Shash is from California and a Purdue University grad. He took part in IENA’s Work & Travel New Zealand program in 2015 and 2016. He’s currently in Australia doing his third work abroad program with IENA!
Tell us about your experiences overseas!
My working holiday experience in New Zealand was an incredible journey, where I explored stunning landscapes, made lifelong friendships, and grew into a very unique version of myself. When I initially landed in Auckland, I applied to various jobs all around New Zealand, being open to different locations and types of work. The first job that I got an offer for was as a Store Attendant at the local service station in Fox Glacier. It was a 3-month position and I decided to take it up as an adventure.
Fox Glacier is a small farming town on the West Coast of the South Island. It’s glacier, remoteness, and dramatic scenery makes it a very popular tourist destination during the summer months. Being a small town of only around 350 people, it was like one large family. As I started working in Fox Glacier, I started meeting and building relationships with many of the locals there. On my days off, they would often take me on jet boat trips, helicopter rides, white bait fishing weekends, farming shows, and show me various ‘off the tourist route’ places in the area. I made many new friends in the community and started helping out at the local school, participating in one of the school plays as well. I really loved the town and enjoyed working there, and my boss was keen on me staying till my visa expired. She gave me lots of freedom to take time off and travel in the winter months as well. This gave me a chance to explore most of the South Island.
When IENA provided me the opportunity to apply for a second-year working holiday visa through IEP, I jumped at it because I loved the experience and wanted to stay on. Fox Glacier was also the perfect base for me because my bosses were like family and the town was so connected and supportive of me. So I did a second year in New Zealand, continuing to work in Fox Glacier and explored more of New Zealand on my time off.
At the end of my two years in New Zealand, I had done lots of travelling in New Zealand, saw some breathtaking scenery and landscapes, as well as built some amazing friendships with locals and other like-minded backpackers. As a result, I grew so much by accepting and incorporating a different lifestyle into my way of life.
Did you gain any skills that will help you in your future career?
Employers are always looking for people who are adaptable and willing to learn new things. While working and living in New Zealand, I learned to adapt in order to better communicate with people around me. New Zealanders speak a different version of English than we do in the States, so I took the effort to learn their dialect and incorporate it into my speech, in order to communicate more effectively with the locals.
Globalization is a reality in this world, and people from different cultures and backgrounds are coming together to change the world in positive ways. In the workforce, there is so much more diversity today. All employers are looking for people with a global perspective, who have exposure to different cultures. Working and living in New Zealand gave me an exposure to a set of people who live differently from us in the United States. I learned how to work with people who have a different background than me and utilize our strengths positively. Having this experience and skill set is very useful in today’s workforce.
What is your favorite memory from your IENA work abroad program?
There are so many amazing memories, but the best one would have to be the two Christmas celebrations with my boss’s family at their family farm. My boss invited me to spend Christmas day with their family and extended family soon after I started working in Fox Glacier. Two years in a row I attended the gathering. It was amazing, with four different meats cooked on a camp oven, various roasted vegetables and salads, and a dozen different desserts. We would all gather at the farmhouse and barn in the morning and stay till evening. Everyone would just be chatting with each other, having a few beers, and being fun, laid-back, Kiwis. With this experience, I felt like I had a family away from home, and didn’t miss out on not being with my own family for the holidays.
What advice would you give to someone considering an IENA work abroad program?
I would highly recommend everyone to give this program a shot. At the least, you will get a chance to work and fund your own travels through some amazing countries. But usually, you will end up gaining so much more. On these work abroad programs, you will meet people from a very different culture and background, and get the chance to make some wonderful relationships for life. It will broaden your horizons and really change the way you think. A work abroad experience will stand out on a resume and your experiences can be used to answer so many interview questions for future jobs.
Going on a work abroad program is such an adventure, but going through an organization like IENA takes the stress away completely. They help you out with all the preliminary and logistical requirements before flying to your country of choice. And in the new country, their partner organization assists you step by step on getting a bank account set up, tax ID, cell phone plan, conducting resume assistance, and finding work. You can utilize them throughout the one year as much as you need.
My biggest hesitation before going ahead with this program was that most of my friends from college were taking up jobs related to their major or applying for Grad school programs. I felt like I was doing something very different, and although I was excited, I was scared I was making a foolish decision. But once I got to New Zealand, I realized how many thousands of other backpackers from all over the world are doing this work travel program. You meet so many like-minded people who are all using this as an opportunity to learn more about the world and themselves. Taking the first step was the toughest part, but I am so glad I jumped onboard with this program, because I am now doing my third work abroad program with IENA!
My biggest thought after doing the work holiday in New Zealand:
“You come for the landscapes, but stay for the people.”
Thanks to Shash for sharing his experiences with IENA. We look forward to hearing more from him about his Australia adventures!