Concrete hits the road

In the 25 years since Concrete first churned through the printing press, the newspaper has been home to countless editors, reporters, writers and copy editors. Although this network of Concrete alumni were once all nestled in Norwich, since graduating the group have spread their wings, with many seeking new pastures abroad. Concrete Travel have spoken to some of these alumni who give their opinions and advice to you on how and why you should pick up your bags and work abroad.

It is a well known fact that living abroad is a beneficial factor in employability. Moving country proves adaptability and flexibility as well as negotiation skills, confidence, resilience and determination; all of which are important transferable skills for the workplace. The 2002-2003 Editor-in-chief of Concrete, Katie Hind, says that she “didn’t realise quite the magnitude of respect you’re given for upping sticks and moving abroad” when she became the Los Angeles Editor for the Mirror newspaper, and moved to Hollywood. “It demonstrates so many important and impressive characteristics,” she says, “Settling in an unknown place […] takes a certain amount of resolve. I also made a new set of contacts and had the opportunity to do some fantastic pieces of work which nobody can ever take away. I think in every single industry – journalism included – working abroad gives you a huge edge over other candidates when getting a job.”

Of course, working abroad is not always that simple. Planning is essential; job-hunting abroad is often more difficult because of visa requirements, which can be challenging to obtain, especially if your desired destination is the USA. Katie says her “one, overriding piece of advice would be to prepare and research. What visa to do you need? Where will you live? Oh, and what’s the deal with a credit rating?”

She also advises those thinking of making the move to ensure they have the finances. “Moving abroad is not cheap,” she warns.

Harriet Farnham agrees that planning is essential. The former Concrete Arts Editor who worked for an educational charity in northern Peru for eight months says that those hoping to do similar work should “be really fussy” when choosing an organisation and should look to “avoid volunteer or internship tourism – it exploits you, disadvantages locals and reinforces imperialist and oppressive power structures.” Researching your organisation and role is crucial. Realising all was it is not as it seemed in the UK is an expensive mistake to make.

Former travel writer, Cameron Tucker, who has lived and worked in Sri Lanka and South Korea suggests this preparation is beneficial to help you settle in. “Looking up the company you’ll be working for, your future bosses, the part of the city/town you’ll be working and living in, even the best eateries in the area,” he says, “will not only paint you a clear picture of your new environment but will also endear you to new colleagues. Showing you have a keen interest in embracing the job and culture doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Moreover, Harriet and Katie agree that working abroad is a fantastic experience. Being based in a new location provides easy access to whole new areas of the world to explore as places that once seemed obscure and distant become local. Harriet says that during the organisation’s school holidays she was able to use the time off to travel to Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Bolivia and she gained friends all over Latin America. Living abroad provides a valuable global network and excuses for countless holidays if you ever make a permanent move home.

Similarly Katie says that her base in LA allowed her travel extensively in the USA: “I could travel anywhere on the West Coast of America quite easily. I fell in love with San Diego, San Francisco was a regular weekend getaway and Las Vegas became my second home (I went 12 times in 15 months – mostly for work – honest).” She also travelled for work to Yosemite National Park, the Superbowl in Arizona, North and South Carolina, Boston and Miami. Working abroad is a way to combine your career with travelling. While most long travelling trips would require you to quit your job, working abroad is a way to really explore a different way of life while continuing your professional life. If you can find a job where local travel is required, like Katie, you can really combine the two.

However, while living abroad has its pros, there also can be cons. Settling in to a new, unknown place is daunting and can be alienating. “The main difference between a holiday and moving abroad,” Katie says, “is that you’re not coming home anytime soon. You have to like it or lump it and in the beginning, that can be tough.” Nevertheless, that is not to say that only the strongest, most confident of characters can take the plunge.

The experience of living abroad is character building, and you will undoubtedly return more self-assured than when you left. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You might even get a suntan while you’re at it.


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September 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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