Why you should work abroad through AIESEC

Packing up your bags and going home after graduating school is one thing. Packing up your bags and going to another country is another. Packing up your bags and going to another country to work for a year is a completely different beast.

However, that could also be one of your best experiences in life.

It can also be the catalyst for many other great moments down the road.

Plus, it’s something the Canadian government promotes (well they don’t promote it out loud, but they do have programs to help make it possible!). We’ll get to that later.

First, let’s explore the reasons why you should work abroad after graduation.

Why you should work abroad after graduation

There are many reasons why one would want to do something like this, but I think there are two big reasons why you should do it right after they graduate.

Expand your life stories

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream Discover.
Mark Twain

We all want to look back on our lives sometime in the future and not have any regrets. But as Mark summarised so well, we will regret the things we didn’t do much more than the things we did. Living in another part of the world will be so much more difficult once you have dozens of real commitments.

Whereas right now, your biggest commitment is probably your student loans, and even that isn’t really a commitment (we’ll talk about why down below).

Plus, who wouldn’t want a life story where a chapter is in another part of the country, meeting new people and discovering just how vast a world we live in?

Stick out for your future employers

Let’s be real. If you just graduated, your resume will look similar to the hundred of thousands of others who also just graduated. Putting your resume into that pile will get glossed over. If you’re lucky.

There are a few ways you could try to differentiate yourself.

You could volunteer at different organisations (though those are also highly competitive).

You could do a graduate program (which is a very expensive way to try to get an entry level position).

Or you could have your resume start off with having previous work experience. Better yet, previous work experience in another country.

Not only does that instantly put you in the top 5% of interesting resumes, but throughout the interview process, you will realise just how much of your conversation will be centred around the time abroad.

Sure, the actual tasks you were responsible for might not be aligned to what you will be doing at the job you’re interviewing for – you won’t stand out from another graduate from that perspective.

However, conversations about problem solving, teamwork, communication, will have such a colourful story behind it.

Plus, what team wouldn’t want someone fascinating on their team?

What about my student loans

Hopefully by now, you’re willing to entertain the idea. The list of benefits is quite compelling, but the list of cons has one big phrase: student loans.

I’m not gonna lie. Student loans were the big reason why I didn’t go abroad right after graduation. The other reason was I was in a relationship.

I can’t help you with the relationship problem (though how cool would it be if the two of you were in another country together for a year?), but let’s talk about the student loan problem and the solution I wish I knew of back then.

As I briefly mentioned in the ultimate guide to student loans, the government of Canada actually has a program that will pay the interest on your loan, so long as you continue to pay the principal. The program is called the Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP).

The RAP states that there are three criteria for qualification:

  1. You reside in Canada (or are on an international internship or are a reservist deployed abroad);
  2. At least 6 months have passed since you graduated school; and
  3. Your loans are up to date

The one we’re most interested about is the international internship status.

I called in to see if I could get a bit more information on what qualifies as an international internship status.

They didn’t have a list of things that would qualify. However, they did have a list of things that wouldn’t qualify:

  • Missionary / volunteer work
  • Any work that does not make income
  • If leave Canada for over one year
  • If you’re waiting for a work visa

Which probably works for you. As much fun as it would be doing volunteer work for a year, you’d probably still want to be able to make ends meet.

How to find an international internship

Now that we know that a paid international internship that lasts for a year should qualify (when I called, they told me that I would need to submit the RAP application before they can answer), how do you go about finding this internship?

I’m sure there are many programs out there, but the one I recommend is AIESEC (disclaimer: I was part of the organisation back in university). AIESEC’s main purpose is to create international work and volunteer opportunities for people under the age of 30.

The best thing about AIESEC (and I don’t know anyone that has been able to rival them in this) is that they are present in almost every country, run by the local university and college students. This means all of these students are working with their local businesses to create opportunities for interns to come in.

For example, I graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University and in my final year there, our chapter brought in 8 interns (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong). That means that 8 people from somewhere else in the world got a chance to come work here.

Some of these global chapters will work with multinational organisations, while some will work with start-ups. The best part is that most of these opportunities want fluent English speakers. The cherry on top? EVERYONE loves Canadians! (it helps that our prime minister is super popular everywhere)

Anyway, once the local AIESEC chapter creates an agreement with the company, the job posting is listed on their internal database. And the only requirement for you to get access to their database is to sign up on AIESEC Canada’s website.

Once you have access to the job portal, you can go and explore all the opportunities you want. You can filter by job requirements, by skillset, by country, by duration.

Speaking of duration, I don’t know if anything shorter than 1 year can still qualify for the RAP. However, anything over one year will be disqualified. AIESEC internships can be anywhere from a few months to a year and a half. However, I suggest you apply for the jobs you want first and then see if there is a way to work out the duration once you are in the interview process.

Once you apply for the internships you’re interested in, you will be notified by email if you get yourself an interview.

That’s what I did earlier this year and got myself a few interviews. I also got myself a job offer in Belgium working in the startup arm of a consulting company (though I did turn it down for another company, but that’s besides the point).

Isn’t that exciting? You could be working in another part of the world and travelling over the weekends (because travelling when you’re anywhere else in the world is so much easier than Canada) and come back with the best stories.

Other ways to make working abroad easier

We’ve looked at the biggest hurdle that you probably had coming into this – money, particularly with your student loans.

And we’ve taken care of that through the RAP program.

But, as always on this site, we can do better than that.

What if during the time you were looking for an opportunity, you were also building up some sort of savings that could be used to purchase the plane ticket, fund a better lifestyle abroad, or pay down some of your debt?

The best way would be to get a part-time job, but if you still have other things you want to do with your time, I suggest doing surveys. They’re simple and you can do them while Netflixing. You won’t get paid much, but if you were to do a few each day, you could end up with a thousand or two by the time you’re ready to fly off. Not a bad tradeoff if you spent the rest of your time working on a project.

Conclusion

Living abroad is not meant for everyone, but I bet that it’s something that is on your bucket list. Checking it off is now possible with the fact that the Canadian government has a program that will help pay the interest on your student loan (which is probably 80% of your regular monthly payments) if you do a paid international internship abroad.

Bundle this with you standing out from most of the competition when you come back, you’d probably be ahead of most of your peers who decided to take on non-paying work or worse, paying more to stand out (by doing some sort of further education).

Plus, if you wanted to make some more money while applying to jobs, you could always explore getting a part-time gig, or doing surveys at home.

Whatever you do with this information, just remember… don’t regret not doing something.

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