In 2015, I left the United States to go on a three-month adventure in New Zealand, but when I got there, I realized that I never wanted to leave such a beautiful and friendly country. While a lifetime there wasn’t possible, I learned that it would actually be quite easy for me to live and work in New Zealand for a whole year — so that’s exactly what I did.
For the next year of my life, I worked construction, hiked gorgeous mountains, and made friends from a variety of countries and backgrounds.
This was all thanks to this wonderful scheme agreement called a working holiday visa, which helped make my travel dreams a reality. While not every country in the world has the same opportunities for travel, the good news is there are many inexpensive ways to see and experience the world.
Your experiences abroad don’t have to be limited to that semester in college you spent in Spain or your family trip to Cancun. You can see the world on your own terms and even get paid to do it.
Working holiday visas
Working holiday visas are relatively unknown in the United States but are very popular amongst young adults in other countries. The requisites of these visas vary based on the countries that offer them.
There are five countries that currently offer a working holiday visa to Americans: New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, and South Korea. However, the two countries whose programs are easiest to get into are New Zealand and Australia. In fact, neither have a limit on the number of accepted American applicants each year.
If you meet a few requirements, including being between 18 and 30 years old, owning a passport, and not having any criminal convictions, you’re in. For more information, visit New Zealand’s and Australia’s immigration pages.
I recommend before embarking on a working holiday, you have enough cash to get by for at least a month. The government is not going to find you a job, so you’ll need to sustain yourself while looking for one and figuring out where to live. You’ll also need to register for tax codes and do other things of that nature.
Overall, I would highly recommend that anyone eligible utilizes a working holiday while you can. Living in New Zealand for a year was an amazing opportunity that I hope everyone can experience.
Get paid to teach English
If you’re not interested in living in one of the five countries that offer working holiday visas, or you’d rather do something more impactful with your time, then getting paid to teach English may be the perfect option for you.
This is not something that I’ve done personally, but I know several people who have, including Grotto’s Mariah Cressy. She worked as a camp counselor for six weeks at a Spanish sleepaway camp in England that taught campers English through immersive lessons. Her responsibilities included teaching English classes and leading campers ages 8–18 in sports activities.
“I wanted to spend a summer abroad, and any study abroad I wanted to do was going to be on my own dime, which I couldn’t afford as a rising junior in college,” she says. “So I began looking for ways to work abroad, be comped room and board, and make enough money to fund my plane ticket over. I ended up almost breaking even, but the experience is one that I’ll never forget.”
The best part of the experience for Mariah was that she also got to see a lot of England, including London, Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, and other places.
There were some downsides to Mariah’s time teaching English, but overall she would highly encourage other people to check out similar opportunities around the world.
“I would 100% recommend the experience,” she explains. “Maybe not my specific camp, but definitely the opportunity to push your comfort zone boundaries and learn something about yourself and another culture.”
I wish I would have known about some of the opportunities that exist to volunteer abroad after graduating college.
Luckily for you, there are plenty of options to volunteer your time abroad for a short period of time that won’t cost you much money.
One great program is Farmer-to-Farmer, which is hosted by Catholic Relief Services. While the purpose of this project is to provide agricultural assistance, you don’t necessarily need experience on a farm to join the program.
“Yes, it is still possible for you to volunteer as your skill set is needed. While most of our projects rely on agricultural expertise, we will also have assignments for areas such as finance, management, leadership, nutrition, food processing, etc.,” explains their FAQs.
Farmer-to-Farmer’s volunteer assignments are based in East Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda. The program typically lasts two to four weeks and expenses are paid for (including vaccinations).
The purpose of the program is to help build sustainable agriculture practices in communities where food is scarce, but if farming’s not for you, there are also other free international volunteer opportunities available through Catholic Volunteer Network and other similar organizations.
Traveling abroad was one of the best experiences of my life. It provided me with a more informed perspective on how the world works, because I got to experience other cultures.
So if you’re between jobs, looking for a major change, or just itching to go on a life-changing trip, don’t make the mistake of thinking that a ‘vacation’ is your only option. Any of these three methods offers an affordable way to live and work abroad, so you have the chance to see more of the world.