutely fascinating and I love taking pictures there, some of my favourite shots have come from Tokyo. While I’ve loved all the countries I’ve been to but Mexico is low on the list. I don’t think I’ve explored the right places to really like it.
I suppose the worst situation for me was being robbed at knife-point in Rio de Janeiro. I actually peed my pants, a pretty sincere reaction to how afraid I was! I didn’t learn too much from that situation but it reaffirmed what I already knew: don’t carry your passport and credit cards on you. I lost very little in that scenario.
–Now, for a simple worded, yet intriguing question: What does travel mean to you?
–Last but not least, Jeanette… I write often about focusing on the quality of life, and remaining inspired in life, through all trials, tribulations and boredoms… Would you mind leaving us with some words of wisdom?
I can share a quote from Anais Nin which has inspired me to keep motivated whether it’s with work or travel.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.” –Anais Nin.