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Best STEM majors if I want to work abroad in Asia

symmbowLsymmbowL 32 replies28 threads Junior Member
Just curious about which STEM majors would be the most and least useful if I want to pursue jobs abroad in Asia (likely China or South Korea) after receiving my bachelor's. Obviously, I'll be studying the target country's language while in school on the side, but I have interests in Mathematics and Physics (specifically Astrophysics). Would these be bad degrees to obtain in terms of job availability? What are some other good options?
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Replies to: Best STEM majors if I want to work abroad in Asia

  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers 3644 replies85 threads Senior Member
    edited June 20
    I commend you on your ambition. Those majors seem fine for work in Asia IMHO. As long as you're interested in math, also perhaps look at data analysis or computer science.

    One thing that you can bring to the table that others may not be able to is the ability to bridge two cultures and two languages. You would be an asset for a company who needs to communicate fluently in English--instructions, contracts, reading complicated English and summarizing it into Chinese/Korean, because while many people in China and Korea speak and read English, they will not quite get all of the cultural subtleties. You will. There's a famous story about how Chevy wanted to sell a new model of car in Mexico. The car was given the brilliant name of a new star, a Nova. In Mexico, that translated into "doesn't go." This is an unsubtle and old story about the sort of things you might encounter, but perhaps on a technical level. You would understand idioms for example.

    The reverse is also true. The more you work in Asia the more you'd be able to help bridge the gap for US companies or government there.

    One thing that would work in your favor is fluency. Generally people who want to work in Asia do better in direct relation to their fluency with the language. And cultural fluency--how comfortable are you in cultural-specific situations and how well you interpret what's going on.

    The best way to accomplish that is to spend a lot of time there. If you were to take a gap year before college and go just to study the language, so much the better. If you were to take a junior year abroad, great. Then if you don't have a lot of loans going back after college, even better. You didn't mention Japan, but FYI there's a program with Japan called JET and it involves living in Japan and teaching English there. China and Korea also have opportunities to "teach English" both in schools and in corporate settings. Proceed with caution, of course, but those opportunities exist. One person I knew went to China after college, bar-tended for three years, became culturally and linguistically fluent, and then went on to grad school. Moving from those positions to ones closer to your chosen field can be done. To do so, you would need to look at the specifics: requirements of the country re hiring practices (you can't do certain jobs in certain countries as a foreigner fyi), the laws might be different for different field. Current political issues may affect current practices. Visa issues also--but all of that can be solved as you move forward. The main idea here is to get your major under your belt and then concentrate on language and cultural fluency.

    US companies that want to operate there are always looking for smart, capable people who are language-fluent and culture-fluent.

    Best of luck.
    edited June 20
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  • symmbowLsymmbowL 32 replies28 threads Junior Member
    Really informative, thanks!
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  • juilletjuillet 12812 replies164 threads Super Moderator
    What do you want to *do* in Asia? Asian countries have economies that have lots of different kinds of roles in them. You could go into business, engineering, tech, finance, education, policy, international relations, politics, arts & cultural exchange...what do you want to do?
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