Q&A about Cultural Embrace’s Work in Australia Program

By Jennifer C., Former Cultural Embrace Work Participant in Australia

Hey hey guys! I’m very excited for everyone’s interest in Cultural Embrace’s Work and Travel Program, as my W&T experience was absolutely incredible, and urge each of you to boldly go after what draws you. Dive into every opportunity to broaden your perspectives, challenge yourself with unknown territories and live adventurously. You won’t regret it!
My experience was awe-inspiring, and I’m still wholeheartedly living its effects. Miriam Beard explains it best, “Traveling is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
This final blog is a (Q&A) of commonly received questions and concerns and my best advice and explanations to provide an overview of my experience. Just a tip before we get into it: As I’ve said, backpacking/traveling is regularly a fine line between a plan and a few ideas that might sort themselves out, so don’t get too hung up in trying to plan every move. Your plans are likely to scatter and change with the people you meet, travel and job opportunities, expenses, and just generally blowing with the wind… so keep an open mind for adventure’s sake.

And we’re off…

Program Details:

Q. So, the program fee, is it worth it?
A. Only you can decide if the fee is “worth it.” If you have a fully scoped understanding of how much of the Cultural Embrace program’s support services you would take advantage of, you can better assess whether or not it’s right for you. After considering all of the services (listed in this final blog just below and also on http://www.culturalembrace.com/5772939_24622.htm under ‘Introduction’ and ‘Program Details and Highlights’), weigh them against the cost of the program fee.

Q. What support services does Cultural Embrace’s program, including their in-country partner company, offer?
A. Let me see here…
  • Working Holiday Visa assistance
  • General inquiry assistance (housing, city/area advice, etc.)
  • YHA (hostel) discounts and three days of hostel accommodation including breakfast
  • One month free luggage storage
  • Private mailbox in the partner company’s Sydney office with mail forwarding available anywhere in Australia
  • Job assistance (the big one) through the partner company’s in-house placement team
  • Weekly emails with exclusive job opportunities throughout Australia
  • Partner company’s in-house travel agency which offers exclusive travel deals
  • Airport pickup
  • 24/7 Emergency Assistance
  • Fifteen partner company locations across Australia with free Internet access, both wireless and on their provided computers (also, the constant in-office traveler/backpacker presence in each location allows you to continually meet people who need roommates, travel mates, etc.)
  • Cell phone setup: provided SIM card and also device purchase opportunity
  • General orientation in the partner company’s Sydney office covering state laws (each of the states, including Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, and the three territories, Northern Territory, Jervis Bay Territory and Australia Capitol Territory, have their own parliament and laws- including vocation certification laws), transportation tips (buying a car vs. public transport), destination overviews, safety tips, casual work information, tax information, superannuation information, general information, etc. – pretty much everything you would expect and then some.
  • Tax File Number and Bank account set-up with Westpac Bank, which seems to have an ATM and branch on every corner. Also good to note, Westpac Bank is part of Bank of America’s global alliance, which means you can access your Bank of America account via BOA debit card at Westpac ATMs without the $5-$8 overseas account withdraw fee. (Excellent!)

Q. How much aid does Cultural Embrace’s in-country placement team offer in the job hunt?
A. The amount of aide the placement team extends in your job hunt is really up to you. Although they cannot guarantee you a job, they do offer plenty of resources to find employment throughout Australia.
The placement team is available to aid you in resume, interview and field certification preparations, and provides you with access to an exclusive job database where you’re able to fill out a profile/resume section for easy online application (similar to the process on funjobs.com and careerbuilder.com). The placement team also sends out weekly emails with lists of job openings (mostly resort, hospitality and farm work positions) located all over the country.

Key: Every job Cultural Embrace’s placement team offers up- through emails, database, etc.- are exclusive to those who use their services. As you can imagine, this exclusivity can be a huge advantage.

Q. What kinds of jobs are available?
A. Working Holiday Visa only allows it’s holders/travelers to work in positions for up to six months without sponsorship… and because most companies are not looking to sponsor travelers, your job options can be limited. The majority of jobs travelers hold are in the casual work and hospitality fields- bartending, wait-staff, resort work (hosting, cooking, cleaning etc.), temp work, construction, retail, and promotional work.
But of course, there are cases where you meet somebody who knows somebody who can put in a good word for a position outside of casual work, or you score an interview based on your ridiculous amount of experience and expertise in a field. I did have a few traveler friends who held jobs outside of casual work- one worked in public relations, one was a pharmacists assistant, another a nurse and another an architect assistant- and each had exceptional and verifiable work experience.
So, depending on your experience and expertise you may be able to find something in a non-casual work field, but again, you’ll find most of the opportunities available to you lay in casual work and hospitality.
** Certification courses are compulsory for any position requiring you to be around alcohol and/or gambling, or public service jobs (such as construction assistant or flagger jobs… which pay VERY well.) Certification course prices vary per certification and per state, however when you file for your taxes upon your return to The States you will most likely receive the cost of the course(s) back.
Q. How fast did you find work?
A. The amount of time it takes to find a job depends on the season, the city and what you’re looking for… just as it is at home in the casual work field. Holiday seasons require more hospitality and casual workers, which is great, but it’s important to apply and be ready for work while hiring is prime. The closer you get the holidays the fewer the jobs as employers have filled their positions. Mid-November would be a good time to have found a job in preparing for the Christmas/New Years season… jobs will start to open back up after New Years when Uni kids are going back to school and travelers/backpackers are heading out. Again, it’s just as it is at home, pay attention to the types of jobs the city supports and keep your ears open.
I found my Surf Camp Aus job, my first job, through connections pretty quickly, and was working about two weeks after my arrival. My bartending job, my second and last job, took me around three weeks to find, mainly because it was so close to the holidays. If you’re looking, and it’s a good time for hiring (or just not a bad time), you shouldn’t have a problem finding work within a couple of weeks or less.

Q. How do employers feel about employing travelers?
A. As far as casual work and hospitality goes, high turnover rates are typical, and it’s my experience employers see hiring travelers as “fitting the bill.” Occasionally you will run into retail stores desiring longer-term workers and that won’t hire visa-holders, but it’s pretty rare.

Q. Can I expect to be paid enough to save up for travel?
A. Depending on where and how often you work, and your cost of living, you may very well end up with some savings for travel. If your paycheck is reasonable -more than balancing out your weekly rent, bus/train passes, etc.- and you’re not spending every extra dime going out, then it’s likely you will have enough to save for a bit of traveling. I saved a pretty decent amount of my working money to travel, but I also ate bean paste on bread and oatmeal for months, slept in cars on road trips and finagled beers from fellow friendly beach-bums instead of going out in the city as often.  It’s definitely doable if you’re committed to putting money back. J

Q. I want to find a job that will help further my career, and not just work in non-technical/ casual work fields, is this possible?
A. Refer to ‘Q. What kinds of jobs are available?’

Hostel Overview: As far as meeting people goes, hostels are great accommodation because you’re living in a room with one…five…eleven other travelers (except in skandy places where they offer rooms with twenty+ travelers… always interesting) and it’s impossible not to strike a connection with someone around.
There are hostels around every corner in most of Aus, with a range of prices and amenities, some with in-house bars and clubs and others with a kickin’ it vibe and awesome beach access, small ones and huge ones, nice ones and the occasional dirty one… bla bla but most are a good time and provide an affordable and clean place to sleep. Out of all the hostels in the country I jumped around to, there were only two I remember seriously despising- one in Sydney, and one in Melbourne… both were overpriced, dirty and seemed to collect serious agro wankers…  aggravated jerks…- it happens, but it’s definitely uncommon to find yourself uncomfortable after checking in.
You can check out: http://www.hostelworld.com/ for hostel ideas, reviews, prices, amenities, locations, availabilities, contact info and online booking. This is a great website, but always check around with other travelers for suggestions!

Big Tip: If you’re looking for accommodation around the holidays in Sydney especially, think of your housing situation as you would the job scenario I explained– Try to find accommodation by mid-November (and I highly suggest pre-booking/pre-arranging accommodation if you are planning to show up smack in the middle of the season/December to early January). There are a million extra people in Sydney around New Years time, and a huge number of them are travelers looking for accommodation just as you are. (Sydney is the place to be around and on New Years… top-notch music festivals and shows are almost weekly events, busy beaches and raging nightlife… people from all over the world flock here for good reason.)
Hostels will book up quickly, and cheap/affordable more permanent accommodation has mostly the same story. For example, some hostels, specifically in Bondi and Coogee areas of Sydney, will have been completely booked since the winter (June/July/August) or earlier for most of December and January… it’s crazy. I definitely knew a few people who had to find floors of more settled or sneaky hostel-staying friends to sleep on for weeks and others who had to leave the city because there wasn’t any available accommodation… Don’t make that mistake!

Q. What can I expect to pay for hostels?
A. For shared rooms you’re looking at anywhere between $18-$40, depending on the number of roommates, city, location and amenities. Check out the hostel world site listed above, and or your Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, etc. for specific price examples.

Q. What kind of housing can I expect to find if I choose to stay and work in one place?
A. The housing options are pretty well ranged. You can find places with one month leases up to one year leases, with weekly rent from around $100 AU to the sky’s the limit, share houses to typical apartments or condos, shared room or singles accommodation, and on and on. (Accommodation rents vary depending on the city and area of the city you’re looking to live.)
For Sydney you can check out: http://sydney.gumtree.com.au/ (It’s an awesome site, much like craigslist and has some of everything- including housing and even a few job leads.)

Other hostel quick tips: Lockboxes will quickly become your best friend -check for this asset wherever you plan on booking. Also, do your best to research hostels before putting your card down to reserve several nights. Hostels typically won’t refund your one or two-night deposit if you’re unhappy with the accommodation upon arrival/change your plans after the 24-hour cancelation deadline.

Q. How much should I save up before I head out to work and travel Australia?
A. Along with proof of diploma to qualify for the Working Holiday Visa, the Australian Department of Immigration can ask for proof of financials showing a specified minimum amount. (I believe I was required to show an amount somewhere around $1,000.) Although the department may not ask for financial proof during your visa application process, it’s a good idea to have it for customs agents upon your arrival in Aus just in case.
Aside from this, the more you save up the longer you can adventure or just hang before working. Again, depending on your lifestyle you can easily blow through a huge sum pretty quickly (especially that first month because you’ll want to be exploring and out and about every day and maybe night) even if you’re a seasoned traveler practiced in doing things on the cheap.

Quick Tips: Use the kitchen, walk when you can to save your bus pass, and remember taxis are for divas, oatmeal is your friend and goon (extremely cheap Australian box wine) is usually only your enemy in large quantities.

Q. Do most people save up for traveling before they leave for or after they’ve gotten to Australia?
A. It goes both ways. It seems every other country in the world recognizes living out of a backpack for a year as a right of passage, so, some travelers have been saving for years for their great adventure (but virtually always plan to hit several countries), and most still work to make extra cash. Others, like myself, who decide to travel only a few months before departing, save as much as they can before heading off and pick up work ASAP upon arrival to save for traveling.

Q. Is it pretty easy and affordable to travel within Australia?
A. Here’s a list of great affordable means of travel… not including hitchhiking which is unsurprisingly very popular: 
  • Cheap in-country flights– most one-way city-to-city flights from southern Australia, along the east coast, to the Northern Territory range from $39AU to $140AU if you plan at least a month ahead. (Flights to and along the west coast are a bit more expensive as the west coast is farther away from hubs like Sydney and Melbourne and has only a few airports. Check out: http://www.jetstar.com/gx/en/index.aspx – awesome airline.
  • Public rail transport is about the same cost as flight prices a month or so ahead of departure dates. (Trains that offer accommodation, amenities, tour guide-like services etc. will obviously be much more expensive.)
  • Greyhound Australia has affordable city-to-city and multiple-city passes, as do companies such as OZ Experience, which offer the hop on hop off bus experience.
  • Hiring camper vans such as Spaceships with friends is also a cheap route if you split rental and gas costs.
  • Purchasing cars can end up being affordable if you can resell it at the end of your use and you typically split gas costs with travel mates.

I flew, used public buses and the Experience company, took rail transport and road-tripped in friend’s cars and hired vehicles. With my experience, I don’t suggest hiring vehicles unless it’s a camper van and you’re splitting costs with at least two friends, but aside from that note all means of transportation were pretty equally affordable in the end.

Also, Cultural Embrace’s in-country partner company has an in-office travel agency, which offers exclusive travel deals and trip discounts. Although I didn’t use the agency as I usually booked my travel and trips last minute or went along with friend’s plans already in action, I knew several people who took advantage of the in-house travel agency and got some excellent deals on sailing in the Whitsundays, dive trips up north near the Great Barrier Reef, trips to the Outback and on.

Q. How easy is it to travel to other countries from Australia? Is my Australian Working Holiday Visa limiting?
A. Mixing travel through Australia with trips to nearby countries is easier, cheaper and more convenient than I anticipated.

Your Working Holiday Visa allows you to escape and re-enter Australia as you please, so it’s pretty easy to globe trot a bit and come back and work when you run out of money. Some causal work positions across Australia even provide you with holiday pay, which means you can earn a set hourly rate while you do a bit of traveling = excellent.

Looking just a couple of months ahead of desired departure dates, I’ve seen round trip flights from Sydney as low as $140AU to New Zealand, $400AU to Fiji, and $600 Bali (about $250AU cheaper if you go from Darwin)- Thailand, Japan and Papa New Guinea are reasonable as well. Again check out: http://www.jetstar.com/gx/en/index.aspx

So, while you’re in Aus working and saving, or working to make rent saving your savings, traveling Australia is just the tip of the roving opportunities in this part of the globe. Take FULL advantage of being in an excellent location/hub and venture out!! It’s absolutely one of the best pieces of advice I could give you.

I hope this clears up some of your questions and concerns about Cultural Embrace’s Work and Travel Australia program, and the general adventuring Australia experience. But please continue to feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or comments. It’s always great to hear from you guys!
Live fully,
Jennifer C Campbell
Former Participant

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