I was originally enrolled onto a 4 year degree course that included a year abroad in Australia. Although due to unforeseen circumstances (poor grades) at the end of my second year I discovered that I would no longer be offered a place on this particular scheme. However, I do believe in making the best out of a bad situation, so (after a little persuasion) UEA kindly allowed me to intercalate for the year and 3 weeks later I was heading off to Melbourne, Australia with a Working Holiday Visa, a brand new backpack and no plan whatsoever!
What was the biggest barrier to taking this opportunity and how did you overcome it?
As a 20 year old who had never been travelling previously, it was somewhat daunting to step onto an aeroplane and fly to the other side of the world to a city full of strangers. Though after a very anxious 24 hours of flying and I checking myself into the first hostel that I ever stayed at, I soon began to find that there were countless other people in the same position that I was. Never had I been in such an environment where it was so easy to make friends and meet so many different people from all around the world.
Was it difficult to fit into your new culture?
Not particularly, I will admit that the first time that I ordered a beer in Australia and I was given a small “Scuna” sized glass and told that they “don’t really do pints” I was a little shocked. Other than that though, I didn’t find that there were too many cultural differences between England and Australia and I soon grew used to a life of hot weather, beaches and barbeques.
What is the most rewarding aspect of working abroad?
I worked mainly as a waiter during my year in Australia in both Melbourne and Sydney. The catering company that I worked for was particularly interesting as it gave me the opportunity to work at several stunning venues and events including: Opera on the harbour, Vivid lights festival, The MCA Museum (just opposite the Sydney opera house) and I even once served a business lunch from the 37th floor of a skyscraper.
I was also working with several other backpackers, most of whom were particularly sociable which allowed me from arriving in the country knowing nobody to having a large circle of friends in a very short amount of time.
Oh and on top of all of this, the wages in Australia happen to be one of the highest in the world. So from working for 3 months in Sydney, I managed to save up enough to spend 3 months travelling around South East Asia on the way home.
Did you know the language before going and how did you deal with the language barrier?
Well, on this occasion I did play it safe by going to another English speaking country. However, more recently I have gone on to work in France for the summer and off the back of just a GCSE course that I had taken in French (quite some time before) I managed to get by – the more you try the easier it becomes!
How did you fund your trip?
Before I left for down under, I did not have a large amount of savings if truth be told and in the first few weeks it was becoming an increasing concern of mine that if I couldn’t find work then I might have to cut my losses and head home. However, before long I did find full time work and (as I mentioned before) the wages in Australia are rather good. So I could live quite lavishly and still manage to save!
Have you got any advice for other students considering taking a global opportunity?
Go for it! The hardest part is always stepping onto the plane, it tends to get a lot less daunting after that and there’s no better way to meet new people, share new experiences and boost your confidence.
How did taking a global work opportunity help your career prospects?
I maintain that one of the greatest gifts I gained from travelling was a huge boost to my self-confidence. After some of the experiences that I have had, such as skydiving from 14000ft, then going to a job interview doesn’t seem all that scary anymore!
What is your favourite word or phrase from your host country?
It may be more of a phrase than a word but I was always fond of the famous Australian expression “No worries” because I guess when you’re sat on a hot beach with a cold beer there isn’t all that much to worry about!