Working Abroad with BUNAC (Part 2 of 2)

Read Part One Here

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.

The Aftermath

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.

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

  1. I am from the USA and obtained a Work and Holiday Visa to come to Australia. I went through BUNAC because I heard they would help with getting settled and finding contacts. I don’t know where to begin in describing the complete opposite of assistance that I obtained from BUNAC. First and foremost, they insisted that I purchase insurance through Seven Corners Compass Benefits, insisting that my current Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance coverage would not cover me in Australia despite the fact that I checked with the Wellmark company and they assured me that I would be okay. BUNAC simply would not let me travel to Australia through their company without the Seven Corners insurance. So I got the insurance as they insisted, paying over $600 for it. While in Australia, I injured my back at work and consequently had several medical bills. I sent my claims to Seven Corners but because I had my own insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield), they refused to reimburse me. Thanks BUNAC.
    Next issue was that some of our group was going to Australia after we spent a week in Fiji, but half the group had New Zealand as their final destination. We stopped at New Zealand to drop off half our group, but unfortunately for those of us continuing to Australia, BUNAC neglected to check our bags when they booked our tickets. So we ran all over the Auckland airport trying to check multiple bags for hundreds of dollars when we had previously been assured that all our flights and baggage had been booked for us.
    Additionally, upon arriving to Australia our group was instructed to go to a Work and Holiday office so that we could have our initial meeting in which we were to received information, phone cards, and assistance with setting up bank accounts. We went to the Work and Holiday office in Sydney. The office was upstairs above a grocery store, so we went to go up the stairs to enter the office…we came to find out that it was a public holiday and both the office AND the grocery store were closed and so alarm systems went off. Minutes later we heard sirens and the police were coming down the street. We ran out of there as quick as we could and never looked back.
    Needless to say, BUNAC was the least helpful service I have ever enlisted. I wasted money, time, and nearly got arrested. I would not recommend this organization to anyone. At the end of the day, I paid a lot of money to receive assistance that left me worse off than what I would have been on my own.

    1. Hi Claire, thank you for your feedback. As mentioned in my email to you, international insurance is required to secure this visa. While you do not have to purchase ours, most participants do, since it meets all visa requirements. I have reached out to Seven Corners to see why your claim was not approved and will hopefully have some further information for you on that situation shortly.

      We apologize for the situation at the Auckland Airport, we booked travel through a third party company and were under the impression that all bags would be checked through to participants final destination. Since it has been about a year since this took place, there isn’t much we can do, but we do apologize for the added stress and costs.

      Our partners in Australia do follow the calendar for Australian national holidays, and on our instructions we advise to contact the resource center to book orientation upon arrival. This is to make sure they are offering orientation that day and to reserve a spot:

      “Please contact Work n Holiday once you arrive to book a spot at this session (contact details below). Orientations are held daily at 9:30am and last for approximately two hours. Job work shops/presentations are held Monday Wednesday and Friday at 1pm. The orientation includes information on everything from mobile phones and tax to employment and accommodation options. There is also a comprehensive section dedicated to travel within Australia so you can start planning your trips!”

      The resource center offers a range of support services (job and accommodation assistance, taxes, banking, resume help, social events, mail forwarding and more) and they can assist participants anywhere in the country, so I hope you were able to utilize the support services.

      Since your trip, we have started working with a new partner in Australia, but did not run into many problems with the previous partner.

      We sympathize with the series of events that occurred upon your arrival and hope you were able to enjoy your time abroad. Please let us know if you have any questions.

  2. I worked in London on a BUNAC visa in 1994, when I was 20 years old. It was definitely the defining experience of my young adult life. Glad to hear it’s still a popular program.

  3. I absolutely love this post. I spent 3 years living abroad in South Korea working and traveling, and it only took me 5 weeks to come back and find a job even in the worst recession ever. You are 100% correct that people are much more impressed that you went abroad. And that living abroad, actually does have very mundane moments – but even in the mundane-ness of it all, it is still very exciting. Afterall, you’re sleeping away your weekend in a foreign country. haha.

  4. Hey, nice post IEP twittered it (which is the Australian version of BUNAC and SWAP). I’ve had a look at your other blog posts and they are very good. I’m planning on doing a working holiday in Canada and can’t wait!

  5. I have done both the NZ and Australia visas, so please let me know if you have any questions on either (esp. NZ, I LOVED! NZ:-))

    Great blog!

    1. I love this website! hopefully you can help me make a decision or give me some insight. I’ve just been approved for my working holiday visa and was considering joining bunac NZ program but now im thinking of just doing it on my own, any advice?
      It seems like at most of the popular hostels have tons of job postings and I’ve heard nz is relatively easy to find a job. What is the benefit of joining bunac? This will be my first time traveling abroad and like the comfort fact bunac gives you by knowing if you need advice you have someone to ask but I also like the extra money in my pocket! lol. Im trying to write a pros and cons list so all opinions are welcome!! Thanks!

      1. Hmm, well I’ve not been to New Zealand (to work OR visit) so it’s hard for me to say. I definitely would have been fine in London without BUNAC’s assistance- there are so many international workers that it’s pretty easy to figure things out. The main thing they were useful for was actually obtaining the visa, so if youalready have it, might not be worth it.

    2. Hi Rebecca,

      I realise your post is years old but hopefully you will still get this – I Am in the process of considering either Work New Zealand (where I have been before) or work Australia (which i haven’t been to).; I am concerned about several things, mainly finding/making friends, somewhere to live and a job – I am scared it could easily turn into my life in london where i spend all my time at work and then go home and go back to work again…. what sort of jobs did you do and how did you find your overall experience? I also worry that it will be detrimental to my CV having a year where I am potentially working in bars/restaurants after getting a degree and relatively good job.

      Any tips would be hugely appreciated!



      1. Ali,

        Your post is the most recent that i have seen about bunac although it is dated a few months back now.
        Im in the middle of applying now with bunca to leave to september, and i was just wondering if you did go ahead and if so how did you find your experience?


  6. Great post (both parts). I am in the second part of the application process for BUNAC Australia. I originally wanted to go to London, but for some of the reasons you’ve stated, I opted for more flexible Australia. I have a 12-month visa. Thank you so much for all of the insight!

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