Natalie Rempalski is a LA-based Strategist who most recently worked at TBWA\Sydney where she helped create award-winning campaigns for Gatorade, SKYY Vodka, Krispy Kreme, and others. She was a finalist for Rising Star at the B&T Women in Media Awards, a committee member for Youngbloods, and a volunteer for Creative Mornings. After living in Australia on her own for three years, she knows what it takes to successfully build a life overseas and is here to share what no one tells you about working abroad. Here's Natalie—
So you’re thinking of working abroad.
Great idea. Working overseas changes us for the better. It makes us more respectful of different cultures and empathetic towards others. Most importantly, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and into new ways of looking at the world.
But it can also be intimidating. There’s probably a few (or more than a few) doubts creeping into your head:
Can I survive in a country on my own?
How do I make friends as an adult?
Will it be worth it?
What if I can’t do it?
I get it. I moved halfway across the world for an internship at an advertising agency in Sydney. Firmly ignoring self-doubt, I took a chance that meant three years later, I would become a Strategist at my dream advertising agency working alongside some of the most incredibly talented people from around the world. But I didn’t know any of that would happen when I made the decision to go. All I knew was that it was an amazing opportunity, and that I was scared.
Luckily, I learnt some things along the way so, if you’re considering moving overseas, these are the great and not-so-great parts of working abroad.
THE NOT-SO-GREAT PARTS
Your fate comes down to legal paperwork.
The least exciting, but most pivotal component of working overseas is a Visa. Juniors don’t get sponsored, or so I was told – juniors don’t get sponsored very often, is probably more accurate. Getting a company to sponsor you while you’re in the beginning of your career is difficult. Even if you work your butt off, it may not matter when it comes down to the paperwork. For those starting out, try working for an agency that’s part of a global network, then aim to transfer overseas.
People think you’re having the time of your life, but it can be really lonely.
What the Instagrams of beautiful new cities rarely capture is that moving to a foreign country on your own is isolating. When you first arrive, everything is different and you have no friends. Your friends from home may not get it, you don’t feel comfortable confiding in your coworkers yet…you can’t grasp how it feels to be alone until you have no one. Other expats who know the struggle can be the best people to reach out to when you’re fresh to a city.
It’s tempting for work to become your entire life.
Advertising agencies are notorious for long hours and weekend work, and when you’ve just hauled your life halfway around the globe, it’s easy to get sucked in to doing this all the time since you don’t have family or friend commitments to pull you away from the office. Making friends through work is great—some of my closest friends in Australia were from work—but working huge hours to fill time isn’t healthy and will only prevent you from building a life in your new city.
THE GREAT PARTS
International markets can provide greater opportunities to fast track your career.
Working abroad will definitely change the way you approach briefs. You absorb different ways of thinking working alongside colleagues who’ve had international experience. Depending on the size of the market you’re in, you may have greater chances to own projects above your level of experience, work closely with senior leadership, and develop a broad range of skills working on all sorts of briefs beyond traditional advertising campaigns.
Working internationally pushes you think beyond yourself and learn about the world.
When living in a foreign city, you learn new things everyday. You’re in a constant state of adjusting to a new way of life. This cultural immersion continues in the office. You learn about audiences, cultural tensions, and social norms you may have never thought about previously. Getting exposed to different cultures increases your empathy, expands your mind, and helps you look at the world differently, making you better at what you do.
Becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable prepares you for anything.
It’s a foreign country – everything is new, everyone’s a stranger and in order to make this new place feel like home, you have to put yourself out there. What might’ve previously felt impossible, saying yes to everything and inviting yourself to coworkers parties, becomes an entertaining part of life and what eventually builds friendships. These skills are useful in any city you move to – if you’re capable of building a life in a foreign country, you really can do anything.
I left Australia a completely different person than when I arrived.
Moving overseas taught me that I can survive on my own, that it’s possible to build new adult friendships that are as powerful as your lifelong friends, and that we’re more resilient than we realize. Moving overseas takes work and you will get homesick—but it will be the best decision you’ve ever made.
You got this,
Connect with Natalie via Twitter, Instagram, and her website.