How to get paid to live abroad and build your CV?

Dec 2, 2018 | Self development, Suggestions

You want to travel but don’t have much money? You want to travel but are afraid of being alone? You want to travel but are afraid to take a break from your studies of career path? It’s completely understandable, but there’s a way around it. I decided to dedicate this post to three Erasmus+ programmes that have served me well in the past and I seriously think (young) people should take more advantage of the opportunities given to them. This is how I have managed to live abroad for almost 2 years with basic needs covered.

Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe. Its budget of €14.7 billion will provide opportunities for over 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain experience, and volunteer abroad.’


Age: 17-30 years old

Duration: 2 weeks to 12 months

Financial support: accommodation + local transport (if needed for work) + insurance + food (or money for food*) + ‘pocket money’* + transport to host country and back 90% covered

(* according to the country’s standard you’re going)

How to apply? Either look for an organisation in your home country to see who are their partners or look for a project you like and find a organisation later. List with accredited organisation are available by country here. Basically it’s like a job interview for a project – you apply the same way with a CV and motivation letter.

Additional: often you can have language classes free of charge, on-arrival and mid-term training (for longer projects) where you can meet other volunteers in the country and have introduction to the country and some useful courses during a weekend or so. You can do it once in your life.


2011 had just started and I was in my last year of high school. I had decided that I had no clue what to go to study in a university and I didn’t feel like figuring it out much either. What did I do? I was determined to go abroad, but was looking for a ‘safe’ option, so European Voluntary Service (EVS) seemed to be perfect. What do you mean safe? That I would have a purpose, some security regarding my work and also some people to share my journey with. I aimed to spend the summer after graduation in Estonia and leave for almost a year, to be back for university next year.

Somehow I ended up in Bulgaria for 11 months. How? Well, to be honest I didn’t have much on CV – musical or artistic abilities or some useful hobby for example. I didn’t have any specific skills to put to use, so I was just happy someone took me. I didn’t really have specific expectation regarding the field of work. If you ask me what kind of projects you can have? All kind, to be honest, but it’s easiest if you go for social projects connected with welfare and disadvantages, but there’s also about environmental topics and artistic ones. My official topic was forum theatre but in the end it turned up to be a rather small part. Mainly I taught English and handicrafts to Roma minorities in the surrounding villages and had activities in kindergartens and orphanages.

I lived and worked together with three other volunteers from Germany, Ukraine and Greece. As I celebrated my 19th birthday just after arriving and was first time so far away from home, I grew immensely during that period of time. Trust me, work ethics and expectations are very different regarding the personality types and countries, but also being young, you take everything personally. Having real responsibility for the first time in my life was sometimes challenging but also standing up to your self regarding work assignments and their assessment was something that taught be a lot for the future.

I managed to travel a lot during the 11 months spent there – Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Hungary and of course Bulgaria. I think this is the best part about living in a new part of Europe that you manage to visit the surrounding countries for fraction of the cost you would spend for flying from home. Also, you have a possibility to make lifelong friends, as you’re going through similar things and share a lot of memories. One of my best friends still today is a German girl Marina whom I shared an apartment, so many memories, shared responsibilities and a lot of wine during our stay in Bulgaria (and Balkans).

I always get questions about money, so the pocket money is for example in Austria 110€, Belgium 105€, Croatia 60€, Greece 95€, Italy 115€, Romania 60€, Sweden 115€, United Kingdom 150€. For example, my food money in Bulgaria in 2011 was 100€, so in case the receiving organisation doesn’t prove you with food daily, they’ll give you money for it every month, according to the living standard of the country.


Age: you have to be enrolled into university

Duration: 3 months (or a trimester) to 12 months (you can benefit from an exchange several times during your one study cycle (e.g. bachelor), but it can’t exceed 12 months in total)

Financial support: monthly scholarship* of which 80% is sent to you at once before the start of the exchange and you’ll receive the other 20% after the exchange and filing all the documentation, e.g. for Estonia it’s around 500€ per month.

(* usually divided into expensive and less expensive countries + is different according to your home country’s living standard)

How to apply? Your home university and the receiving one must have an inter-institutional agreement. The list with all the partners are usually up online. In my case my university had twice a year dates to apply and they make their selection regarding how many spots they have available for every university. Afterwards being accepted, the receiving university will have to accept you as well.

Additional: you will not have an extra tuition in the receiving university or fees for exams etc. and in some cases free of charge of discounted price language classes are provided. Every city/university has their Erasmus Student Network (and some other organisations sometimes) that offer tons of different activities, e.g. dance classes, day trips etc. It gives you an easy chance to meet people and have something to do outside classes. It’s all about being active in the beginning.

What’s my story?

I applied for a student exchange in 2014 in Spain, but only discovered later that they required B2 Spanish and I had A0. Btw, many programmes in Italy, France, Spain and other bigger countries are in the local language, so keep that in mind that they might require B2 or higher level to attend the courses. So, after being kind of lost and looking for a way out in 2016, I decided to apply for an semester abroad and my requirements were simple – as far and warm as possible and Cyprus was fitting the description.

I left in January 2017 for 4 months to Nicosia, Cyprus. Not the be a clichée, but it really made a huge difference in my life. I had never had a tight friends group but rather friends I hanged out separately or were part of their group. This was the first time I had such a fun group of friends who all fit together. I travelled a lot on the island and rediscovered photography for myself. I’m not a super emotional person usually but I literally cried after arriving home and felt a piece of me was left on the island, but to be more exact, with the people I met there. I don’t think in most parts student exchange is about the academic knowledge you gain, but the way you discover so much about yourself, make memories of a lifetime and find people who can stay in your circle forever.


Age: you have to be enrolled into university or enrolled during your application period and have the internship as a recent graduate (like I did)

Duration: 2 months to 12 months (you can benefit from an exchange several times during your one study cycle (e.g. bachelor), but it can’t exceed 12 months in total)

Financial support: monthly scholarship* of which 80% is sent to you at once before the start of the exchange and you’ll receive the other 20% after the exchange and filing all the documentation + you can get salary for your work (depends on your agreement with the company or organisation), e.g. for Estonia it’s 650-700€ per month.

(* usually divided into expensive and less expensive countries + is different according to your home country’s living standard)

How to apply? You find company or organisation connected to your studies or look for a database that shows vacancies. I found mine from Erasmusintern where you can make a choice by country, level, topic, duration etc.

Additional: you will have to pay for your own international health insurance (EU health card is not enough) which will be demanded from you before going to the exchange. You can take part of the below mentioned ESN activities as well, even if you’re not a student anymore.

What’s my story?

After coming back from Cyprus and not managing to finish my thesis, I had one semester to finish off this last stretch of my bachelor’s degree. I decided to make the most of my study period and apply for a recent graduate internship while I was enrolled. So, I left two days after successfully defending my thesis. A year after going to Cyprus I took off to Alicante, Spain in January 2018 at first for 4 months and then extended it for 2 extra months. I was working in a language school and gave English classes to both children and adults.

Although I don’t really see myself as an English teacher in the future, it’s a really useful skill to have, especially when travelling/living abroad. All around the world, language schools and locals look for English classes, so having previous experience is always a bonus. Also, I think nowadays it’s such a benefit to have this international working experience in most fields, as it shows you are able to adapt into new environments but also to cope with different personalities and expectations.

I think the only ‘negative’ side effect I can find about this internship is not starting to earn money right after university, but even this might not be true, if you’re willing to put in the work to find a position that pays you. For that you probably need previous experience, but still it’s possible. And why not use it as a chance to see new culture, get work experience, living abroad perspective and meet tons of new people, without setting yourself back too much financially.

I strongly recommend to apply for an ESN card, as it gives you in general discounts in cafes and also their own activities, but more importantly it allows you to book 8 times one way ticket -15% with Ryanair if you do it 28 days ahead + have free 20kg checked in luggage.


Why am I writing this post as nobody asked me to do it? Because I think these living abroad, experiencing something new and still building your CV, gives young people so much value. And yes, the grants do not cover your expenses, but they surely cover your accommodation and basic food needs. All above that already depends on you how much you spend. If possible, just save some money because during your stay you’ll meet people with so many different ideas and find more than enough ways to spend your money on trips and activities.


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