Here’s What it’s REALLY Like to Work Abroad

Studying abroad in college is pretty common, but when I heard that fashion and lifestyle blogger Jessica Sturdy of BowsandSequins.com was working abroad, I knew I had to chat with her.  Here’s everything you’d want to know about the who, what, when, where and why…

Why did you decide you wanted to work abroad?

I wanted to switch things up! I never got to study abroad in college and Remote Year is essentially a study abroad program for adults, but you’re working instead of going to school. I’ve always dreamed of living abroad for a little while and this four-month itinerary came up at the perfect time. It’s been exactly what I needed to re-focus and re-energize. I wanted a little break from my day-to-day and this was just that!

Were you a little scared? What were your hesitations, if any?

Beyond! I was worried about the safety in Latin America, but I’m so glad I didn’t let that deter me. The cities I’ve lived in are no more dangerous than any other big city in the world — you simply have to be smart, just as you would anywhere else in the United States or Europe. I was also worried about being homesick, and of course I had my bouts with it, but I’m honestly shocked by how easy it was to settle into life abroad.

Tell us a little about the cities you’ve lived in so far and what you’ve loved most about each one.

Lima, Peru: The food in Lima is unlike anywhere else! SO GOOD. Every single meal I had was 10/10 — yes, even the fried rice I got at a gas station between Huacachina and Lima. Peruvian cuisine is my new-found favorite! So much ceviche, lomo saltado, lots of Chinese-Peruvian fusion dishes, Pisco Sours…it was a rather gluttonous month. I loved wandering around the Barranco neighborhood, it’s full of so much energy and character. I also loved being right on the water! Surfing in the Pacific before work one day was a memory I’ll never forget.

Medellin, Colombia: I loved the tropical climate and the bustling expat community, but I really enjoyed learning so much about Colombian history while I was living in Medellin. Twenty years ago, Medellin was the most dangerous city in the world and it was astounding to see the amount of re-birth that has taken place since then. It was very eye-opening and beyond interesting to learn about!

Bogota, Colombia: Bogota was one of my favorite cities and I can’t really put my finger on why. I’ve lived in New York City and Chicago, so I tend to prefer more of a “city vibe” and I really felt at home in Bogota from the moment I arrived. It’s such a livable city! I lived right off of Parque El Virrey, knew my baristas at the local coffee shop by my apartment, went to spin class at Cyglo everyday, worked at WeWork, etc. It was so nice to feel like I was in a little bit of a routine while I was living there!

Mexico City: TACOS AND MEZCAL! Can you tell that food is my favorite part of traveling, haha? Outside of the amazing tacos everywhere you look and the great selection of mezcal on the menu, it’s been really cool to see a different part of Mexico than Cancun, Cabo, and Tulum. I’ve been to Mexico countless times, but always on the coasts. It’s been awesome to get a better feel of the Mexican culture living in Mexico City and traveling around to small towns within a few hours of the city.

What has surprised you the most about this whole experience?

I never imagined that I would get the opportunity to spend so much time in South America, but never in my life did I think I would feel the way I do about the cities I’ve spent time in. If given the opportunity, I would happily say yes to living (more long term) in each of the places I’ve visited, and I did not think that would be the case. Before I arrived, I thought I would be “crossing each of these places off of my Bucket List.” I figured one month would be enough in each of these places, but it doesn’t feel that way now. I enjoyed each of the cities a lot more than I anticipated!

Do you feel like you’ve changed or grown as a person as result of working/living abroad?

100% — I think it’s impossible not to. Most notably, I think I’ve learned to be much more present. When you only have a month to soak up a city, you learn to be even more intentional with your time. Instead of spending time planning for the future, you focus on the now.

Tell us a little about the Positive Impact part of your remote year.

In each city, Remote Year partners with one or more local non-profit organizations, which makes it easy to get involved and give back in the communities that we’re living in. In Lima, we worked with a company that provides care for families of children going through cancer treatment. In Medellin, we worked with students that have been displaced due to violence. In Bogota, we partnered with TECHO (similar to a Habitat for Humanity) and spent a weekend building a house for a family. And in Mexico City, we volunteer our time at a local animal shelter.

What’s your best advice for someone considering working abroad?

Find a job that you’re able to do remotely! It’s the easiest way to work abroad, in my opinion, as you don’t have to worry about visas and finding a company to sponsor you. Or if your company has offices around the world, seize the opportunity! There will never be “a right time,” and there will always be 100 reasons (/excuses) not to go abroad. But it’s the best decision I’ve made and I wish I would have gone sooner!