I have an innate passion to see the world and experience different cultures. Specifically, I want to be ingrained in different cultures and know what it is like to be a local.
Why did you choose the InterExchange Work and Travel Canada program?
I chose Canada because I was able to get a one year work visa, and it seemed like an easy move as I continue my travel quest. I chose InterExchange due to the price and nature of the organization. They are a non-profit organization, and are very hands on and quick to respond.
What was your favorite part about Canada?
My favorite part about Canada is the breathtaking natural beauty. Glacial water lakes, epic mountains, and endless islands are all there to explore.
What made your experience abroad unique?
My experience abroad has been unique due to the places I have chosen to settle and work. For the winter, I lived in Whistler, British Columbia, which is known as the best ski resort in North America. Endless winter activities, as well as a lively town, made for an amazing season. For the summer I am located in the Gulf Islands in BC. I see wildlife everyday, and the climate is heavenly.
How did local staff support you throughout the Work and Travel Canada program?
I had to tackle getting a refund from the local immigration, which is near impossible. The staff at the local SWAP (a non-profit in Canada that collaborates with InterExchange) helped provide me with the most accurate contact details. I believe that without that, I would not have received my refund. They also provided guidance on obtaining an open work permit upon arrival. Throughout the year, InterExchange has been available via phone and email, anytime I had a question or concern. I have worked almost solely with James Bridge, InterExchange Working Abroad Program Manager, and he has been extremely helpful, friendly, and efficient.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
The one thing I wish I had done differently was started taking snowboarding freestyle lessons earlier! When you get a seasonal job at most ski resorts, you get a free pass along with free lessons, and it is definitely worth taking advantage of.
Describe a typical day in the life of the Work and Travel Canada program.
The program I chose, Working Holiday Canada, allows much freedom. With an open work permit, you can work anywhere for up to one year. I chose to work at a restaurant in the town center, as well as at a hotel for the ski resort. The hotel position allowed me to try free activities, like snowmobiling and zip-lining. When I had free time, I was always snowboarding on the mountain, using my free ski pass. Here at my summer job on the Gulf Islands, if I am not at work, I am at the beach, hiking, or out on the water.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
In Whistler, I stayed at a hostel for six weeks until I found a room for rent, right on the bus line. It was $700 per month, all-inclusive. Most people living in town on a work visa find shared rooms for rent, on the bus line, or walking distance to town and the mountain. Currently, on the islands, I am living in staff accommodation at $300 per month.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in an InterExchange program?
Living in places where work is seasonal, the program may provide housing along with employment. Finding housing on your own may be difficult, so be patient.
What surprised you most about Canada?
What surprised me the most about Canada was how much it rained, which in the winter actually makes for lots of snow on the mountain.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Canada?
Stock up on beauty products from the drugstore, everything is more expensive and there is less of a selection.
What was the hardest part about working abroad?
For me, the hardest part of moving abroad was keeping my suitcase under 50 pounds.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before working abroad in Canada?
I wish I would have planned in advance to take a summer seasonal job, instead of last minute, after working a winter job.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of working abroad is?
The biggest benefit of working abroad is gaining a stronger appreciation and understanding of where you come from.
Now that you're home, how has working abroad impacted your life?
I feel enrichment when I get to explore new places, and experience new cultures.
Would you recommend InterExchange to others? Why?
I would absolutely recommend InterExchange to anyone curious about living abroad. They have an extensive list of opportunities, and they are a pleasure to work with.
If you could work and travel abroad again, where would you go?
If I could work and travel abroad again, I would go back to Australia and work at a ski resort.
Originally from the Chicago area, Kara has moved around the United States quite a bit. She is excited to have just finished her bachelor’s degree in sociology. Kara has been taking online courses for several years, while traveling at the same time. She has worked in hotels and restaurants as a bartender, server, concierge, front desk, and office coordinator.