Maracas Beach. Shark and bake. Doubles. An ice cold Carib. A scotch and coconut water on Pigeon Point. Crossing the stage on Carnival Tuesday (well… when there was a stage…). Feting till the sun comes up and crawling into bed at 6 am. Cruising down the islands. Cricket at the Oval. Sunday lunch with family. Liming with friends who you’ve known all your life. All of these things make Trinidad a beautiful and blessed place to live.
But, for people who have itchy feet, these things are sometimes not enough to keep you there for ever and ever. Some just feel the need to get out, whether for a few months, a few years, or for good.
If you feel a desire to spread your wings but don’t know where to start, I have compiled a mother load of information and links on things you can do to get yourself overseas………..
1. Going abroad to study
A popular choice for many Trinis, particularly for Canada, the US, and England. Many who go as a student end up working part time, then changing their visa to a work visa once they find a company to employ them full time. But don’t just limit yourself to the Big 3 (US, UK, Canada) — how about New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Spain, Slovakia? Your possibilities are endless. What you will need, however, is a lot of capital. Hope you have some savings in the bank, or some generous parents, or if you are brainy, a good scholarship. Foreign fees are not cheap. You may need to forgo that Carnival costume to save some cash… Start checking out some uni websites and see what inspires you.
2. Work Holiday Visas
This option allows you to work overseas and make a little cabbage. Don’t expect to make a fortune. Many end up working in pubs and hotels or shops, but it’s enough to get by, pay the rent, and go out. If you’re willing to do any kind of work just for the sake of living abroad, this is a good way to do it. Usually you have an age limit of 18-30 so if you are pushing your late twenties then now is the time to go before it is too late! It is not hard for Trinis to go to England. But be sure to check the immigration department of each country to get an update on the rules. They seem to be changing a lot, especially in these “days of terrorism” where countries and now becoming more particular about who they let in…
3. Join the JET Program
The Government of Japan has an exchange program with a number of English-speaking countries, including Trinidad, which allows you to teach English in Japan at a Japanese high school. Participants usually need to have a Bachelors degree in pretty much anything. Note that as a JET teacher, you may be placed in a rural area of Japan, and not necessarily one of the big cities, but it will be a real cultural adventure. If you hate kids and speaking in public, this is not the job for you, as you will work alongside a Teacher’s Assistant in high school class of up to 40 Japanese students. This job has pretty good benefits — housing, flights, good salary, good holidays. Contact or visit the Japanese Embassy in Woodbrook to find out more about applying. If you get into the program, start learning Japanese immediately before you leave Trinidad. Trust me on this, you will need it…
4. Teaching English in other countries
Although Japan is the only country at this point that has a formal teacher exchange program with Trinidad, you still have options. The whole world is scrambling to learn English, particularly in the east, and the further you go, the higher the pay. The top three in Asia are China (not my pick, but many seem to like it), Korea (good salary, free flight over to Korea, usually free housing), and Taiwan (which is a beautiful, lovely place). These countries typically pay up to US $2000 a month or more. Everyone in Singapore and Hong Kong speaks English, so there are fewer jobs. Often Asian countries prefer teachers from the UK, US or Australia (read: whitey native speakers), so if you happen to have one of these passports, you are set. However, I know Trinis teaching overseas who do not have a foreign passport (and are not whiteys).
If money isn’t a big problem, you could consider South America. You won’t make much (probably US $500, maximum), but it’s bound to be a good adventure and you will probably become fluent in Spanish. You will likely need a university degree. There is a chance you can find a job in the European region, but only if they are not official members of the EU.
Do a lot of research. Be careful of accepting illegal jobs which pay under the table (I speak from experience after teaching illegally in Turkey for six months and then getting kicked out). Never send any money overseas to any “school” or “recruiter”. Never send your original documents, such as university diplomas, to anybody.
It also helps to take a course in Teaching English as a Second Language (sometimes known as Teaching English as a Foreign Language). You can take a certificate course at UWI. Teaching English is much harder than you might think and taking a course to prepare you is very useful.
Here are some sites for teaching jobs all over the world:
5. Cruise ship jobs
How about a life at sea? Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean regularly employ Trinis to work on board in hospitality jobs. Can be a great opportunity to see a lot of different countries in a short period of time. I’ve been told you have to get used to living in small quarters with a roommate, and quite long hours. Good option for saving cash, as you’re stuck on board anyway and don’t have much to spend it on.
The only recruiter I know in Trinidad is called Shipmate Services. Their office is right by Zen. You can visit their office to get an application.
6. CARICOM visa
If you don’t want to go quite as far and exotic as Bulgaria or Finland, you could apply for the Caricom single market and economy scheme which allows for free movement of skilled people in any Caricom member state. A good friend of mine is working right now in Barbados on this and loves it, and I know people who have been to Grenada and Barbuda for work.
You don’t need a bleeding heart to volunteer abroad, but you will need money to get there and keep yourself afloat during your stay. If you want to work with a reputable international organisation, you usually have to pay them to join. Don’t expect any payment in return.
In Asia there are opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia and India, just to name a few. You probably won’t find them in the more developed places in the region. This could include volunteering at an orphanage, or teaching English to kids in rural areas, to helping out at a local hospital. Eastern Europe (Romania, Bulgaria, etc.) is also an option. If you really have balls of steel, go to Africa. Definitely for the brave hearted who are not in it for the money. I have heard of a Trini couple who work half the year in the UK and then spend the other half volunteering in poor countries. Quite admirable.
(I am seriously considering doing the last one myself!)
8. Marry a foreigner
I hate to say it, but marrying someone from foreign is of course an easy way to get yourself overseas! My guess is that it’s easier for a hot Trini woman to marry a foreign man than vice versa, as there are more foreign men working in T&T, especially in the energy industry. If I were a young Trini girl trying to escape from the island, I’d personally go or a European man, because that EU passport is golden and gives you the right to live and work across Europe. Imagine you could have the right to live in Greece, Portugal, Spain… wherever you fancy!
So, in conclusion, obviously for a determined young Trini, there are many ways to ship yourself abroad. Just start doing research, and start saving money. Take a course, if necessary. It may take many months to finally get the opportunity you want, but patience is a virtue. The day that you get that letter saying that you have been accepted to the program/job/course will be a happy and exciting day. Leaving home for a foreign land is a scary and wonderful experience, but well worth the risk.
In closing, my favourite quote, from the movie Big Fish:
“Kept in a small bowl, the goldfish will remain small.
With more space, the fish can grow double, triple, or quadruple its size.”
Hope these tips will help you find that bigger bowl out there…