Soft Landings (and the Occasional Crash)
There’s no question that going global expands your horizons and opportunities. While in Hong Kong, Laura Lee was inspired by the women’s bold, idiosyncratic fashion and decided to form her own accessories firm, Laura Lee Designs. Now back in the United States, she has operations in Washington, D.C., and Hong Kong and buys materials in Australia, Nepal, and Tokyo. Lee says she never would have pulled this off without the connections she made abroad and the experience of "living and breathing the culture of Asia."
But returning can also be the ultimate buzz kill. Whether you’re working independently or reporting back to the corporate mothership, you’ll need to reestablish old connections and make new ones. And after flexing your multicultural muscles, you may feel confined or bored. Maybe that’s why some women turn right around and head back. "Overseas assignments can become addictive," says Andrea Martins, cofounder of ExpatWomen.com.
Last year Mary Walsh, 47, started her second tour with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in Singapore. Walsh keeps a house in Cape Cod but isn’t sure when she’s coming home. She does miss big American cars, malls, and movie theaters. But she revels in the Singapore roads, bordered with bougainvilleas; the rain forests, filled with monkeys; and the challenging assignments. It’s "a very satisfying life, in which I can continually reinvent myself," she says. Or as Walsh’s mother tells friends who ask about her wayward daughter: "She’s in Shangri-la."
Work Abroad Resources
To take your act on international roads, check these resources.
For first-hand accounts and advice, click on "Living Abroad,’‘ then "Reports from Expatriates.’‘
BR Anchor Publishing
This publisher specializes in books (some for children) on relocation.
Country-specific info on taxes, healthcare systems, work rules and benefits.
Discussion forums, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Searchable archives of a weekly newsletter.
Directory of blogs, listed by region.
U.S. Department of State: Careers Representing America
Foreign Service listings and qualifications; Assignment Abroad videos.
Monster.com Global Getaway
Sheer volume (400 jobs in Australia) and cluttered interface make it a little cumbersome. But worth a look.
International jobs portals by region, plus dedicated section on teaching English abroad. And see above under Research.
Lists jobs at nonprofits and other organizations, by country.
Click on "Networks" for mentors and forums by region.
The Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas Inc. provides links to over 75 volunteer organizations for U.S. citizens living abroad.
Michele Marchetti has written for Fortune, Glamour , and U.S. News & World Report.
Originally published in MORE magazine, December 2007/January 2008.