Working Abroad with BUNAC (Part 1 of 2)

I’ve wanted to talk about my experiences working abroad with the BUNAC work visa program for awhile now. The six months I spent working and living in London are some of the happiest months of my life up to this point. But even though I went to London and not India or the Dominican Republic, it was still a turbulent and at times stressful ride.

Deciding to Work Abroad

I fell in love with London when I studied abroad there in 2006.  From the frantic black cabs to the shady squares of Bloomsbury to the palatial British Museum, I adored everything about the city.  My three months at University College London whizzed by and by the end I felt as if I’d only seen a tiny chunk of what the city had to offer.  With graduation rolling up fast and absolutely no clue as to what I might do career-wise I was determined to return somehow.

In a moment of serendipity a like-minded friend told me about the BUNAC program. BUNAC is one of the most popular work abroad schemes for young Americans (and Canadians I believe, although it’s called SWAP there). For a couple hundred dollars they help students and young travelers obtain work visas in the UK, Ireland, Canada, France, Australia and New Zealand. As a recent graduate I was able to obtain a 6 month work visa for the UK, without having to go through the absolute nightmare of red tape that is British Immigration.

Application and TrainingIMG_0358

The procedure to apply was ridiculously easy. I filled out a form, had an employer write me a recommendation, sent it in along with $350 and a passport sized photo and about a month later received my 6 month work visa in the mail.

Once I arrived in the city I had to attend a 2 hour orientation at the BUNAC headquarters near the Farringdon tube stop. The office offered resources and assistance in finding housing and a job, but it was the responsibility of the individual to work these things out. My visa qualified me to work in any field I chose save professional sports or entertainment star (not much chance of that). After several stressful weeks of typing tests and interviews with employment agencies, I ended up finding work as a receptionist at a rather famous auction house.

After that I was pretty much on my own. BUNAC offered monthly meet ups and sponsored day trips around England, but I mostly avoided these meetings. After all I didn’t come to the UK to hang out with a bunch of Americans, and I was pretty absorbed in my own life by then.

Within a month of arrival I’d found a flat in North Acton where I lived with three Australian boys (which was in adventure in itself). I’d found a dull, but okay paying job. I’d made some friends and even met a boy. It was actually pretty amazing how well things worked out.

I’d suspected living abroad would be very different from studying abroad, even in the same city and I was right. More on this, and my conclusions on the work abroad experience next time.

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24 thoughts on “Working Abroad with BUNAC (Part 1 of 2)”

  1. Hi Steph, great blog post! Do you know if BUNAC helped anyone get career-internships? Wondering if they were helpful/experienced/knowledgeable in this area. I loved my time studying abroad, and working abroad sounds amazing too!

    1. In my experience no- they just provided the work visa and it was up to you to find a job on your own. Then again, this was almost 10 years ago so things may have changed since then.

  2. Hey I stumbled upon your blog and love it, it’s so helpful! I’m looking into going to Ireland through Bunac, and was wondering what else is needed of the application? I saw the online one, and it seems too simple. Is there more to it, like background checks, any hidden fees, etc?

    1. Yes I know the England one at least requires this. I’m pretty sure Australia and NZ are available to anyone under 35 though.

  3. This is a great reference! I’m going to send this link to a few friends considering living abroad. Thanks!!
    .-= Nancy´s last blog ..Why We Should Celebrate the Day After Halloween =-.

    1. Some of my friends have taught English abroad and really enjoyed it. It’s a good way to make some money and live somewhere totally different.

  4. I had NO idea this kind of opportunity existed but I will DEFINITELY be looking into it post haste. My dream is to live abroad for some length of time!!!!

  5. I did this exact same thing and just got back in July!!! I know exactly how you feel. I lived with 7 Aussies and 1 Kiwi and I remember feeling the same way about the BUNAC get togethers. Its nice to hear someone elses experiences with it. Excited to read part 2!

    Twitter: @EVelt528

      1. Yes I lived in England/London…and yes I sometimes miss living with those crazy Aussies. That’s an experience in itself. Loved your part 2 as well…I definitely RT it! I feel like we had the exact same experience. Thank you for writing about this!

    1. I’ve just been approved for my working holiday visa NZ and was deciding between joining the bunac program or just winging it and finding a job on my own, any advice? It seems like the popular hostels have tons of job listings posted and it shouldnt be hard but again i’ve never traveled abroad before! lol

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