I am currently in Taiwan where I am studying Chinese for four hours a day. Did I quit my job? No. That’s not possible some would say, but you won’t know until you ask. Others would say that it is not fair, but what in the workplace is totally fair. Some people get paid lots to do a little work poorly and others get paid far less outperforming everyone in a very stressful position. Check out Dilbert. I am going to make sure it is as fair as possible by working remotely and fulfilling my normal obligations.
Growing up I only spoke English like so many Americans. I took Spanish starting in 7th grade to the end of high school and two more semesters in college. I enjoyed learning, but speaking was never easy and that was probably because it wasn’t practiced as much as my book knowledge. In college, I also took Korean, Chinese, Catalan, and Portuguese. I am most confident in Portuguese despite only taking one semester because after college I took a trip to Brazil for two weeks and got to practice all the time. It is still my desire to learn Chinese and the community college course I just finished helped, but it seemed like it would take forever to get comfortable with the language and use it effectively. So in order to best learn Chinese, I thought it was best if I could study in a Chinese speaking country.
I looked into ways to study abroad and had to think of a plan that was reasonable to my employer and manageable for me as well. I have been in my position for two years, so I have been able to show my value through my daily work as well as on several projects. The program that fit best was for the summer in Taiwan. Asking for three months is definitely quite an ask, but asking for a year or permanently would be too crazy although I’ve read of some people successfully doing it. Also, I was not going to ask for them to cover any costs. I would pay for the schooling, housing, flights, everything and would continue my responsibilities. This was only possible because all my work is done on a computer so I don’t need to be present. I preferred to continue working but was flexible to take a leave if necessary.
My boss is a great guy and has always supported me. My request is not a typical thing you can find in an employee handbook. I asked my boss and conveyed my great desire to learn Chinese, my plan to do so, and how it could work for the company. He was certainly shocked when I presented my plan, but he was not dismissive. He worked with the people who had the power to say yes to make it all happen.
The plan was approved and my wife and I had to make all our arrangements. Her job is on the computer but the human interaction of an admin is required so she had to quit, but she will find a new adventure after this adventurous summer. I was able to use United Airlines miles to pay for our flights. We moved out of our condo, sold our furniture, and stashed the rest of the stuff with our parents. Looks like I will definitely save money on car insurance now that it is sitting around. I’m keeping track of my expenses in Taiwan and will share those in a future article.
How much you like a job is very dependent on your boss and coworkers. Take the time to build good relationships and become valuable to your company. Learning Chinese can be a resource to my company as we have offices in Asia and are trying to expand our customers in the region. I want my career to develop internationally and my company has helped me a lot by granting this experience. They encourage international mobility and that may be the next step for me.
There are definitely no rules to this uncharted territory, but I’d recommend being at your company at least a year but the longer the better. If you have been able to become a valuable resource your company will not want to lose you and will probably be more flexible. You should save your favors as long as possible. If you are constantly asking for little things then you are wearing out the people who have to power to give you what you want. Be flexible, come up with an ideal plan and maybe some other ideas which you wouldn’t mind. It is easier to start big and then negotiate downwards.
This article is not just for those looking to work from abroad. You may want to work different hours on Mondays to make it to your kid’s ping pong matches or want your company to pay for a standing desk, but I don’t have to come up with scenarios because I’m sure you already have something in mind. Best of luck to you all.