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Working & Living Abroad

Matt Padgett was a medical student until he found his international interest, which pushed his education in a new direction.
Working & Living Abroad

Working & Living Abroad

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OSU – International Student Organization


Rocket Africa

Show Details

Show 1704: Working & Living Abroad
Air Date: January 22, 2017



Rob McClendon: Well, more than a third of Americans between 18 and 31 are currently living with their parents according to a recent Pew research report. That’s a record 21.6 million millennials still living at home, a number that is reflective of several factors, one of which is unemployment remains high for newly minted college graduates. But the young people in our next segment have literally gone to the ends of the earth for a job. Expat is short for the word expatriate. That describes anyone who’s a citizen of one country but chooses to work in another. It’s an interesting career option and one that a growing number of young people are taking. In a team report, we meet some young trailblazers whose career options lie abroad. Austin Moore starts us off.

Austin Moore: College was an eye opening experience for Matt Padgett.

Matt Padgett: I became good friends with a group of Indian students, and I remember they, they invited me to the International Student Organization’s international dance party. And it was like, it was like having your world, like, totally shifted.

Austin: Originally focused on medicine, Padgett found his international interest pushed his education in a new direction.

Padgett: In a lot of developing countries, the problem is they don’t have enough food, they have a lack of clean water, you know, that’s really more of an economics situation.

Austin: So Matt got his masters in agricultural economics before heading overseas. Today, he teaches economics to high school students in China’s Shandong province.

Padgett: So as I’ve been able to, you know, introduce ideas that maybe they don’t see on the news, maybe things they don’t hear in their house, and present questions and concepts that might challenge them as they go forth and potentially be leaders in China or abroad. And I think, you know, that does have the power to change, and so I do think I am having a positive impact.

Austin: The State Department does not release specific numbers of nonmilitary American citizens living and working abroad, but some estimates put the number at roughly 9 million. Clearly, stories like Padgett’s are not unique. In fact, they often share the common threads of passion and opportunity. These are the reasons Tulsan Chloe Crocker found herself drawn to the East African country of Tanzania.

Chloe Crocker: When I went there the first time, I was just overwhelmed by the people and how kind they are and how generous they are and the sense of community that they create.

Austin: Focused on educational programs, Crocker worked for 4-H Tanzania and then the Foundation for Tomorrow before moving to Ghana and working for AgriCorps, an organization of agricultural volunteers created by former National FFA President and Oklahoma State graduate Trent McKnight.

Trent McKnight: AgriCorps is a Peace Corps type organization that takes young American agriculture professionals, young people with a background, with a college degree in agriculture, 4-H or FFA experience and production agriculture background, to be ag teachers working with young people in developing countries with the purpose of transferring agriculture technology through youth into adult farming populations, much like agriculture development happened in this country over 100 years ago.

Austin: Development work such as this is a common role for Americans working in the developing world -- and for good reason.

Crocker: No matter what your skill set is, there’s a way you can contribute in a developing country. If you are a contractor or you are an expert in finance or you are a teacher, there are a million different ways that you can contribute over there. And so there is a lot of diversity in job opportunities.

Austin: But the nature of the developing world is that it is developing, and so opportunity goes well beyond charity.

Crocker: People are recognizing that Africa has a competitive economy. They’re the fastest growing economy in the world. And they have a lot of opportunity for business and investment. And so they need more people like that who are coming in to Africa, not seeing it as a place in need, but seeing it as an opportunity to create.

Austin: People like Tyler Schooley.

Tyler Schooley: Once you figure out how it works, there’s a lot of opportunity to exploit from a business standpoint and then also from a social impact standpoint, where there’s a lot of people still in need and especially in need of jobs.

Austin: Schooley has Rocket Africa, supplying promotional items in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.

Schooley: So we serve some of the top brands in East Africa. These are telecomm companies, these are beverage companies and large beer brands, as well as fuel companies and banks. I really want to position us to be a Pan-African company, so I’m seeing where we can serve multinational brands across the continent.

Austin: Though Schooley warns translating a U.S. business model to eastern Africa is no small task.

Schooley: It’s tough, and it’s a steep learning curve. Lots of failures – small failures after small failure, just trying to figure out how it works because it’s an entirely different landscape. And it only comes with time and experience that you really learn how to navigate it efficiently.

Austin: Learning that doesn’t stop with business skills.

Crocker: Anytime you remove yourself from your comfort zone then you are going to change as a person, change your views, meet amazing people that you would never meet before. In addition to that, you will have something on your resume that is so completely unique and have developed skills like being flexible, learning how to work with people that are totally different from you in some ways, learn how to work in a culture that is not your own. And those are skills that are irreplaceable and can fit into any organization or job you do after that.

Padgett: You know, does it make career look different? Yeah, possibly. And does it make certain things more difficult? Yeah, it might. But I think in the long run you’ll never say, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t gone to this place. Or I hadn’t traveled here.” You know, you’re always going to say, “Awe, I wish I had taken that opportunity. What would my life look like if I had visited this place?”

Austin: And sometimes, there are other rewards.

Padgett: I was definitely ready to start coming back and seeing what life for me here in the United States, and I met a girl. And her name is Jong Lee. Her English name is Lily. And I was like, you know, I think I need to stay here a little bit longer. And as we got to know each other over the next month or two, I said, you know, I think this is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. And so we’ve been together for three years. We just got married in May, and so that’s kind of, you know, why I’ve been in China for the past five years.

Austin: Perhaps the greatest adventure of them all.