Here are the programs I know of to go abroad. Feel free to add any that you know in the comments.
- Fulbright: First are foremost, the organization that sent me here. The Fulbright program is funded by the U.S. Department of State in conjunction with the governments of the partner countries. American citizens can go almost anywhere in the world on a Fulbright, and folks from almost anywhere in the world can go to the US. There are programs for student research, teaching (both for recent college grads and employed US K-12 school teachers), artists, musicians, journalists, professors, scientists… the list is long. Here’s the link for Germany’s Fulbright Kommission.
- Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst/German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD): If I had known about DAAD before my first stint in Germany, I would have tried to take advantage. If you boil it down, the DAAD provides funding for non-German academics and students to come to Germany. A few of the folks I met in Freiburg had gotten some funding for their time there. They seem to have a great network.
- Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF): Here is an option for people who are not students, not involved in academia, or need flexibility with time. “Wwoofing” is doing voluntary work on an organic farm in exchange for room, board, and experience. Interested farmers add themselves to the list, and interested volunteers choose from the list. You can wwoof all over the world. The get access to the list, there is usually a small fee to help with administrative costs. Say you have two weeks of vacation time and want to help harvest grapes in the Bordeaux region, assist in bio-gas production in Germany, or learn how vegetables are grown in Southwest Virginia. Go to the WWOOF website, email a farm with your time and dates, and see if they’ll have you. If so, you’re in. You pay for transportation and spending money.
- Agriventure: Agriventure is for people interested in agriculture and horticulture. Participants work in the chosen field and usually stay with a family. It’s different from WWOOF in that it’s more structured, you apply for a placement, and the cost is around $4000 depending upon the program. Like WWOOF, there are options all over the world.
- Language Schools: Depending upon the time and financial resources available to you, there is always the option to take a language course abroad. Malta is a common one for learning English, and I have heard of many people going to Guatemala for Spanish. If you only have a few weeks and don’t relish the idea of back-breaking farm work, this could be for you.
- Teaching English: Of course, there is always the option to go abroad to teach English. This is a popular option for fresh college grads who want to spend some time abroad, get professional experience, learn or improve upon another language, and earn some actual money. Fulbright has an ETA program, which I am Senjoying, but there are other ways to do it. Just Google it. I hear of many Americans going to teach in South Korea and loving it, but I can’t provide any first-hand experience.
- Au Pair: An Au Pair is like a nanny, who lives with the family, and helps with the children and household chores. The parents benefit from the help, the children get exposure to another language, and the Au Pair learns a new language, gets to live in another country and gets paid. Again, I have not done this, but it is a very popular option.
- Peace Corps: Oh yeah, the Peace Corps! The Peace Corps is another opportunity funded by the US Government to go abroad and serve. The Peace Corps is intense. It is a two-year commitment, and you do not get to choose your placement country; rather, volunteers are placed based upon their skills. On the other hand, it can be an extremely rewarding and life-altering experience. I personally know one volunteer who got so sick that he had to be sent home, as well as one who is having an amazing time and never wants to come back.