5 Tips for Working Abroad

Guest Post by: Katie Tang, a Foster School Senior studying Accounting who participated in the Business London study abroad program

During winter quarter, I had the opportunity to participate in the Business London study abroad program. The program was focused on international careers and developing the skills needed to succeed abroad. During our time in London, we visited several companies like Amazon and Google and had the chance to hear how UW alums made it across the pond. Here are five tips that every student should know before working abroad.


UW alum, James Swift, moved abroad after graduation and started his own serviced apartment company in London (Urban Stay UK)

  1. Networking is key.

One piece of advice that all professionals mentioned was the importance of networking. Through networking, these individuals found out what it was like to work abroad and how others got abroad. During our Amazon office visit, a UW alum described the role networking played in his career. He interned in finance at the Seattle office before transitioning full time into a brand specialist role. He knew early on that he wanted to work abroad and got connected with employees in the London office. These connections led to even more connections and when the opportunity came up to transfer, the company offered it to him. Not only was networking helpful for him to get the job, but it helped him when he moved as he already knew people there.

  1. Speak it into existence.

Many of the individuals we met in London knew that they wanted to work abroad early on in their careers. Rather than keeping this to themselves, they made it known to their managers that they wanted this experience. Through speaking up, they were given more opportunities to be involved in international work while still in the United States. This helped them develop the skills and experience needed to work abroad and when the opportunity arose, they were often the first ones who came to mind. It is hard to go abroad if no one knows that you want to, so speak it into existence.

  1. Be patient.

Very few of the professionals we met in London began their careers there. After graduation, many spent a few years working in their home countries before moving abroad. These individuals worked at larger companies that had global operations such as Amazon, Duff & Phelps, and Google. Through working at a company with global operational, these individuals were able to do intercompany transfers and obtain work visas, making the process easier. One UW alum studied abroad in London when she was in college and knew she wanted to go back. It took her 15 years to do it, but she is there now and loving it. Be patient and it will happen.

  1. Be flexible.

You may have a country in mind that you want to go to but be open to other countries as well. One UW alum wanted to work in London but the company he was with only had positions open in Copenhagen, Denmark. He and his family had never thought about living in Denmark, but he decided to take a risk and ended up loving it there. After a few years in Denmark, he decided it was time for a change and he applied to a position at a different company in London. Because he had previous experience the abroad, the transition was easier.

  1. Do your research.

Before moving abroad, make sure to do your research. Although the United States and the United Kingdom may seem similar, there are many small differences between the two countries. For example, it is difficult to get work done in August because it is common for people in Europe to take their vacations then. In addition, many apartments do not have drying machines so most hang dry their clothes. Living and working abroad requires you to be flexible and adaptable to new situation. Through researching the country beforehand and speaking with locals, you can better prepare yourself and mitigate culture shock.

Office visit to Duff & Phelps, a financial advisory firm, located in The Shard