Meet Steve. He's a charmer, an aspiring traveller and he's pleased to meet you. Steve's BUNAC journey started way back last year, and now he's making his big move to Canada next month on BUNAC's Work Canada programme. We're so excited for him. If there's one thing you should do today, read his blog. You'll find out all about the BUNAC application process, getting your IEC working holiday visa, and it'll also make you chuckle. Most of all, though, it'll inspire you to get out there and get travelling too. Here's hoping.
17th December 2015. It was the beginning of a cold, bleak winter. The snow was falling, the fire was flickering, pennies were short and food was scarce. Little did I know that a most remarkable story was about to unfold. I was in London, attending a performance of A Christmas Carol at the Noel Coward theatre, and all eyes on Jim Broadbent who was playing Scrooge. Whilst others were sitting mesmerised by the on-stage performance, I was slumped for much of the show, deep in contemplation about my future and career prospects. By the time the final curtain fell, for various reasons I had decided that the next day I would quit my job. It was a big decision, yes. But I was determined to tell my management that recently opportunities had arisen which I simply could not decline. But what then? What was going to happen to me?
Roll on the Christmas break. With notice handed in, I needed to find a worthwhile alternative to just another job or hell on Earth with daytime TV! Travelling, especially in North America, was something I had briefly considered in recent years (hey, my childhood wrestling hero Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart hails from there) but the timing had never felt right with a progressing career. I realised that it was my last shot to do a working holiday in Canada. It was now or never. I began scouring the internet for visa options. Two things then became apparent:
i.) I wasn’t too old! Incredible! Some quick advice from me to you: get into the pool of eligibility before turning 31 (this pool has a large deep end) and you can still possibly apply to obtain a working visa
ii.) BUNAC, experts in work and volunteer abroad, seemed like a safe bet to help me on my way
Over the next few days I had created a BUNAC account, been advised about the options tied to the Canadian working holiday visa (International Experience Canada scheme) and received a very helpful call-back during which I paid my deposit for BUNAC’s Work Canada programme. The work-abroad rep then provided sure-fire details which I used to complete and pass the IEC questionnaire, necessary in qualifying for the lottery-based pool of eligibility. Aware of the lengthy timeframe that some might spend before selection, I was indifferent about my chances. So began the waiting game… I took a deep breath and crossed my fingers.
Just one day later (yes, not even 24 hours had passed) and I received a notification. I was one lucky individual picked from the bag and given the opportunity to apply for my IEC visa. My travelling adventure was meant to be. Wahey! As I was currently serving a 3-month notice period at work, in body I had to remain focussed on the office, but in mind it was everything maple. I paid BUNAC the balance of my programme fee, opting for the Ultimate Experience over the Essentials package. Both would entitle me to further support for the next stage of application, but while Essentials seemed ideal for the flexible free spirit, I preferred Ultimate’s convenience in (hopefully) securing a job ahead of my arrival, not to mention the social perks that were included in it.With a deadline to meet, I set about completing my application comprised of a number of documents. A big shout to the support provided by other participants of the BUNAC Work Canada Facebook group – they were (and still are) amazing, from the moment I started my application to the time I eventually submitted in late January. Come early February the euphoria erupted as the formal IEC approval letter was received! Bigger wahey!
To cement the social experience early on, I opted to book a place on the BUNAC group flight via Iceland – another country, another trip, why not?Over the next couple of months I would receive various email updates regarding the general adventure ahead, plus prospective job opportunities tied to the Ultimate package. After confirming my preference to work at the fantastic Ontario-based Blue Mountain Resort (awash with dreams of Hot Tub Time Machine), I gratefully received an offer to interview with the company. BUNAC reps were again on-form with their support in the interview preparation process and by the time BM staff had arrived in London for the August interviews, I was typically nervous but confident of my chances of getting my dream job overseas. John, Jeff and Kristina from Blue Mountain were a pleasure to meet with and in less than a fortnight I would receive the positive feedback I had hoped for – “Congratulations – Welcome to Blue Mountain”. Without hesitation I accepted the job offer and will be working the 16/17 winter season as a Front Desk Representative at The Westin hotel (happy in the knowledge I may continue to ‘suit up’!) Group flight now 100% paid for.
Having volunteered as a social host for a website-based community in the past (not to mention informally a’ plenty for my work colleagues), the experience at Blue Mountain should provide a stern but enjoyable challenge to my current work resume. Previously based in public service and higher education offices, I now have the chance to develop my customer facing and sales skills in a more formal and prestigious environment. Aside from the many perks of being a BM employee, I also get to swap mountains of work for… well... mountains at work. See what I did there?
Let me take a moment to rewind to earlier in the year. I kicked off my jobless freedom with some travelling around Australia (four consecutive days in March consisted of my final day at work – birthday weekend – flight out to Melbourne via Singapore. Boom!) Over the course of this trip I met some awesome characters in the hostels and, given how fun and ‘together’ the BUNAC Facebook groups have been so far, I CANNOT WAIT to meet the people in person. The shared accommodation at Blue Mountain will only enhance the social experience for the winter season, no doubt creating a foundation for which I can enjoy throughout my full 2-year visa and beyond.
With now a month to go until the group flight leaves UK for Iceland en route to Toronto, I am still temping to earn a little extra money (I have many trips across Canada, US and even Mexico in mind.) On reflection of the past year, I must give credit to all of the BUNAC reps I have corresponded with to reach this stage. Everyone I have spoken to by phone or by email have been extremely helpful, engaging with my queries, offering encouragement throughout the process or simply providing light relief during some otherwise busy days in the office (or when watching daytime TV.) It has been almost too easy!
Flash-forward to Canada, 17th December 2016. Perhaps the beginning of a very cold winter, but by no means bleak. The snow is falling, the fire flickers and we are rich in excitement, opportunity and a new-found family. Much like the theatre 12 months prior, another remarkable story is unfolding…
If you want to be like Steve and work and travel around Canada, our Work Canada programme is the best way to go about it. Book onto the programme with a £50 deposit now on our website: http://www.bunac.org/uk/work-abroad/working-holiday-packages/work-canada
Or check out all of our other working holiday programmes in Australia, New Zealand and America: http://www.bunac.org/uk/work-abroad/working-holiday-packages