A year abroad now seems as much a rite of passage for students as going to the pub for the first time or surviving freshers’ week – it’s simply something that you have to do.
Maybe you already took your gap year before you decided to go to university, or perhaps you took advantage of your elective period to do some travelling?
However, for some graduates time spent abroad beckons a couple of years after they have qualified. With the skills they need for a successful career in the bag, no real commitments and a little disposable income, many are ready to pack up and see where the travel bug takes them. Of course one of the biggest decisions you will make is where to go. Somewhere challenging like Africa, full of adventure like New Zealand or vibrant like Asia? Wherever you choose, you are bound to have a good time. The great news is that if you want to work while you travel you may not be confined to bar jobs and fruit picking to earn you a bit of extra cash. Think carefully about your trip before you go and you can arrange a long or short-term job or volunteering role while you’re out there.
Now, there is a world of difference between these two roles. While doing the traditional working abroad job will, according to the country you work in, be quite similar to your day job in the UK, a volunteering role is likely to be very different. You will have to consider whether you are looking for a professional challenge or just want to keep your skills up and bring in some extra money while you are away. Only you can decide which option suits you better,but there are some points to bear in mind for each choice. Dentists have more to give than the average person in terms of volunteering and are badly needed in many countries that just don’t have the facilities or the manpower to provide proper dental care. But until fairly recently there has been a limited number of prospects for UK dentists to offer assistance abroad.
However, opportunities have increased recently via charities and other not-for-profit organisations. Mercy Ships, a Christian global charity committed to bringing healing to the world’s poorest people is a good example. It operates a fleet of hospital ships in developing nations and estimates that they help one million people a year. A large part of this is helping treat people with dentally related conditions – so as well as treating crew members aboard the ship, you’ll then help treat local people in such countries as Sierra Leona or Liberia.
Of course this kind of volunteering isn’t for the faint hearted and requires a significant level of commitment. With the right attitude, it can provide an unforgettable trip that will stay with you for a lifetime. You should make sure you spend time finding out about all of the volunteering options available to discover the right one for you. If there doesn’t appear to be anything that fits in with your plans exactly, contact the relevant organisations as they may have plans to introduce an expedition like the one you are after in the near future.
Working abroad may seem like the easier option, but it’s not always plain sailing. There’s a lot to think about – preparation is the key to being able to make the most of your trip. You should be ready for all of the frustrating red tape that comes with moving to another country. It’s also important that you take a lot of time to research the country that you are going to be living in and the job market there. There is no point on relying on getting a job just because ‘dentists are in demand’. You need to ensure that where you are going offers the right opportunities for you and that it fits in with your plans.
For example, some countries have a surplus of positions for dentists in rural areas but have very little available in the cities. So, if you have your heart set on living somewhere in particular, you may find it disappointing when you get out there and find there is nothing available. The important thing is to be flexible and not to expect too much. Consider why you are going away – is it to further your career or to see more of the world? If it is the former then – unless you have been offered a specific opportunity – it may be wiser to get further experience at home before considering a move abroad.
Remember that a lot of attention must be paid to visas when considering working abroad. Requirements vary significantly depending on which country you intend to work in and should always be fully investigated with the relevant embassy before you make any firm plans.