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  • International Awareness

    Hi, I’m a 20 year old female wanting to pursue a career in law enforcement after college. I’m leaving in two weeks to spend the next two years out of the country backpacking alone around Asia and Africa and studying abroad in Australia. I was curious if these experiences abroad were beneficial at all towards being a cop or obtaining a federal position. I’m volunteering at schools and orphanages in four countries and thought that the independence and community work might support my motives and characteristics of wanting to be a police officer…? (Or would they just disregard it?)

    Would being more internationally aware and having experience working in troubled/third world countries look beneficial or impressive to a department or the DEA? I’m doing it for personal growth and insight into how differently others live and not for the resume or career reasons, but I know the DEA has offices in plenty of other countries and thought this might establish ability to interact with whomever and the desire to do so.

    Thanks for reading ~

  • #2
    Just remember that for the two years you are abroad, that makes it harder to do a BG. Traveling doesn't do much. It will expose you to other cultures which may enhance your ability to work outside of the comfort zone.

    If you travel as a "Lone Backpacker" through areas that are known drug, terrorism, or other problem areas, you will have to explain why you did this and account for your time there. That will flag you.

    Volunteering is good, but it just means that you volunteer. It isnt' work experience, and again, a BI won't be able to speak to them and get information on your work product.

    Make sure you register with the US Embassy in every country you trek through, at least someone will know where you are.
    Free Deke O'Mally!!!


    • #3
      Like the above poster said, make sure you go through the appropriate channels and keep in touch with the government.

      That being said, personally I believe traveling helped me get hired. I did Semester at Sea (semesteratsea.org) while in college and the places I went, the people I met, and the experiences I had made me who I am today.

      I was put in a ton of situations which allowed me to demonstrate my character and my suitability for a career in LE. I won't go into all the examples, but I was attacked by a machete-wielding madman in Costa Rica and was in the middle of a drug deal gone bad in Peru. Stuff like that allowed me to demonstrate that I can handle myself in a life-or-death situation and I can keep my calm under fire.

      I'm not saying those types of things will happen to you, but the biggest challenge facing someone of your age is the lack of life experience.

      My opinion...there is no better way to gain life experience than to travel.

      Best of Luck!!!
      Negative Ghostrider, the pattern is full.


      • #4
        Wish I had the money to do all that stuff when i got out of college. Stay safe in your travels.


        • #5
          Backpacking alone through the third world? Forget a background investigation, you ain't coming back...
          Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

          I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq


          • #6
            Originally posted by WORLD_TRVLR View Post
            .....I’m leaving in two weeks to spend the next two years out of the country backpacking alone around Asia and Africa and studying abroad in Australia............
            When you arrive in Australia, remember this piece of advice,

            The Confusing Country by Jeremy Lee


            Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the bottom half of the planet. It is recognisable from orbit because of many unusual features, including what at first looks like an enormous bite taken out of its southern edge; a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep into the surrounding sea. Geologists assure us that this is simply an accident of geomorphology and plate tectonics, but they still call it the 'Great Australian Bight' proving that not only are they covering up a more frightening theory, but they can't spell either.

            The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the place. Where other land masses and sovereign lands are classified as either continent, island, or country, Australia is considered all three. Typically, it is unique in this.


            The second confusing things about Australia are the animals. They can be divided into three categories: poisonous, odd, and sheep. It is true that of the ten most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has nine of them. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the nine most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them. However, there are curiously few snakes, possibly because the spiders have killed them all. But even the spiders won't go near the sea (see below). Any visitors should be careful to check inside boots (before putting them on) under toilet seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else. A stick is very useful for this task.

            Strangely, it tends to be the second class of animals (the odd) that are more dangerous. The creature that injures the most people each year is the common wombat. It is nearly as ridiculous as its name, and spends its life digging holes in the ground, in which it hides. During the night it comes out to eat worms and grubs.

            The wombat injures people in two ways: first, the animal is indestructible. Digging holes in the hard Australian clay builds muscles that outclass Olympic weightlifters. At night, they often wander the roads. Semi-trailers (road trains) have hit them at high speed, with all nine wheels on one side, and this merely makes them very annoyed. They express this by snorting, glaring, and walking away. Alas, to smaller cars, the wombat becomes an asymmetrical high-speed launching pad, with results that can be imagined, but not adequately described.

            The second way the wombat injures people relates to its burrowing behaviour. If a person happens to put their hand down a wombat hole, the wombat will feel the disturbance and think 'Ho! My hole is collapsing!' at which it will brace its muscled legs and push up against the roof of its burrow with incredible force, to prevent its collapse. Any unfortunate hand will be crushed, and attempts to withdraw will cause the wombat to simply bear down harder. The unfortunate will then bleed to death through their crushed hand as the wombat prevents him from seeking assistance. This is considered the third most embarrassing known way to die, and Australians don't talk about it much.

            At this point, we would like to mention the platypus, estranged relative of the mammal, which has a duck-bill, otter's tail, webbed feet, lays eggs, detects its aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel, and has venomous barbs attached to its hind legs, thus combining all 'typical' Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.


            The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants. First, a short history: some time around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the north. They ate all the available food, and a lot of them died. The ones that survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man's proper place in the scheme of things, and spiders. They settled in, and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories.

            Then, around 200 years ago, Europeans arrived in boats from the north. More accurately, European convicts were sent over, with a few deranged and stupid people in charge. They tried to plant their crops in autumn (failing to take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from the top half of the planet to the bottom), ate all their food, and a lot of them died. About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever since.

            It is interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider themselves vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they can lie, cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilized culture, they say) - whereas all the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left in the middle of a vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick.

            Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on an extended holiday and became Australians. The changes are subtle, but deep, caused by the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet, where a person can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the core of their essence, their reasons for being, and the necessity of checking inside your boots every morning for fatal surprises. They also picked up the most finely-tuned sense of irony in the world, and the Aboriginal gift for making up stories. Be warned.

            And then...

            There is also the matter of the beaches.

            Australian beaches are simply the nicest and best in the entire world. Although anyone actually venturing into the sea will have to contend with sharks, stinging jellyfish, stonefish (a fish which sits on the bottom of the sea, pretends to be a rock, and has venomous barbs sticking out of its back that will kill you just from the pain) and surfboarders. However, watching a beach sunset is worth the risk of all of these.


            As a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst, and wombats, you would expect Australians to be a dour lot. Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful, and always willing to share a kind word with a stranger.

            Faced with insurmountable odds and impossible problems, they smile disarmingly, and reach for a stick. Major engineering feats have been performed with sheets of corrugated iron, string, and mud.

            Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the 'Grass is greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome, and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence. They call the land 'Oz', 'Godzone' (a verbal contraction of 'God's Own Country') and 'Best bloody place on earth, bar none, strewth'. The irritating thing about this is they may be right.

            There are some traps for the unsuspecting traveller, though. Do not under any circumstances suggest that the beer is imperfect, unless you are comparing it to another kind of Australian beer. Do not wear a Hawaiian shirt. Religion and politics are safe topics of conversation (Australians don't care too much about either) but sport is a minefield. The only correct answer to 'So, howdya' like our country, eh?' is 'Best [insert your own regional swear word here] country in the world!'

            It is very likely that, on arriving, some cheerful Australians will 'adopt' you, and on your first night will take you to a pub where Australian beer is served. Despite the obvious danger, do not refuse. It is a form of initiation rite. You will wake up late the next day with an astonishing hangover, a foul taste in your mouth, and wearing strange clothes. Your hosts will usually make sure you get home, and wave off any legal difficulties with 'It's his first time in Australia, so we took him to the pub', to which the policeman will sagely nod and close his notebook. Be sure to tell the story of these events to every other Australian you encounter, adding new embellishments at every stage, and noting how strong the beer was. Thus you will be accepted into this unique culture.

            Most Australians are now urban dwellers, having discovered the primary use of electricity, which is air-conditioning and refrigerators.

            Typical Australian Sayings


            It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

            She'll be right.

            And down from Kosiosco, where the pine clad ridges raise their torn and rugged battlements on high, where the air is clear is crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze at midnight in the cold and frosty sky. And where, around the overflow, the reed beds sweep and sway to the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide. The Man from Snowy River is a household word today, and the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

            Tips to Surviving Australia

            Don't ever put your hand down a hole for any reason whatsoever.

            We mean it.

            The beer is stronger than you think, regardless of how strong you think it is.

            Always carry a stick.


            Do not attempt to use any Australian slang, unless you are a trained linguist and good in a fistfight.

            Thick socks.

            Take good maps. Stopping to ask directions only works when there are people nearby.

            Don't swim in crocodile-infested rivers.

            If you leave the urban areas, carry several litres of water with you at all times, or you will die. In the outback, water is life.

            Even in the most embellished stories told by Australians, there is always a core of truth that it is unwise to ignore.


            • #7
              Hope you'll read John Kelly's post. While your planned activities are certainly interesting, and quite possibly dangerous, they won't really give you much of an advantage in applying to a LE agency. This would be especially true of a state/local Civil Service agency. Invariably, the first requirement in these processes is a high(mid to high nineties)score on the written exam. All the traveling in far off venues, volunteer hours at orphanages, etc, will be of no value to you should you not score sufficiently high in the writen exam. Please understand that I'm not attempting to belittle either you, or your plans. I sincerely hope they work out, and that you'll return safely. Good luck.


              • #8
                Yeah, I think youre adventures would be more applicable to work within the intelligence community and state department. I can imagine how Asia and Africa exposure could be beneficial to the DEA as well. I have no experience with these types of agencies.

                I can't see it meaning a lot to a municipal or state agency. Are you sure you don't want to try the Peace Corps or something? I wouldn't go to a third world country let alone hike around one by myself.


                • #9
                  JohnKelly, I really appreciate the post - but take any place in the world, focus on some negatives, use the right words and I’m sure it could come out sounding too crazy, or scary, or whatever, to go to (I’ve heard it done with where I live and its simply far from realistic on a day to day basis)…I’m not trying to sound naïve about traveling in third world areas either, and I do have experience doing it alone throughout Thailand this past summer, but I’m glad I asked since I haven’t heard some of these responses before pertaining to law enforcement and now I can at least prepare and plan accordingly.

                  When it comes down to it nothing can deter me from traveling, (same as wanting to be a cop), but I’m also not going to rely on something like this two year experience abroad to put me through a hiring process – I realize there are thousands of higher priorities they’ll want a little more relevant to the job. : )

                  “The biggest challenge facing someone of your age is the lack of life experience. My opinion...there is no better way to gain life experience than to travel.” MvExplorer - Agreed. I can take care of myself, and although it sounds like traveling may not reflect much in police work, I know it builds character and maturity so at the very least I think it will (and has) make/made me stronger.

                  “Are you sure you don't want to try the Peace Corps or something?” ArkansasFan24 - Wayyyy too excited to work as a cop.


                  • #10
                    First, don't misunderstand what I am about to say. If I had the time and money to take the trip you are about to embark on, I would have put the start of my law enforcement career on hold and gone around the world in a heartbeat. However, the value of that experience to your competitiveness in the law enforcement job market is little.

                    Civil service testing at the state, county and city level is not like private industry, where you can put on a good show and BS your way through with an impressive resume. Instead, the civil service selection process is very rigid and structured. Most candidates are scored on the number of correct answers they give to questions on written and oral exams that measure their knowledge of and actual ability to do the job. The fact that you have traveled the world, volunteered in orphanages or had all sorts of life experiences won't mean a thing if on the test, you can't tell them the difference between assault and battery, how many avocados you have to steal before you have grand theft, how you would handle a bar fight, your vision for community policing, or what you would do if you stop a drunk driver and find out it's the mayor.

                    A lot of federal jobs do score you on a resume, however they tell you ahead of time what knowledge, skills and abilities you will be rated on and you craft an individual resume to spotlight those area in your background, The is no extra credit for things outside those areas they are seeking.

                    The mistake a lot of applicants make is they do not read the exam announcement for the position they are seeking. Buried in the fine print is a wealth of knowledge that usually tells you what desirable traits they are looking for, what you will be tested on and how you will be scored. Those are the areas you need to concentrate on if you want to score high, because hiring is done in the order of your score. Highest score gets picked first, next highest score gets picked second, etc.

                    As far as resumes are concerned, they are considered an adventure in creative writing.

                    Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere


                    • #11
                      At the local level it will probably not pay any benefits. It may help you establish some relationships if you have an immigrant population from one of the countries you visited. I think the feds would appreciate your world travels a little more, but since you are not doing them as a resume builder, it really doesn't matter that much. Even the state department will tell you that you are about to do something very foolish. Life has no value where you are going and white slavery and kidnapping for ransom are very real.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ateamer View Post
                        Backpacking alone through the third world? Forget a background investigation, you ain't coming back...
                        I have to concur with the above. Why? You might want to consider doing the same in the good ole USA or perhaps Europe. Australia maybe but Africa/Asia? Complete cesspools and in this day and age, you might as well play Russian Roulette with a fully loaded six gun.

                        Are you not keeping up with world affairs? People in these parts of the planet are not the biggest fans of Americans. Get in a bind over there and you're toast. I would strongly advise a serious reconsideration.

                        If you're bound and determined, please PM me your information in order for me to take out an insurance policy on you. Much better odds than Lotto.
                        Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun.
                        And you might meet 'em both if you show up here not welcome son.


                        • #13
                          Sounds like quite the adventure! If I was on a hiring board I believe any type of volunteer work would be looked upon favorably...
                          Retired 02/01/13


                          • #14
                            I have done lots of research, like where women shouldn’t go alone (American or not), and how to not offend each encountered culture. I guess it sounds pretty sketch from all of your point of views, not having more details, but while in Malaysia and Indonesia my time is packed with planned stuff; like climbing a 14,000 ft mountain with other backpackers and living and working at an orphanage that seriously needs help – so I’m not wondering aimlessly here looking like a dumb tourist in the wrong place.

                            I guess it doesn’t help my case that my first stop is The Philippines and they’re not doing too hot right now…but, my feeling is I’d rather go through with what I’ve planned and not back out, take on the risks, learn from good and bad experiences and not regret living large before I forget how to. I certainly don’t expect it to go flawlessly, but unlike some of you…I’m pretty comfortable with the assumption I’ll return.

                            I was told by an officer this semester that he could see volunteer work in these areas paying off towards a state department if it was with another country’s government…then I’d be able to explain how I’ve seen it there, pros and cons and compare it to ours, maybe explain why ours works better – does this sound true? Going off this theory then would getting a job the year I’m in Australia with something concerning a police department or government affiliation be beneficial?


                            • #15
                              I Give Up

                              Originally posted by WORLD_TRVLR View Post
                              I was told by an officer this semester that he could see volunteer work in these areas paying off towards a state department if it was with another country’s government…then I’d be able to explain how I’ve seen it there, pros and cons and compare it to ours, maybe explain why ours works better – does this sound true? Going off this theory then would getting a job the year I’m in Australia with something concerning a police department or government affiliation be beneficial?
                              I think you are still missing the point. Life and work experience are only a miniscule portion of the things you are evaluated on in determining your suitability for a job in law enforcement. You may ace this one area, but if during the exam process you fall short in demonstrating your knowledge of and ability to actually perform the job itself, it will all mean nothing.

                              It's like someone placing all their emphasis on bodybuilding, because police work demands physical fitness. If they fail to prepare themselves to correctly answer the exam questions as well, all the muscles in the world will be meaningless.

                              Am I making any sense here or should I just tell you what you want to hear and falsely promise that going on this trip will ensure that you will place number one on the list?
                              Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere


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