Just about two weeks ago, a former coworker of mine from The University of Iowa Foundation and current student at The University of Iowa emailed me requesting my thoughts on traveling abroad post-graduation. She was putting together an article for a Features writing class she is currently enrolled in. Kathleen Olp’s finished article is brilliant, and I wanted to share it with you all. Enjoy.
With graduation looming, Cat Gaa felt the grasp of anxiety slowly shake the cushy confines of her college life. She feared the day she would be savagely cast into the hostile job market, expected to fend for herself. So she did what many of her peers were doing across the country; she left.
Gaa moved to Andalucía, Spain in 2007, about 10 miles west of Seville to teach English; a microcosm of a larger phenomenon spreading across the US, in which college graduates are increasingly participating in international service or more generally simply “going abroad”.
“I got confirmation from the Spanish Ministry of Education about a week or so before graduation, screamed my lungs out and got really worked up about teaching,” she said. “Twelve hours a week, $1000 a month and the chance to get the hell out of Chicago.”
According to the Open Doors survey report, published annually by the Institute of International Education with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US students going abroad increased by 8.5% to a total of 223,534 in 2007.
Sara Burden, the Associate Director and Coordinator of Career Education at the Pomerantz Career Center said she sees the increased interest in students wanting to go abroad after graduation.
“There are lots of questions about opportunities abroad, especially in the age of globalization,” she said. “Many companies create international relationships and students want to be a part of that.”
She said while the career center doesn’t place students in jobs abroad, they do assist with international internships and offer resources to give students the credentials to get abroad.
After graduation, Gaa had a job offer from Shadow Broadcasting, where she had spent a summer interning, but she obstinately refused, unwilling to desert her global aspirations.
“I knew I wanted to go abroad after graduation,” she said. “It was really nice to not stress out about getting a job while everyone else was because I knew that lifestyle wasn’t for me.”
Gaa kicked her latent dreams into gear fall of her senior year, making frequent trips to the study abroad office, toying with numerous ways to get abroad, such as working in the UK on a permit from BUNAC, which offers visas to Americans to work oversees.
She decided on teaching English, working 12 hours a week in a public Spanish high school, in which she is an auxiliary norteamericano de conversacion. She works with bilingual students and teachers.
When she’s not teaching, she spends her free time traveling and taking French lessons.
“I thought I wanted to move to the UK and get a real job, but I realized my dream was just to get out of the country for a year or two and live on the cheap,” she said. “I was willing to do anything.”
Matthew Kyhnn, a UI 2007 graduate, also wasn’t prepared to face the drab of the working world. He utilized the BUNAC program and initially went to Ireland.
He’s currently traveling mainland Europe with a Euro Rail pass which is valid for one month and good in over 30 countries on the continent. He’s traveled to Amsterdam, Paris, Munich, Salzburg, and is currently in Budapest, with plans to go to Venice next. The he heads south to Rome and Sicily before catching a ferry to Greece. From Greece, he said he will go to Turkey and hopefully find work.
“I’ve fallen in love with traveling, meeting new people, and living outside of my comfort zone – the thought of settling down is, to be quite honest, scary,” Kyhnn said.
Even the threats of deportation haven’t curbed his precarious lifestyle, as he is out of work visas.
“I don’t have a clue where I’ll be in the next month – without a job, my funds will quickly run out,” he said. “It’s scary, as you can imagine – but also exciting in its own, unique way.”
Kyhnn managed to talk a friend into traveling with him, UI 2007 graduate Brian Wolken, who also received a visa from BUNAC, valid in Ireland for four months and the UK for six months.
He’s held various jobs ranging from working on a salmon farm in Ireland to bar tending in Scotland, resembling a modern day Jack Kerouac; the acclaimed author who is known for pioneering the “beat generation” of the 1950s, writing of his wanderings across the west. Wolken is currently inter railing around Europe.
“As I sit here in Budapest. It is one of the most amazing places I have been in my life. And I never knew anything about it before,” he said. “Tomorrow I’ll be in Venice.”
Wolken is slowly facing the confines of his current situation, unable to find a work visa in other EU countries.
He doesn’t foresee kicking his habit anytime soon though, as he will travel to Turkey, where he hopes to secure work.
“I’m in love with traveling, I’ll never quit.”