Maracas Beach. Shark and bake. Doubles. An ice cold Carib. Crossing the stage on Carnival Tuesday. Feting till the sun comes up and crawling into bed at 6 am. 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 some 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 exploring the world. I hope you will find them useful.
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, and then if they are lucky having their employer sponsor them full time so they can stay. But don’t just limit yourself to the Big 3 (US, UK, Canada) — how about Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, or Dubai? 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. You may need to forgo that Carnival costume to save some cash. Start checking out some university websites and see what inspires you.
2. Join the JET Program : The Government of Japan runs the JET Program – Japan Exchange Teaching — with a number of English-speaking countries, including Trinidad. The job entails teaching English in Japan at a Japanese high school for a year. Participants usually need to have a Bachelors degree, but I do know some Trinis who did not have one and were still accepted. Note that as a JET teacher, you may be placed in a rural area of Japan, and not necessarily one of the big cities. If you are not fond of youngsters and fear speaking in public, this is not the job for you, as a high school class can have up to 40 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 at UWI immediately. Trust me on this, you will need it.
3. Teaching in other countries: If you are a qualified teacher, with a Bachelors degree in Education, there are many jobs at international schools all over the globe. But even if you are not a ‘real’ teacher, you can still go abroad to teach English, as the whole world is scrambling to learn the international language of business, finance and travel. Booming Asian countries, like China, Korea and Taiwan, have lots of jobs, and typically pay up to US $2500 a month at private conversation schools. There are opportunities in South America, but salaries will be much lower. Unfortunately it is difficult to get a job in Europe, due to immigration restrictions, but you could check the European nations which are not yet members of the European Union, or countries in the Middle East. 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) at UWI before you go. Teaching English is much harder than you might think, and taking a course to prepare you is very useful.
4. 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 work hours. It is a 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. You can visit their office to get an application.
5. CARICOM visa: If you don’t want to go quite as far as Bulgaria or Morocco, 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, St. Kitts, Barbuda and Jamaica for work. At least you will be closer to home!
6. Become a flight attendant: Many flight attendants take up this job for the sole purpose of travelling the world (or at least as far as CAL flies). You could soon be snapping pictures of Big Ben in England, or shopping in Times Square in New York. But don’t just limit yourself locally. In the papers recently, there have been many job ads for airlines in the Middle East, particularly Qatar and Dubai, which are poaching flight attendants from smaller airlines. These are very big and prestigious airlines that will provide transport, housing, and benefits, and give you the chance to literally fly everywhere, from Paris to Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro. Just be mindful of the local laws and customs when living in a Middle Eastern country.
So, in conclusion, if you are a determined young Trini, there are obviously 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, I’d like to share 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…