Chances are, you are thinking about starting or advancing a career in outdoor adventure education and you are looking for exciting sounding opportunities to apply for. While the majority of companies who advertise with us are offering posts here in England, Wales or Scotland, we do get quite a number of international, and especially European adventure jobs.
Is it really any different from being in Britain?
Perhaps the first thing to note is that many of these international adventure jobs that we advertise are actually on behalf of British companies who own and operate activity centres designed to be frequented by British visitors, especially school groups. These centres are often extremely popular as they allow visitors to experience the benefits that outdoor education can bring, in conjunction with experiencing a different culture first hand. In an age of league tables and the national curriculum, undertaking a language course or visiting a place of historical interest can often invoke a passion that it is difficult to replicate with classroom only learning; something that the schools are only too well aware of. This is perhaps a long winded way of saying that for you, one of the instructors, this means that while you may be based in France, or Italy, your immediate working environment could be almost identical to one that your friends are experiencing here at home.
You can still train and develop your career
Working overseas does not mean you have to give up the idea of our National Governing Body qualifications too. Quite a few adventure companies have the foresight to invest in your development as an instructor. Clearly it is good for you to advance your teaching and instruction abilities, but it also benefits them if they can claim that their instructors are well qualified, so they often encourage you to train towards relevant NGB awards on the job, even if that job is being done in another country.
Job satisfaction is no different either. Often the primary reason for people entering the outdoor industry is that they can directly observe the impact that their work has. Every Instructor remembers the look on the face of the first child they helped to do something that the child previously would not have had the opportunity or confidence to do. Working abroad gives people the opportunity to have a real impact on the groups they lead both educationally and culturally.
You may find that an overseas adventure job enhances your career prospects. Working for a small company in this country, you may find that you soon get as far as you can go without moving on. The centre manager may have been there for years, or may actually own the company, so once you become a senior instructor your chance of progression is to leave. If the international job is for a company with multiple adventure centres, then there could be more opportunities to further your career.
A boost to your confidence
Choosing to undertake an experience like this can often instill a level of confidence in you that you did not previously have, and which will be extremely useful to you in later life. Clearly the job has to be the right move for you in the first place, but if there are two identical jobs for which you are ideally suited, it definitely takes more nerve to apply for the one that would involve leaving your home country. But taking risks that pay off will definitely boost your confidence, and change who you are as a person. I have had friends who left to work in other countries for a year or two, and almost without exception it changed them and gave them the confidence that made them far more outgoing and successful when they returned.
Things to think about
So far so good; everything I have highlighted has been a positive. This is not to say that as soon as you see an international job you should apply for it without question. There are some important considerations to factor into your decision to apply. Research is the key to successfully working abroad and lays the foundations for a fantastic experience. You need to identify exactly where in the world you are most interested in working, as things that we take for granted such as tax or access to medical treatment vary a great deal from country to country.
If you need to find out more about the impact working abroad has on paying UK tax then it is a good idea to contact HMRC, who are often very helpful. There are so many rules, regulations and exceptions that I'm not even going to begin to tell you how much tax you are likely to have to pay. All I will say is that your tax situation will depend on whether you are going to be treated as a resident or non resident. Reputable organisations will also have HR and Payroll departments that can help you with any queries you may have when you go abroad.
Not having the NHS to fall back on is another big change, so if you do require any form of medical treatment an up-to-date EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is an absolute must for Europe. The UK has an agreement with the rest of the EEA (European Economic Area) which allows you to receive medical treatment. Let's face it, as an adventure activity instructor, even an accomplished one working at a centre with an excellent safety record, you are putting yourself more at risk of needing medical attention than most. Outside the EEA there is no such agreement, so you are likely to need comprehensive medial insurance, unless you want to risk paying off a medical bill for the rest of your working life. Sometimes the company you are working for will arrange this and cover you, so definitely a question to ask them.
How do you get yourself employed on an adventure job abroad? Probably goes without saying, but if you do have any previous teaching experience, any outdoor adventure qualifications, or even experience of living abroad, make sure you get it on your application form as these things will make your application stand out from the crowd when employers are looking for suitable candidate for their overseas employees. At the same time, don’t let a lack of previous experience put you off applying - many overseas adventure workers are quite young, so employers are looking at your attitude and how you present yourself as much as your CV.
Go for it!
I hope that gives you some more to think about and perhaps encourages you to consider that Pays de la Loire Watersports Instructor role, or the multi activity instructor job in the Spanish Pyrenees. To end on a very topical note, would you rather work outdoors during a Mediterranean summer or a British summer? And yes, that is a rhetorical question. Good luck with your job hunt and see you in France!