Considerations for Managing International Assignments

Posted on May 7, 2019 | 0 comments

Considerations for Managing International Assignments

What is the hardest aspect of relocating to a foreign location? Moving to a new country for work or an internship is an exciting prospect for most: a chance for travel, exposure to new cultures, professional growth, international opportunities. But as in the case with most big changes, opportunities are accompanied by challenges. Considering the needs of individuals and families as they transition to a new location is vital for fostering a positive experience.

I recently attended the annual AWAG Leadership conference in Germany and had the chance to catch a presentation about transitioning families from Jennifer Pasquale, creator of the website.  The conference was full of active duty military, government service, and embassy spouses currently living, working and volunteering in countries around Europe and Africa.

The topic at hand was how to best sponsor incoming families as they relocate to new countries.  What are their primary, immediate needs? What information do they need most? What is important as time goes on? What outreach can ensure a smoother transition and promote better working relationships?

Two lists were devised: What are the most pressing needs of a new family 30 days after arriving to a new country? How about after 90 days? Understanding how needs evolve is important for organizations to establish systems that provide effective support.


30 Days: The most important aspects upon arrival mostly related to basic survival and logistics:

  • Housing: Help may be needed to understanding leases, establishing a safe residence, and establishing utilities. There are often questions about how to receive household goods if using a moving service or understand where to purchase items if necessary.
  • Childcare/School issues: Ensuring reliable information about schools and childcare options may be the first issue on those transitioning with families.  New arrivals may need help finding a babysitter immediately as they work to establish themselves.
  • Transportation/Getting Around: Different countries have different driving rules, to include changing the correct side of the road for driving. Public transportation is often the best option but can be initially daunting to use.
  • Internet/Cellphone/Communications: People rely on connectivity, but in some countries establishing internet service can be a lengthy process. Help in finding the best cell phone service/deals is also welcome.
  • Language: While there is no shortcut to learning a new language, help with some basic phrases (at least “hello” and “thank you”) can be welcome.
  • Short-term Health Issues: Understanding how to locate a reliable pharmacy and where to turn in case of an emergency provides peace of mind, even if these services aren’t immediately necessary.
  • Passports and Documents: New travelers are not always clear on what they need. Information on how to handle visa/passport/other documentation is useful.

Many of these issues can be handled with good information, often given prior to arrival. Information should be provided in a variety of forms: A good welcome packet can offer a wealth of information and be provided in print or online formats. Access to relevant social media groups is often a good source of information. Company or educational institution websites can provide relevant support. A personal local contact can also provide an immediate answer, especially during a moment of stress, that can greatly decrease confusion for a transitioning family.


90 Days: After immediate needs are met, other issues arise that should also be addressed. These tend to be long-term issues that aren’t as easily resolved with a quick answer:

  • Establishing Support Networks: It can be difficult to find the friendships and neighborhood relations that may have come easily in one’s home country.
  • Spousal Employment and Continuing Education: Accompanying family members may find establishing meaningful work or education a challenge.
  • Long-term health issues: Medical coverage and local practices may vary greatly from what individuals previously experienced. Support for family members with exceptional needs may be lacking.
  • Adjusting to new expectations: There is joy in learning the daily routines of a new country, but adjusting can be demanding. Differences in recycling, appliances, food, personal space, paying bills, to name a few, may all seem overwhelming at this stage.
  • Reality vs Expectations: Most who relocate to a new country for a job are excited about the prospect: the chance to experience a new culture, opportunities for travel, acquiring/perfecting language and other professional skills. The day-to-day reality can be very different from the anticipated vision. The 90-day point is often when this disjuncture hits home.

It is obvious the information is vital, but the impact of having a sponsor to welcome a new employee/intern and their family is significant. A survey of those in attendance asked them, on a scale of 1 to 10, to rate their sponsorship experience. The majority of the group answered below a 6, and indicated a strong correlation between a lack of a sponsor and a rough initial transition period. Those with a positive sponsorship experience indicated a much easier transition.

Understanding these needs and managing expectations is important for establishing a good foundation that will result in an employee or intern that is a productive and functioning part of a team. Our next blog will take a look at some best practices for being a good sponsor, so stay tuned!

Interested in more information on how to support transitioning employees and interns?

Passport Career provides more detailed career information and extensive resources about networking, finding an international job or internship, country-specific business protocol and culture, alternative career opportunities, writing country-specific resumes/CVs, cover letters and interview strategies for other countries. If your university/college, organization, company, embassy, library, or other institution would like access to our country portfolios and global career training program (50,000+ pages of expert content for 90+ countries and 275+ cities) to share with your students, employees, spouses/partners, and others managing a national or international career transition, please click here to contact us (or send email to: regarding a free, live, online demo and details on how to obtain a license to access Passport Career. Individuals may also contact us for trial access to our portal.


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