Tales from Tunisia: working abroad post-graduation

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Photo: Olivia Flynn
Photo: Olivia Flynn
Photo: Olivia Flynn

With such a diverse mix of students, it is no surprise that many St Andreans choose to work abroad after graduation. According to a Careers Centre survey of 1,638 members of the class of 2014, 67.9 per cent of respondents currently work in the U.K., while 13 per cent work in other areas of the European Union and 19.1 per cent work outside of the EU. These alumni hold positions as varied as a whisky ambassador in Dubai, a conservation volunteer with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and a photography editor in Bucharest.

Olivia Flynn ‘15, an international relations graduate who studied at the University through the Joint Degree Programme with the College of William and Mary, is currently working as an English teacher in Tunisia. She shared her experience working abroad and adapting to a new culture and country.

“[I] chose to work overseas to learn a new language and work before I applied to graduate school,” Ms Flynn said. “I felt I needed time off from university to work and explore my career field before applying.”

Many individuals who choose to work abroad following graduation cite similar motivations, including increased employability, the chance to “immerse oneself in a different culture and, potentially, higher pay than one might find in the UK.

Ms Flynn decided to work in Tunisia because she has wanted to live in the Middle East or North African region since the age of 12. Her arrival in Tunisia, however, was still “daunting.”

She said: “I left the safety net of university and jumped into the working world in a country where I do not fluently speak the language. But after a few months, I have settled in and now I love working here.”

As Ms Flynn points out, one of the most difficult aspects of working abroad is adjusting to a new culture, and challenges don’t end with language barriers and unfamiliar social norms. Work culture varies by country, too. “There are many similarities in the work ethic and expectations, [but] at the same time, you have to adapt to different timing and holidays,” Ms Flynn said. “For example, I work in a country that celebrates Ramadan, so there is very little work in the summer, unlike in America where you keep working but you do take a holiday. Here, you work for three hours a day for over a month.”

During her job search, Ms Flynn did not rely on University resources such as the Careers Centre. One of her managers, however, is a St Andrews alumni, and she thinks this connection helped her secure the position.

For those students considering working abroad, Ms Flynn’s advice is simple: “Do it. There are many different ways to work abroad, whether it’s working, interning or volunteering.”

One tool Ms Flynn suggests for navigating the job search and ar- ranging a move abroad is Facebook, which is used in Tunisia by businesses recruiting new employees and expatriates searching for apartments.

Anadditional resource is the Careers Centre website, which includes a database of job listings world-wide and links to informational guides on the job markets in countries such as Japan, Latvia, the United States and Pakistan.

When researching job opportunities, be sure to consider the numerous factors that accompany a move overseas. Target Jobs, a careers advice website, touches on aspects of the job search like visa requirements and preferred formats for applications and CVs. It also describes the reality of living in a different culture, including day-to-day concerns such as healthcare, finances and accommodation. Despite the challenges associated with working abroad, the benefits are numerous.

Her job in Tunisia has allowed Ms Flynn to meet “many different people and explore other career fields, since I work with businesses here.” Additional perks of living and working overseas include honing language skills if one works in a non-English speaking country, creating a wider network of professional contacts, and learning how to adapt to, and embrace, diversity.

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