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The Reality of Nine-to-Fiving Abroad

Zoe exploring beautiful Beaufort, South Carolina. Caron Bell


In a full-time office environment, having adventures abroad takes a little more effort.

It’s important to remember that working abroad is just that—work. As I take stock of the almost two months I’ve lived in South Carolina, what stands out the most is not meeting new people or exploring the city—it’s how much time I’ve spent in my new office.

Beginning any new job is stressful: Every workplace is a unique environment with its own quirks, and learning the ropes is always draining. Despite how excited I was to begin my internship, and how great the experience has turned out to be already, my first couple weeks working at the magazine were exhausting.

As per my U.S. visa requirement, my internship in the States has to be full-time. Though the magazine I work for usually hires on a part-time basis, I’m working full-time hours—which, in reality, is great, because the more experience I can get from my time down South, the better. But, with a 35-hour workweek and a 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule, it’s easy to fall into the same routine I had with my former office job in Canada. I work during the day, come home tired, eat all the snacks I can find, and hang out on my couch for the rest of the evening.

Relaxing after a day of work in a new job is acceptable, realistically; but, in a cool new city like Charleston, it feels a lot like wasted time. Adding salt to the wound, part of my job at the magazine is to find great events around the city and write-up descriptions for our readers. So I know all the interesting things happening around town; I just struggle to find the motivation to get out of my living room and put myself out there.

The first few weeks flew by. I’m proud of my work at the magazine so far, and I love spending time in Charleston, but I don’t feel like I’ve fully taken advantage of my time in South Carolina—at least, not yet.

However, that’s the thing about a career-oriented internship abroad, as opposed to more adventurous volunteer abroad opportunities, or working holidays. To get a U.S. visa, my internship had to be in my field of study: it’s an opportunity to gain experience in the area of work I hope to have a career in one day. It’s great for resume building, and it gives me the chance to work and live outside of Canada. But, at the end of the day, when I’m at my desk working on my computer, it feels a lot like an office anywhere.

It’s great for resume building, and it gives me the chance to work and live outside of Canada. But, at the end of the day, when I’m at my desk working on my computer, it feels a lot like an office anywhere.

It’s important to remember that I’m here for work experience as much as I’m here to work abroad. I’ve already gained invaluable knowledge of the magazine publishing world, and I can tell my writing and editing skills are going to improve immensely. So, even though work takes up a great deal of my time in Charleston, that’s not entirely a bad thing—it’s why I’m here in the first place.

Now that I’ve been here for few weeks, it’s a good time to evaluate how I can make this opportunity abroad even better. Charleston is such a cool city, with an especially amazing food and drink scene, and I know I want to explore a lot more. I don’t know very many people here yet, but I’m realizing that there’s nothing stopping me from crossing off places on my must-visit list by myself. I certainly won’t try delicious food, explore new neighbourhoods or meet interesting people from my house. And I can’t wait for anyone else to make plans and invite me—I’m in control of my time, and how I choose to spend it.

For the rest of my internship, I’m challenging myself to get out and explore as much as possible. Last weekend, I checked out a popular coffee shop on my own, and read my book while drinking a cappuccino. I strolled the streets, shopped in a few stores, and did lots of people watching. 

While I’m away from the familiarity of my hometown, I need to get more confident spending time on my own. Even though it’s much more comfortable on my couch wearing sweatpants, my time abroad will be much better spent outside my comfort zone. 

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Zoe Bell

Editorial Assistant

Zoe Bell is a Canadian writer and travel enthusiast, who is currently pursuing a Master's in International Journalism at City, University of London. Originally from Toronto, Zoe recently completed an editorial internship at a magazine in Charleston, South Carolina, where she also documented her experiences in a blog for Verge Magazine. We are thrilled to welcome Zoe to the team!

Website: https://zoebell.journoportfolio.com/

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