Exchange student Jarred Booth chose to work three months in a hostel in Pucón, Chile instead of returning back to the United States for the long break in between semesters.
When I first decided to study abroad for a year, one of the first things I thought of was… how in the world am I going to make money? It’s tough to get a service job, especially with your student visa in tow, and even more difficult if you’re not completely fluent in the native language. However, not to worry… there are numerous ways to fill your time and your pockets while you’re abroad, and make sure that you’re able to explore more of the country that you’ve been living in.
The number one thing is to get creative. You won’t be able to make money in the same sort of stable job you might have had before. Capitalize on the connections that you do make, because when you arrive in a new place you’re not going to have any.
The one thing you will for sure find out is that the most valuable skill you have is probably that you speak English, especially if you live in a place where many tourists visit. All of the work and volunteer opportunities I’ve gotten have been in part because I speak English as a native language. Saying this, however, only relying on the fact that you speak English won’t get you a job in another country. You also have to evaluate the skills you do have that people might want, like childcare, gardening, construction, writing, or translation.
There are numerous websites you can check out that offer volunteering jobs in exchange for housing and food as well. They are offered in almost every country you may be studying abroad in. The one I have been using this summer is called Workaway, and the page for Chile offers around 600 hosts to choose from. This also means you can travel to visit another place at a low cost and be able to stay there for long periods of time. Many of the hosts are hostels and hotels looking for volunteers that can help with the upkeep of the place, meanwhile letting the volunteers live there. Being a volunteer at a hostel can be better if you’re a young person because that’s usually where young travelers and backpackers are staying. Chances are you will also stay at hostels if you’re traveling around during your study abroad experience.
Most rooms are shared between four or more people in bunk bed style. Living and working in a hostel would be a great option if you are very social because there is an influx of new people that you’ll need to check in every day. Also, in my experience, many people are staying in hostels because they really want to meet other people or they’re traveling alone looking to make connections.
My friend Jarred Booth who I met in my exchange program has spent the last three months of his summer break volunteering in a hostel in the south of Chile, in an outdoorsy tourist city called Pucón. He is originally from Pennsylvania and chose to study a year in Valparaíso through Arcadia University. “I would highly recommend working in a hostel to other students who have the free time abroad because it is such a unique experience being able to work in both your native and your second language, fluently and in sync,” commented Booth.
Most hostels will hire one or more volunteers that work and live together. As Booth had a lot of free time for the summer in between semesters in Chile, he planned to work three months in Pucón. “I chose this hostel because it was very well rated as well as the general atmosphere seems like it would best fit me. Sometimes while working with tourists it is a little trying, however, most of the time it is an amazing experience because you get to share culture and opinions and history amongst a group of people that is completely diverse,” added Booth.
Apart from hostels, the other common thing Workaway hosts are looking for is people that speak another language, mainly English, who can live with them and help teach their family the language. I have experience with this kind of job, and it is a great opportunity to live in a different place, meet new people, and share their lifestyle. Most of the time, it’s really not hard work because you are just having conversations with other people in your native language and explaining things that are natural to you. It is kind of like living with a host family, but you are there to teach them English or another language instead of them helping you with your own language learning. It is a great experience especially if you want to go into interpreting or teaching in the future.
Another thing many people may be looking for that is a money-making opportunity as well is one-on-one English lessons. You could put up posters around the university where you’re studying, or just ask around the university. Most of the time you will find that people are looking for the practice, but getting paid for it is another thing. If you brand yourself as a valuable resource, people may be willing to pay you for hourly English lessons. Otherwise, it can serve as more experience for your resumé for teaching.
A different option for volunteering abroad is Willing Workers on Organic Farms, better known as WWOOF, which is a program that hosts volunteers to help with production and operation on organic farms throughout the world. The farms are located in more rural areas of the country, and each program is organized by the host country itself. It serves more as a cultural and language exchange than paid work, but will also provide you a place to live while you are traveling around and let you access more uncommon areas of the country.
Another paid opportunity I’ve gotten through studying abroad is working on research investigations with professors. In my case, I’ll be working with a linguistics professor who studies the way foreigners learn Spanish. In this way, I am the perfect research subject for her and get experience as a research assistant with her as well.
Overall, you will probably find that the work and volunteer opportunities available to you may be very different from those that you can find at home. The challenges you face will also be different than the jobs you may have at home as well. Booth summed up that, “I feel more organized and I feel more well-rounded after working in the hostel for some time because now I know I can work in Spanish and I can understand directions, orders, requests and much more in a language that when I arrived I wasn’t too confident in.”