How I Did Study Abroad for Adults (kind of)

Authored by:
CIEE Alumni

CIEE Alumni

By Melissa Bond (CIEE Study Abroad, Seville, Spain, 2014)

Study abroad has always been thought of as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. After all, when would we ever get a second chance to launch ourselves across the world into a new culture, live with locals, jet around neighboring cities and countries, and attend curated yet authentic cultural activities, all within the warm friendly confines of a huge study abroad community of people from our home country?

I had this experience “of a lifetime” in Sevilla, Spain in 2014. While I knew I would surely travel again, I knew that it would never add up to the whole package that study abroad provides.

Until I was wrong – and I got the chance to “study abroad” for adults (kinda).

"Some of my travel squad and me at the top of Lion's Head in Cape Town, South Africa."

On July 29, 2017, three years after I got home from my study abroad, I left again for a similar adventure on a program called Remote Year. Over the course of a year, I would work and live in 12 different cities in 10 different countries along with 57 other participants. Except this time, instead of studying, we were working – some of us employees of large companies (me!), some entrepreneurs, some freelancers, and some a combination of all three. The one thing we had in common was the ability to take our work on the road with us and operate fully remotely. From anywhere.

Working remotely at my company was not actually common. And even if people worked from home, they worked from home. But, when I found a role at my firm where the whole team worked from home, I jumped right on the opportunity to join Remote Year. Why work from my couch and local Starbucks in Chicago when I could work from Chiang Mai, Medellin, or Cape Town? That question just answers itself.

"Hot air ballooning outside of Mexico City."

So, off I went to join 57 other strangers in a yearlong round-the-world trip, living and working across the globe one city at a time. In each city, we had our own apartments and access to a 24/7 coworking space (important, especially on the Asian timezones!). We also had a local team on the ground in each city who would show us around and help us embrace the local culture, be it an Ayahuasca session in Peru, Lucha Libre in Mexico, Taiko drumming in Kyoto, or watching Fado in Lisbon. All while putting in my 40 hours a week.

While the travel was great and all, and I of course developed so much professionally and personally, yada yada yada, what I really got out of the year (and what really made it worth the money), was the community. You can imagine that living and working with 50 people for a year straight in magical, unfamiliar places brings you together quite a bit. Since our year ended, I’ve still been traveling with people from my program, and I know that almost anywhere I go, I will have a Remote Year connection. Just like study abroad, my favorite memories from our year are more about the people I was with, rather than the place we were in.

"Dune buggying in Huacachina, Peru."

If anyone wants to hear more about my experience, look into joining the program, or learn more about taking your job remote (hint: most jobs don’t need to be performed from your cubicle!), please reach out to me*. The digital nomad revolution (and RY Nation) are waiting for you!

*Reach out to me before applying directly on the Remote Year website. I can hook you up with a referral and a discount!

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