I always knew, since I was twelve, that I wanted to travel once I graduated from college and before I knew it I was twenty-one and graduation was only five months away. I needed to start planning my trip but I did not know where to start. The only hint I had came from my brother.
When he graduated from college ten years earlier, he moved to London, worked in a pub for three months saving his money, and then travelled through the rest of Europe for four more months. It sounded like a good plan to me but I did not know how to even go about working in a foreign country. It seemed like a daunting task to organize but I first went to the study abroad office at my university and asked if they knew about any good work abroad programs and the one and only name that I came away with was BUNAC.
The application process was fairly simple. I had to get recommendations from co-workers from my previous jobs and internships and a signature from my school validating that I was a university student. Anyone who is over 18 and has spent the last year studying at an accredited university is eligible. Once I was accepted, I paid them a fee to secure a work visa for me. Fees depend upon which country you choose to work in and may include extras like insurance and temporary housing. Prices have increased since I applied in 2007 but if you have the means to save for something like this, you will not regret it as it is definitely a valuable investment.. A few weeks later, I was sent my visa and a booklet that explained everything I would need before moving over to London and what I would expect from work and social life there. I had three months of summer until the big move in the fall and so I started taking on temp jobs to save as much money as I could. BUNAC suggested coming with around 1500 pounds or $3000 to sustain me until I found a job and received my first paycheck.
Packed with all the essentials and enough money for food and rent, I arrived in London and was greeted by BUNAC with an orientation. They went over everything with me including opening a bank account, securing a national insurance number, and buying health insurance. They had job and flat listings right in their offices and doled out tips on how to approach job interviews and what to look out for when flat hunting so I could land the best deal possible. I was also given a calendar of upcoming day trips outside of London that they were organizing and pub meets that would be going on around the city so that I could meet and socialize with other BUNAC students.
BUNAC served as a safety net while I was working and living in London. They gave me the tools to settle down there but it was up to me to find a job and a place to live. I liked the fact that they did not meddle in everything I did and just let me immerse myself in the city and become fully independent. They were always there if I had a question about something but after I landed a job and flat within my first week, I did not need to go back to the BUNAC offices until right before I left London to go travel.
If you are in school and looking for a change this is a great opportunity to challenge yourself by living in a completely different culture. Besides Britain, you can also choose to work in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, France, or Canada and they also have volunteer opportunities available in Cambodia, Peru, and South Africa. I have to admit that just looking at the brochure for BUNAC intimidated me at first. A girl was smiling at the camera while sitting at an office desk and talking on the phone. I did not know if I could be that brave and go work with complete strangers in a foreign country. How would I be able to afford one of the most expensive cities in the world? Where would I live and with who? I just took the plunge with faith knowing that it would all work itself out and it did. I did find a job and I was able to afford my rent, food, transportation and all the fun things that London has to offer. It is possible, trust me. Any other fears or questions you have, BUNAC can answer. They will not leave you stranded and abandoned in a foreign country and with friends like that, why not give it a shot? For more information, you can visit www.Bunac.com and if you have any more questions, feel free to ask me!