The Difference between Traveling and Working Abroad
When I imagined myself living in London, I had this vision of jet-setting every weekend to different locations around Europe. I was wrong. For starters, I was poor. Very poor. London is terrific but as we all know it is very, very expensive. I was making an okay amount of money but after paying for rent, food and transportation, I was just making ends meet. Jetting off to Spain or taking the ferry to Dublin for the weekend didn’t fit into the budget,
The second issue is more universal. When you are living somewhere, you tend to become bogged down in the minutiae of actually living. Between working 40 hours a week, having a boyfriend and having a social life there wasn’t a ton of time left over. By the time Saturday and Sunday rolled around I really just wanted to sleep.
This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my time there. I wanted to LIVE in London and that’s exactly what I ended up doing. I took strolls along the Thames, spent endless evenings in the pub and learned to drink about a dozen cups of tea a day (min.). I even got sick and learned to navigate the wonderful NHS system. When my work visa expired I was able to take my last couple of paychecks (in wonderfully strong British Pounds) and travel for months around Eastern Europe.
There seems to be this idea that leaving the country for an extended period will somehow diminish you in the eyes of employers. On the contrary, once I returned it took me a mere three weeks to find a job in a field I was interested in (granted, this was pre-recession of doom). During my interview I impressed my now boss by explaining how moving across the world with no contacts showed confidence, ingenuity and problem solving abilities. I showed her I was well rounded and that I had real world experiences that you can’t pick up working in an office.
A year and a half later, what has stuck with my from my experiences abroad is an unshakable sense of wanderlust. I’ve seen a sliver of the world and now I want to see much, much more. One the travel bug bites it turns out to be very hard to shake!
Pros and Cons
While I had a good experience with the BUNAC program there are some drawbacks. For most of the visa schemes you need to be a student or recent graduate (although not for Australia or New Zealand), which can limit your options if your school days are past. The visas are generally for 4-12 months and, while I do know one girl who was sponsored for a long-term visa, in most cases once your time runs up you are out of luck.
Additionally, their most popular program, Work in Britain, has been drastically altered due to changes in the UK immigration codes. It’s now an “internship program,” which means participants must find employment abroad before applying for a visa.
Despite these drawbacks I would recommend the BUNAC organization, particularly to recent graduates or college students looking to work abroad for the summer. Although the options are limited, if you want to spend some time working in Ireland or Australia, than this is a quick no-fuss way to obtain a visa.
The Bottom Line
Not too shockingly, I think everyone ought to spend some time abroad. In addition to the tons of crazy stories you will amass, there are so many intangible benefits you gain from learning to adapt to new situations and cultures. In the end the biggest thing I took away from my BUNAC experience was a new sense of confidence. I rolled up in a city not knowing a soul and built a life from scratch. I survived major medical emergencies, a cold dark London winter and three crazy Australian roommates whose idea of a good time was to jump on my bed while naked. Living at home is a piece of cake. And most importantly I now know I can go wherever I like and I will be just fine.
For more information about the BUNAC organization check out their website.