Not only does working or volunteering abroad look good on your CV, it comes with a whole host of other benefits. Living in a different country, where you possibly don’t speak the language, might be overwhelming and a bit lonely at first, but it can also be tremendously exciting. Moving away from everything familiar is a huge step, but it’s the quickest way to learn independence and to learn to trust your own abilities. Your experience abroad may leave you feeling much more confident and ready to tackle any difficulties at university. You’ll learn to make decisions quickly, manage your time and money, and solve your own problems without your parents or friends to lean on. You’ll adapt to communicating and working with strangers, and be able to make friends quickly. Plus, being able to stay in a foreign country for a longer amount of time will allow you to really immerse yourself in their culture, and to discover what’s it’s really like to live there.
As a student, you’ll need your trip to be fairly cheap. The Voice has interviewed students from all over the world in Bucharest, Romania, to find out how they have funded their travels.
Montreal medical student Philippe found volunteer work at a hostel in Bucharest, which he found through workaway.com. Philippe says the website, “has lots of choices for volunteer work abroad, and you get accomodation and food in exchange. There’s loads of options in every country and is a good, cheap way to travel if you don’t mind the work.” But he warns, “Be careful of how many hours you are expected to work, unless you really enjoy the work you don’t want to spend all of your holiday working.”
Tina from Switzerland has just finished her nursing degree and is spending a year travelling Eastern Europe. She has organised her own trip. Tina says, “It took maybe two, three years of saving from my part-time job to afford my trip. I worked so I could travel.” She is traveling with her boyfriend Adam, and says they enjoy having the freedom to take things at their own pace, which you might not have as a volunteer. “We like having a lot of time away, and having the freedom to do whatever we feel like doing every day. We don’t plan, we just go.”
She told The Voice how her family encouraged her not to travel, but to start working after university. “In Switzerland, everybody worries about money and wants to have a good job… but travelling around the world is something I have always wanted to do. Travel while you are young, you have the rest of your life to work.” To keep the cost down, Tina recommends, “Stay at a hostel, where there are other young people, it’s cheaper… and buy your own groceries to make meals if you can. Eating out every day can get really expensive.”
If you really want to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, try swapping your McDonalds for the local cuisine. Philippe says, “You can usually find the ingredients for anything they serve in a restaurant in the supermarket.”
Daniella, a Masters student from Germany, studying History, is travelling to re-ignite her interest in her subject. She says, “I have studied a lot, and it isn’t as interesting when you study because it is hard work. I think people find themselves when they travel and find out what they want to do. Who knows, I might study something else!” She recommends planning ahead: “Plan some of your trip before you leave… what you want to do, and how to get there, or you waste a lot of time planning at the hostel, and you can book train tickets in advance and save some money.”
Australian student Anthony is funding his year-out by working on cruise ships and finding odd jobs while he is travelling. “I had to do the usual bar work and waiting on tables, but I’ve been an artist’s model once, and I had a job painting a house in Italy!” He says he has never found it hard to find a job. “There’s loads of work out there, usually stuff you would never even think of.” He has also taught English as a foreign language in Thailand, and recommends teaching as a good place to start. “Loads of opportunities out there for teaching English… you could pick anywhere in the world.”
No matter your intended destination, there’s always a way to make your travelling dreams a reality on a student budget!
Article by Georgina Bull