Deciding to live abroad for a year can go from exciting to overwhelming pretty quick. The world is a big place with thousands of cities, programs, and work opportunities to choose from. How could you ever come to a final conclusion on the best places to live abroad for a year?
Sometimes, big decisions are made easier by constraining the number of available options. To help you narrow down the possibilities, we have selected the nine best places to live abroad for a year. These countries include some of the best English speaking countries to move to, some of the cheapest places for expats to live, and the best countries for expats to work, study, volunteer, or travel.
By the end, you should have a good sense of where do American expats go and why those locations have ended up as expat favorites.
What makes these countries the best?
Let’s be honest: There are a million different criteria that could help determine the “best” places to live abroad for a year. To come up with you list, we chose countries that we thought covered a range of different experiences.
In terms of culture, we wanted to provide locales that both promise to give a culture shock for those who are feeling adventurous as well as more conservative locations for those who may be heading out abroad for the first time.
We also know from experience that people often rank language acquisition as an important part of their international experience, so we wanted to provide as many locales as possible whose primary language is not English but has a high utility and might carry weight as a professional.
And finally, we picked locations that have a ton of programs options to choose from and where we get some of our best reviews and feedback.
Our roundup of top countries for expats
We want to help narrow down your options by providing a list of some of the best places to live abroad for a year based on where American expats tend to go and where they report having the most positive experiences.
Oh Spain. Is it your beautiful cities, your delicious wine, your world renowned tapas, or your flowery language that steals our heart? Por que no los todos? Either way, Spain is a popular live abroad destination for a reason. Being in Europe means that there are familiar comforts (H&M? Yes, please), while also harboring a distinct culture with a unique language and food scene.
- Popular for: Teaching English, au pairing, learning Spanish, study abroad
- Come for the: Delicious tapas
- Stay for the: Gorgeous coastal cities
- Recommended program to help you get there: Au Pair in Spain with Smaller Earth
Where do American expats go? China! For those seeking something “totally different,” China says nĭ hăo. With a completely foreign culture, incredible culinary scene, and home of a highly valued language in the professional world, there are a million and one reasons that China is not only a great place to live abroad for a year personally, but also professionally. With some of the largest cities in the world and quickly developing (not to mention being one of the cheapest places for expats to live), China offers a fast-paced, but rewarding dose of culture shock and the chance to live in one of the world’s largest economies.
- Popular for: Teaching English, learning Mandarin
- Come for the: mápó dòufǔ (spicy tofu)
- Stay for the: Incredible super-cities & modern influence
- Recommended program to help you get there: Teach in China with
It is so cliche to dream eating a French croissant sitting in the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower...but also it wouldn’t be so bad to do that for a year, right? And with fantastic universities, amazing hospitality internships, and cultural exchange programs all offered, France offers almost every living abroad for a year experience anyone could ask for. And also… the croissants.
- Popular for: Language students and cultural exchange opportunities
- Come for the: Amazing sight seeing
- Stay for the: très délicieux culinary scene
- Recommended program to help you get there: Jobs in Hospitality in France with Jobs and Internships Abroad
Interested in experiencing a developing economy and one of the largest economies in South America? What learning a foreign language? Living at the beach? If so, Brazil has it all. With study abroad programs ranging from studying environmental conservation to business as well as plenty of work opportunities thanks to a growing economy, there are tons of opportunities in Brazil. And when you are done with your work and studies, there is a colorful culture to delve into.
- Popular for: Volunteers and specialized workers (like Engineers), teaching English
- Come for the: Laid back pace of life
- Stay for the: Amazon rainforest
- Recommended program to help you get there: Teach English in Brazil with Teach Away
If you want to live abroad but you don’t feel quite ready to dive into a completely foreign culture, Australia is a great option. Students, workaway travelers, and professionals can all find opportunities down under. With incredible (but hot!) weather, a laid back culture and stunning scenery, Australia offers a great first-time-living-abroad experience. Australia is without a douubt one of the best English speaking countries to move to.
- Popular for: Hospitality & tourism gigs, study abroad, adventure travel
- Come for the: All the cool wildlife!
- Stay for the: Everything Macadamia nut!
- Recommended program to help you get there: Work and Travel in Australia with Greenheart Travel
If you want a “whoa” experience, an experience totally different from what you have at home, Japan is the spot for you. Japan has managed to become hyper-developed while also conserving it’s traditional roots, creating a totally unique experience. Head to the cities to feel that you have entered the future and head to the countryside to transport back to a simpler time. There is nothing Japan can’t offer: skiing in the north, scuba dive in the south, and a buffet of experiences in between. And with an aging population, work opportunities abound, making Japan one of the best countries for expats to work. If you’re an adventurer looking for a completely new experience, Japan will give you everything you can handle.
- Popular for: Business and tech jobs, teaching English, learning Japanese
- Come for the: Cutesy-everything
- Stay for the: fact that Japan offers every imaginable climate
- Recommended program to help you get there: Become a Sales Professional in Japan with Military AutoSource
7. Great Britain
If you are wondering where do American expats go?, Britain will certain be on that list. Britain is great for those not ready for an exotic locale but definitely in need of a change of scenery. Without a language barrier, Great Britain is one of the best countries for expats to work and one of the best English speaking countries to move to. With ancient streets, a storied history and plenty of sites to see, you likely will end your year in Britain wishing for more. Home to london, one of the financial capitals of the world as well as being home to some of the world best universities, living in london can also provide an academic or professional boost on top of all that culture.
- Popular for: Tourism jobs, business internships, English classes
- Come for the: History and Harry Potter references
- Stay for the: incredible pub culture *clinks*
- Recommended program to help you get there: Become an intern at
Beautiful and harsh, chaotic and peaceful, modernizing and traditional, India is constantly in flux and no two days living here are the same. India will give you all the culture you can handle: home to 22 languages, nine recognized religions, and 1,703 recognized political parties, living in India is an incredibly rich experience. Those who live there for a year must navigate a wholly foreign country, climate, and culture. India also has the second most English speakers in the world (and being one of the cheapest places for expats to live) making it one of the best English speaking countries to move to.
- Popular for: Volunteers and English teachers
- Come for the: Spices
- Stay for the: Diverse and complex culture
- Recommended program to help you get there: Fashion intern with
Though famous for the food (and for good reason), there is a lot more to living abroad in Italy for a year than just fantastic pizza. Opportunities to study italian as a language, gain valuable experience in the popular tourism industry, or simply work for room and board while enjoying the countryside, Italy offers tons of opportunities for living abroad for a year. We promise, the weight you will inevitably gain will be totally worth it.
- Popular for: English teaching and cultural exchange, culinary classes, au pairing
- Come for the: Eggplant Parmigiana
- Stay for the: sightseeing and history
- Recommended program to help you get there: Managing and Consulting Analyst with
Other ways to live abroad for a year
Okay, your options are there on the table. You are probably now wondering how the heck you can actually do this thing and move abroad! Below, we have provided some of the most popular ways that people manage to make their international dream a reality and live abroad for a year.
Study abroad is a fantastic way to live abroad for a year and your college probably has an awesome study abroad office on campus who will help you get all set up in a program. By studying abroad through your school, your experience abroad will be largely worry free as your university will provide tons of support during your time abroad.
All that support comes at a price, however, and some people find that price a bit restrictive.
One way to cut down on the costs of studying abroad is to enroll directly into a foreign university. The downside to this approach is you will be without the support of your college during your time abroad. The upside, however, is that your study abroad experience will be far less expensive. By directly enrolling, you have the chance to find your own (cheaper) accommodations by, say, living in a shared house with other international students and won’t be paying for the service and resources of your university back home.
Whether you go through your university or enroll directly, studying abroad is a great way to live abroad for a year.
If you grew up speaking English you may not realize it, but learning to speak and write in English is the doorway to opportunity for people in many countries and because of this, English teachers are in incredibly high demand in countries all over the world. The nice thing is that becoming TEFL or TOFl certified is relatively easy and, once certified, you can basically throw a dart at a map and find an awesome English teaching job.
English teaching jobs are also a great way to get a foot in the door of a country. While you are teaching, you can network with local expats, attend networking events, and research employers in an industry you are interested in. If after six months of teaching you are ready for a career move, you will be all set to make a leap to a new industry.
If you aren’t sure of your professional identity yet or you have already been working for a while and are ready for a change of pace to something more fulfilling, volunteering abroad can be a great option to getting to a new country and figuring out your next step in life. From working with underprivileged children to saving turtles, there are thousands of programs for all durations and locations.
If you are going to have to intern, you might as well intern in a cool place! The GoAbroad site has thousands of internships for high school and college students that allow them to experience a foreign culture and gain valuable work experience. In a globalized economy, the experience abroad is highly valued on the job market, making an intern abroad especially valuable (along with being an awesome personal experience!).
Do your best to find an internship in a country where your industry is particularly large. If you are interested in finance, London would be a great place to intern. If you are interested in conservation, Costa Rica might be the spot for you. And if you are interested in a career in hospitality, France is a fantastic option as a place to complete an internship.
If you have prior experience with spending time abroad or working with foreign cultures, make sure to highlight that in your internship application. Companies will want to see you are comfortable abroad and won’t want to bail halfway through the program.
Finally, the big kahuna: working abroad. Above we listed some of the best countries for expats to work and, in a global economy, there certainly is no shortage of work opportunities. Every industry in the world is competing for talent so no matter what your industry of interest might be, there is a good chance you can do it while living in another country. Working abroad is incredibly rewarding both personally and professionally and it can give you an important boost both in terms of your professional value and you wallet.
If you are currently working, make sure you superior knows you are interested in international opportunities. If you are going to be entering the job market soon, make sure to tell everyone you know on all of your networking sites that you are interested in international work opportunities. Making your desire to work abroad visible to your network is critical when unearthing work abroad opportunities.
It is important to be flexible when looking for work abroad. You may not find what you thought was your dream opportunity or in your dream location, so be willing to compromise with yourself to achieve your ultimate goal of living abroad for year. Ultimately, it is important to first decide for yourself exactly what it is you want to get out of your time abroad, and then choose the work situation that fits best with that vision. If you want to travel cheap, meet people and move around at a whim, then short term gigs are for you. If instead you are hoping to beef up your resume with some impressive work experience while earning a more stable income, a full-time corporate or teaching positions can be great way to get awesome work experience while living abroad.
You CAN live abroad!
We can’t say enough: working abroad is totally possible and, as we have outlined, there are a ton of different avenues and strategies for getting there. Whether you are joining a program or striking out on your own, a student looking to learn a new language or a professional wanting to work in a different culture or a volunteer, there are thousands of opportunities out there just waiting to be found.
Be patient, be persistent, and be flexible with your plans. No matter where end up, living abroad for a year is a rewarding experience that will benefit you personally and professionally for years after.