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Global Engagement

Frequently Asked Questions About Overseas Assignments

Q: How do I learn about international opportunities offered through your office?

A: Assignments are announced on our program page, in agency newsletters, through NIFA national program leaders (and their networks), and to university contacts throughout the United States. International Programs maintains an e-mail list of people interested in overseas assignments. To subscribe, send a message to ipnews@nifa.usda.gov. Include your full name, title, and university affiliation in the message.

Q: I am not affiliated with a university. Does this disqualify me from consideration?

A: The International Programs office exists not only to provide technical assistance to other countries, but also to provide faculty and staff at cooperating universities with international experience that we believe enriches the entire university community. International development is certainly a two-way street, and the personal and professional growth resulting from an overseas assignment is invaluable. Our office was established with this in mind. We cannot, therefore, enter into contractual agreements with individuals or organizations outside this university community. On rare occasions, when an individual not employed by a university was the top candidate for an assignment, July 23, 2007 ced on their rolls for the duration of the assignment. Even in these cases, the individual has usually had a prior connection to that university. Also, given the tremendous human resources available to us through cooperating universities, it is rare that we cannot find qualified personnel within this system.

Q: Do you send university personnel on overseas assignments after they have retired?

A: As mentioned, a mandatory function of our international programs office is to assist in strengthening our university partners by providing international experience for their faculty and staff. These individuals return to the United States with a wealth of knowledge and an improved ability to do their jobs. The university system does not benefit from this experience when a retiree returns home and is not an active member of the university community. For this reason, we give priority to those who are current employees of cooperating universities. If a retiree is used for an overseas assignment, he/she must come back on as a university employee for the duration of the assignment.

Q: How does the selection process for overseas assignments work?

A: We usually request that individuals interested in specific assignments send us a resume. Those whose qualifications most closely match the requirements for the assignment are notified and interviewed.

Q: What are my chances of being selected for an overseas assignment through your office?

A: This, of course, varies a great deal and depends on an individual's background and the nature of the assignments we are trying to fill. An agricultural economist with overseas experience or a county extension director with foreign language skills is much more likely to have opportunities than someone with a background less in demand. On the average, our office may place only about 25-30 people per year on overseas assignments. Given the numbers of people at cooperating universities interested in this type of work, we encourage people to seek other avenues for foreign experience.

Q: How important is the ability to speak a foreign language?

A: Our major recent projects have been in countries such as Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Bulgaria. We have not been able to find many people at cooperating universities who have both the necessary experience and fluency in languages spoken in these countries. Therefore, most of the work is done using full-time translators. Knowledge of a foreign language such as French or Spanish can be a strong advantage (and sometimes a requirement) for assignments in Africa and Latin America.

Q: Must I have overseas experience to be considered for an overseas assignment?

A: While prior work overseas is an advantage, we sometimes place individuals with little or no experience. For some countries and assignments where there are significant cross-cultural obstacles to overcome, this experience becomes more of a priority. We also consider the experience that people have had here in the United States working with diverse clientele when considering their ability to adapt to a foreign culture.

Q: How long are assignments overseas?

A: Assignments can range from 2-3 weeks for very specific activities to a year or longer for project director positions. Most average about 6-8 months; we have found this length of time enables people to assess needs and develop and implement programs to transfer sufficient skills and knowledge to others.

Q: How will my salary and benefits be affected while I am overseas?

A: Salary and benefits continue to be paid by the university with funds that we provide to the university on a reimbursable basis. Individuals on assignment usually receive their base salary increased an additional 10 percent for working overseas. For assignments that extend beyond 42 days, people sometimes receive a “post differential” in addition to their base salary. See Getting Ready for Your Overseas Assignment.

Q: How are arrangements such as passports, visas, and airline tickets handled?

A: Our office provides the logistical support for obtaining passports and visas. We also book and pay for all airline tickets. See Getting Ready for Your Overseas Assignment.

Q: How are in-country living expenses handled, and what will living conditions be like?

A: We use project funds to pay people per diem for serving overseas. Most expenses related to living and working overseas are covered. Living conditions will vary depending on the country and whether you are in a rural or urban setting. Typically, people on assignment live in furnished one- or two-bedroom apartments with hot and cold running water and electricity.

Q: Can spouses or other family members accompany me on my overseas assignment?

A: Yes, but for most assignments (those shorter than 1 year) we cannot cover any expenses related to other family members. Since we cover lodging expenses and the per diem we provide is often more than enough for one person on the local economy, many have found that it is not much more expensive to have a spouse accompany them. The largest out-of-pocket expense is the airline ticket. Our office can provide information that will help individuals decide whether bringing family members is feasible.


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