An American Experience in Australia
We asked Janelle, an Alliance Abroad Work Experience Australia participant a few questions about her time down under. Here’s what she had to say.
I’ve recently returned home after my experience abroad, and I have to say, it was by far one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I spent my first 6 months working and then took a little time to travel around. If it hadn’t been for a close friend’s wedding, I can guarantee that I would still be there, until my visa ran out.
What was the most surprising/shocking thing about Australia for you?
The most shocking thing I think for me, at least at first, was not having internet and not being able to use my smartphone. I know this sounds horrible, and I think it’s just because it’s so easily available here in the states, but not having that constant ability to communicate with everyone wasn’t easy to deal with at first. I’m not saying it’s completely unavailable, and after a bit of time I worked it all out, but it’s fairly clear that free WiFi and unlimited data plans are not as big of a thing in Australia as it is in the US. Another shocker was the cost of everything. Absolutely everything in Australia is more expensive than things here. That can be justified however with the minimum wage, which is insanely higher compared to the states, so in the end it more or less balances things out. Oh, one last thing, the amount of animals/insects/reptiles etc that are poisonous and potentially very dangerous to humans is unheard of. So, that’s just one other little thing to be concerned about. Really though, these are only minor issues and if you’re planning on spending an extended period of time in Australia, you learn to live with them.
What did you like most about Australia?
There really isn’t a lot to dislike about Australia. Its an amazing country with tons of things to see and places to visit. One of the biggest things I noticed is that everyone is super friendly. Everywhere I went just seemed very inviting and welcoming. People are always willing to help if you’re completely lost and have no idea what you’re doing, like me in a lot of situations. And lots of times people will just talk, to complete strangers. Working in a hospitality environment, you could start with a simple hello and end up talking about all of your travels around the world. It’s a very comforting feeling knowing you’re living in a place like that.
What did you like least about Australia?
I guess what I would say I like least about Australia is just how expensive everything is, and again, not being able to use my smartphone. But those are silly in comparison to all of the amazing things I was able to experience. The bugs though…that’s probably the biggest thing. I can’t stand the spiders we have here in the states, and to me our biggest one is a daddy long legs. In Australia, spiders are the size of your entire hand, just hanging out all over the place. I had people tell me stories about how they’d wake up in the morning and just see a gigantic spider hanging out on the ceiling. Umm…no thanks, ha ha.
What did you do in your spare time?
Whenever I wasn’t working, I was still kind of working, but not in a bad way. It’s actually one of the reasons I loved my job. I worked as a receptionist at a hostel so I had a pretty good idea of everyone that was staying there. So after work I’d usually be hanging around outside, at the pool or hostel bar, and people would just come up and have a chat. I became really close with a lot of the people I worked with, so it was always like having a little family around even when not at work. When a few of us had the same days off we would go down to the beach, or out to the deckchair cinema to see a movie under the stars. Sometimes we’d get together for dinner and then venture out to the bars along the street. Very rarely would I go out and not see someone from the hostel, but that would only make the night better and more fun! Not to mention the next day at work when we’d all exchange stories!
Did you like where you were at?
I definitely loved where I was. Where were you? I lived and worked in Darwin for the 6 months. Lots of people probably don’t see Darwin as the number one tourist destination, and that’s because quite frankly, it’s not. It’s nothing like the big cities everyone imagines when they think of Australia. It’s so much smaller and there’s not nearly as much to see, but that’s kind of why I loved it. You become really close to people when you live in a city like that, and for me, I like being able to say that I lived in the spot not many people know about. Living in Sydney or Melbourne would have been amazing as well, but that’s where everyone goes. Saying I lived in one of the lesser known cities isn’t something everyone gets to do. Like I said before, it’s like a little family living in Darwin, and that’s a nice comforting feeling to have…knowing someone will always be nearby.
How was your living arrangement?
My living arrangement might seem a bit strange. I actually stayed right at the hostel I was working at, for the whole six months. I was lucky enough to be given my own room, so it wasn’t like I was sharing with three or more other people for that long. So really, it was pretty nice. At times, it gets to be a lot, living and working in the same place, but it’s also pretty convenient. I could easily just roll out of bed and in to work, quite literally…ha ha. Plus it was nice to be nearby. Most of us would usually meet out at the hostel bar and hang out for a bit before heading off either for the day, or out for the night. A few of the people I worked with were able to find apartments nearby, but those are a lot more expensive than you might expect.
Did you like your job?
The job I got through this program is easily one of my favorite out of all the jobs I’ve had. I loved it! What did you do? I worked at a hostel called the Youth Shack, up in Darwin as a receptionist. Basically, I had to check people in and out of the hostel, help them extend their stay if they chose to do so, take care of the financial part of things, and keep track of all of their information. It might not sound too exciting, but the best part about it was that it was fun! It was a great environment to work in. I loved my boss and I loved almost everyone I had a chance to work with. Generally you’d work with at least one other person each shift and there was always people around. I got to know everyone who was staying there, and whenever certain people would walk through, even just on their way out, they’d say a quick little “hi” or “hey, how’s is going” and it just made the job that much better. Being able to make people feel welcome and enjoy their stay that much more is a nice rewarding feeling to have.
Would you recommend this program to anyone else interested in traveling abroad?
I would definitely recommend this program to others who are interested, however, I think it might help if there’s a bit of an explanation regarding the cost. I saw on the website now that it’s being advertised as “free” because of the money we get back in taxes, which, is very true and I think will certainly help. After having done this program though, and seeing others who traveled abroad with nothing and no guarantee of anything, I saw that work for some, and not work for others. I’m only saying this because I know the cost probably seems a little high in some people’s minds, but it is really worth it! If you go over there with no job and no plan and think you’re just going to show up and instantly get a job, you’re probably wrong. That really did work for some people, but for others, it’s a big waste of money. They pay for travel getting there, then need a place to stay, which could be easy or not easy depending if it’s the busy season or not, then need to pay for food and will more than likely spend the majority of their time going out meeting people because when you don’t have a job. And all of this will be happening while they wait and hopefully hear back from a place offering them a job. Then when that doesn’t work out, they pay to travel to the next place and do it all over again. So, really in the end, in my opinion it almost evens out. By participating in this program you eliminate that whole middle part. It’s a comfort thing. If people want to chance it then go for it, but if people want to get over there and know it’s going to work out and know they have a plan and place to stay for their six months, then it’s a guarantee. That’s why I chose to do this program and that’s why I think other people should too. I definitely, don’t regret my decision! My experience was amazing and I’d do it all over again if I had the chance.