Have any of you considered working abroad? Very recently, I was faced with the decision on whether or not to move to Accra, Ghana for an intriguing opportunity with a small company. Ultimately though, I felt that for now I should stay where I am, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t consider working abroad in the future.

Location is certainly a huge factor for any career decision, and it’s one thing to consider working in an established, well-to-do place like the UK, France, Hong Kong, Australia, etc, but quite another to move to the developing world. It’s a bit intimidating, especially when you consider how power and water are still very much insecure, and in the case of Ghana, where diseases such as malaria are a common occurrence. Of course, that’s also part of the appeal of such an opportunity, and I have enormous respect for those that have ventured out like this.

During the decision process, I heard highly varied perspectives from those around me, including divided parents, concerned friends, optimistic friends, skeptical former colleagues, and even a confused new internet acquaintance. People would literally cock an eyebrow at me when I mentioned I was mulling over a move to West Africa.

I’m happy to say that my final choice was made independently, and that so far I feel it was a good move to stay (knock on wood). My considerations did include such things as day-to-day challenges, long-term career goals, and general timing of the purported move.

For those making similar choices, I suggest joining an online community like Internations and browsing through the forums to learn more about the day to day. For instance, I quickly learned that Accra had a fairly significant cost of living, one that’s comparable to the U.S. Counterintuitive, but important to be aware of. Culturally, apparently West Ghanaians are among the most friendly people you’ll ever meet, with some men even shooting out marriage proposals to women they just met.

More negatively, the roads are a hazard there, though generally if you take taxis things will be fine. Restaurants cost about the same as in the U.S., with foreign food being more expensive.

At some point, I know I definitely want the experience of working abroad. It’s one of the reasons I took on my previous job, which unfortunately didn’t end up allowing for this opportunity.

Beyond just the experience, I want to make sure I’m in a position to take full advantage of the situation and opportunity to learn when the time comes. This requires understanding my own innate maturity, cultural sensitivity, and physical readiness. By considering these factors, I can make sure that I don’t prematurely jump into something without full preparation, and that I’m mentally and physically ready to take the leap when the occasion arises.

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