Working Holidays & Other Ways Singaporeans Can Live and Work Abroad Without Going Broke

working holidays singaporeans

Take a walk around Raffles Place during lunchtime, and you’ll see grim looks on the faces of harried office workers as they rush to and from the office.

Just going by their facial expressions, you’d think none of them actually wanted to be there.

And you’d be right. A 2016 online study showed that 42% of Singaporeans want to migrate, while a 2017 survey conducted by the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper’s community found that about 7 in 10 Singaporean millennials are willing to move abroad to advance their careers.

But many Singaporeans see working overseas as something that’s reserved for upper middle class kids whose parents can afford to send them abroad for their studies.

Not so. Here’s how you can enjoy an overseas stint without paying obscene amounts of money.


Get a degree in a country where university education is free

Studying at a local university is now quite expensive. So expensive, in fact, that it might actually be cheaper to study in a country where university education is free, even when you take into account rent and other living costs.

Singapore citizens admitted to NUS in 2017 will generally pay annual fees of about $8,200 to $28,400 a year. Note that this is just school fees and doesn’t account for the cost of transportation and, well, being a university student with a social life.

By contrast, if you were to study at a free university in, say, Berlin, you’d be looking at an annual cost of about SGD $13,300 to 21,000. That includes the cost of accommodation, food and pocket money. Click here to see how we arrived at that calculation.


Working holiday in Australia or New Zealand

The Singapore government has been famously reluctant to set up working holiday agreements that enable Singaporeans to work abroad, while at the same time running a Work Holiday Programme so that foreigners can come and work here.

So we were surprised to hear that Singaporeans under 31 will now be able to take part in Australia’s Work & Holiday Visa Programme. You’ll have 12 months to enter Australia and look for a job, and happily you’ll discover that even blue collar jobs can pay quite handsomely there thanks to the minimum wage.

There is one other working holiday visa open to Singaporeans going to New Zealand, although the requirements are much more stringent. To qualify for the Singapore Work Exchange Programme Visa, which is valid for 6 months, you must be no older than 30 and either still a student or have graduated no more than 3 years ago.


Volunteer and teach English overseas

Medium- to long-term volunteer stints can give you the chance to live in a country for free, and in exchange you might even be paid a small stipend that can cover your living expenses.

While that’s certainly not going to make you rich, it can be a great way to contribute to a community and experience their way of life without having to spend loads of money.

The Singapore International Foundation matches volunteers with overseas positions that range from a few days to several months long. Right now they have a Words on Wheels (WOW) programme where volunteers organise classes on reading, English and IT skills for children in Yogyakarta and Ho Chi Minh City.

You can also look for volunteer opportunities with organisations that operate in the country you wish to visit. For instance, if you’d like to volunteer in Chile, English Opens Doors is an organisation that recruits volunteers and trains them to teach English as a foreign language.


WWOOF on a farm for free food and lodging

Another option, if you are looking to immerse into local culture and get away from tourist centres, is to WWOOF on local farms. WWOOF, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a platform where volunteers can look for local farms to work at. Although the name states farms, it could be anything ranging from horse stables to strawberry farms.

Although you won’t get to earn money like on a working holiday, you get free food and lodging, which is quite a cost-free way to live overseas.

WWOOF Japan, WWOOF New Zealand and WWOOF Korea are particularly popular among Singaporeans. You have to pay a yearly subscription fee (USD$55, or $75.50) to join as a member before you can browse the farms that you want to work at. Note that their websites are separate entities so when you pay for the yearly subscription for WWOOF Korea, it does not entitle you to membership in WWOOF Japan.


Do an overseas internship

Getting a job abroad isn’t that easy, especially if you’re not exactly some software engineering whiz.

But getting an internship, on the other hand, is a bit easier, even more so if you can afford to accept an unpaid one.

Organisations see you as less of a risk since you’ll only be there for a few weeks or months, and you won’t need as much experience as you would for a full blown job.

There are a number of organisations that can help to match you to potential employers, such as AIESEC and Go Overseas.

Have you ever lived or worked overseas? Share your experiences in the comments!