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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Things You Want Know About Work And Travel (WAT) USA

Wendy Chan Profile Picture
Very spontaneous, suddenly feel like writing about it. So yeah! 3 summers of Work and Travel USA experience, and here I am to share with you guys things that you wanna know about it :)

Work & Travel USA Program Experience Sharing

Guest post by Wendy Chan (Share your experience with 56,000+ Malaysian students)

I wanted to write this 4 years ago and finally I'm writing it. Throughout these years, I have been giving advice and repeating the same thing to different people, until a point where my friends ask me, "hey, maybe you should write a blog about work and travel."

I totally understand the questions that most of you guys have about work and travel, because I always encounter the same questions from different people. I participated work and travel for 3 years. Here, I would like to share with you guys things that you wanna know about work and travel.

Some photos of me before I begin, LOL.
first year WAT cold summer Alaska
2013 - My first year of WAT. So cold even it is summer, this is Alaska.

WAT second year
2015 - My second year of WAT. Wefie with students from other countries on the last day of work. (just in case you wonder why I skipped 2014. I was having internship during my summer holiday in 2014, that's why)

third year WAT Matanuska Glacier
2016 - My third year of WAT. Was an unplanned one, but decided to go for the one last time before I start working. Wefie with da homies at Matanuska Glacier.


WHAT IS WORK AND TRAVEL USA?


Work and Travel (WAT) is a program which allows students to work and then travel under J-1 visa sponsor. This visa allows students to work legally in USA for 3 months. And after 3 months, students will have an additional month of grace period in USA, which allows them to travel and explore around USA, but NOT working. Working is not allowed during this grace period.

'WORK AND TRAVEL' AND 'WORKING HOLIDAY', ARE THEY THE SAME?


Nope, they are different. Work and Travel (WAT) is only eligible for full-time tertiary students or students that are graduating from full-time course. For WAT, the probability of getting the visa is 99.99% because tens of thousands visas are given out every year for students. The only country that you can go for WAT is USA. For working holiday, as what I know, there are 3 countries that you (Malaysian) can go, which are Canada, New Zealand and Australia (Correct me if I'm wrong). This program opens to anyone between 18 to 30 years of age (non student status is qualified too). The visas given out every year for working holiday has a quota, it is very limited. Another thing I would like to mention is for WAT, you secure a job before your departure, whereas for working holiday, you do not. You will only be able to start looking for job after your arrival.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO JOIN THIS PROGRAM?


You have to be a full-time tertiary student or student graduating from a full-time course. Simple, right? Also, you need to have at least 3 months holiday from your university (either summer/winter period). Hmmm, certain level of English proficiency may be needed, depends on the job nature. And last but not least, you need to have some MONEY.

HOW DO I JOIN THIS PROGRAM?


In Malaysia, there are 3 agents that offer Work and Travel USA. Namely, Speedwing, Out of the Box and Infinity Abroad. I was under Speedwing for the past 3 years. You may contact them via email/facebook and tell them you are interested in which program, they are very professional and will definitely guide you throughout your journey.

HOW MUCH DO I HAVE TO PAY FOR THE PROGRAM?


You have to pay around $1200 for this program, which includes agent fee, visa fee, insurance, etc. Basically everything is included in this $1200, except flight ticket. Flight ticket depends on where you are flying to. My job was in Alaska, and it cost me around RM4000-RM5000. So in general, you have to spend approximately RM10,000 before your departure. Besides, you have to make sure that you bring sufficient pocket money to cover your expenses during your first few weeks there because you will only be able to get your first paycheck 2 weeks after your first day of working.

WHAT KIND OF JOBS ARE AVAILABLE?


Once you signed up with an agent, you will receive a job list. There are different types of job at different locations. On the job list, you will be able to know the type of job, the employer, the hourly wage, the minimum number of hours given per week and the location. I will name a few examples of job here - housekeeper, bellboy, lifeguard, cashier, theme park ride operator, etc. So you may pick the job according to your own preferences. I picked my job by looking at its hourly wages ($$$$$$, money matters bruhhhh) and also, I looked at the location. I picked Alaska because I wanted to see northern light badly (bucket list checked! Haha).

WILL MY JOB COVER MY EXPENSES?


Don't worry, the amount of money you make throughout these months will be able to cover your initial cost and your living cost over there. What I can share with you guys is that I worked 2 full-time jobs and the money I made allows me to cover my initial expenses ($1200+flight+pocket money), my living cost for 3 months (food and accommodation. I prepared my own meals most of the time), some shopping (not some, I shopped a lot?), and my travelling expenses. And after all, I am still able to bring back plenty of money. No guarantee on your earnings, it depends on how much you are willing to work. Most of my friends are able to cover at least their initial cost and living cost by working just 1 job.

CAN I WORK TWO JOBS?


It depends on the employer. I believe 90% of the employers allow you to work second job. I worked two full-time jobs (72-88 hours/week) every year.

DO I HAVE TO INTERVIEW?


Yes, you will definitely have to go through a visa interview at the US embassy. As for job interview, it really depends on the job nature. Job like housekeeper most likely does not require an interview. But job like sales associate/server will definitely require an interview.

I hope I clarify most of your questions, leave a comment if you have some other questions to ask. If you are hesitating whether to go or not. Please.... GO! The experience you gain from this program is invaluable and it is really a lifetime adventure. You will not be able to do this anymore once you leave university and start working. I have learnt so much from WAT, much more grown, much more independent. Also, I learnt to appreciate what I have.

*Story sharing session: Back in 2013, my first year of WAT. There was this day. I worked only 1 job that day and I decided to go for some groceries shopping after that. It was raining, so I thought of taking a bus instead of cycling back home. Well, since I planned to take bus so why not buying more groceries since I always had a hard time carrying groceries on my back and cycled back home. So I bought whole lots of groceries. Carrying 6 big bags of groceries by myself, I walked out from the store and then to the bus stop. APPARENTLY, it was Sunday and there was NO bus. Being a super stingy person (especially when you convert dollar to RM, I convert a lot during my first year), I decided not to take a cab. I hung 2 shopping bags on each handle of my bike and tied another 2 bags on my backpack and I cycled back home with my 'super-fragile' raincoat on. After cycling for not even 5 mins, my raincoat torn into half. At that very moment, I miss Malaysia so much, and I tell myself to appreciate more, appreciate what I have back home. Back in KL, I can go wherever I want with my car, not to mention grocery shopping (easy peasy, just put everything into the trunk after buying, right?)*

Let's stop my grandma story. Just want to tell you guys that WAT is definitely a rewarding milestone!

Bye bye, I hope you find this blogpost helpful.

Maybe another post about my experience in Fairbanks, Alaska? Hmm.....

If you wanna know more about my WAT experience, follow me on instagram @wendy_chanwy :)
Sales Associate at the Home Depot Paint Department
This is me at my favourite workplace - Sales Associate at the Home Depot Paint Department! **i miss you**

APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE :)

This post was first published on Wendy Chan's .live.love.life. blog with the following useful questions & answers (edited):

Q: Did u mean that you are able to earn back the initial expenses $1200 too? So the only expenses is the flight ticket? ;)
A: Yes, the money that i earned is able to cover the $1200. After $1200, you still have to pay for flight ticket. And also, you have to prepare some money as your pocket money for the first few weeks. I brought around $800-$1000 for my pocket money.

Q: How did you find your second job?
A: After your arrival, you have to apply for 'social security number (SSN)', the agent will guide you about it. After you get your SSN, you can just go around and look for second job. You can walk in and ask whether they are hiring, or check about job availability on 'craigslist'. There are some employers that are willing to hire you before you collect your SSN, but make sure you already applied SSN before you start looking for second job. For me, I cycled around and submitted application almost everywhere that is close to my 1st job. I also checked on craigslist, I also applied some jobs online, I also tried walk-in before.

Q: Are you travel alone or with friends? If alone, will it be tough being alone there?
A: I travelled with friends. Even though I was with my friends, it doesn't mean that we are able to work the same shift/same place. So, you still have to take care of yourself :) But I do have a few friends that went alone for WAT. Oh ya, and you will definitely get to make new friends over there, so don't worry. Also, the agent will connect you with other Malaysian students before your departure. I cannot give a definite answer whether it is tough or not, it really depends on you :) Just make sure you be careful and take care of yourself all the time :)
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