Do you fancy following kangaroos and koalas in the outback, surfing at Bondi Beach, and snorkelling through the Great Barrier Reef? If so, Australia is the only place you have to go… after the pandemic, of course.
If you dream of visiting this end of the world, Mikaela Vandell, from Fort Providence in the Northwest Territories, will make you want to go even more. She was fortunate enough to get a Working Holiday Visa (WHV) in Australia before the borders were closed to Canadians.
Why Did You Choose Australia for Your Working Holiday Visa?
“It has been a unique experience for me to pursue something that fascinates me – my Indigenous heritage.
I participated in a partnership between the AIME (Australia Indigenous Mentoring Experience) and the NYA (Northern Youth Abroad in Canada) programs. They are both indigenous organizations that fight inequalities and advocate for education.”
How Did You Prepare for Your Experience in Australia?
“When the opportunity arose, I knew I would do anything to get the job. I always wanted to go to Australia. I’ve watched YouTube a lot to find out what to do, what to see, and what to expect. I made lists in my notebook. My school is located in a small isolated community, and we are always encouraged to travel. Everything was set up for me ahead of time. I knew where I would stay and what job I would do.
Of course, some things caught me off guard, like people driving on the other side of the road and needing an adapter to plug in my phone. I always went on the driver’s side of the car instead of on the passenger side. It’s not easy to get used to!”
What Did You Do for Work in Australia?
“I was a program assistant for AIME in Sydney, and I worked part-time, about three days a week. The AIME organization connects post-secondary students with Indigenous youth to give them educational sessions on campus. Studies show an increase in tuition rates thanks to the program. This gives indigenous youth an identity, especially those who do not even know their heritage. For me, it was nice to teach and communicate with them. I really enjoyed the job because it gave me the opportunity to learn more about my own history.”
Did You Develop New Skills During Your Stay?
“Definitely. That was the program’s main focus. I wanted to travel to Australia and bring back ideas to be implemented here in Canada, in small indigenous organizations and schools. Stuff the Northern Youth Abroad in Canada program is already doing, but with a new perspective. I also got to learn about human resources, promotion, and videography, which was really neat. I couldn’t wait to come back to share the things I learned abroad. ”
Where Did You Travel in Australia During Your Working Holiday Visa?
“My employer was really supportive of me seeing the country. It was my first time travelling abroad, so I had to make the most of it. If a travel opportunity presented itself in the middle of the week, my employer was flexible.
I was staying in residence at the University of Sydney. The city of Sydney itself was a very large area to explore. I went to Bondi Beach a bit. Botany Bay was great for learning more about my native history. I also travelled to Cairns to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef. That was a check off my bucket list.
I also went to New Zealand, more specifically Auckland, to parachute. Another checkmark for my list! When I was younger, I made a promise to myself to go skydiving, but I backed out. I was motivated to see it through this time. Now that it’s over, I would definitely do it again! ”
How Did You Meet People While You Were in Australia?
“My colleagues were kind to show me around at the start. Then I went online and joined Australian traveller groups on Facebook. There I met a few people with whom I am still friends and with whom I will probably be friends for a long time. Hostels are also a great way to meet people, as everyone is living a similar experience. If you’re daring, you can always ask a (friendly) stranger on the street, ‘Hey, do you want to go for a hike with me?” or “Hey, do you want to go paddleboarding?'”
How Was Your Backpacking Experience in Australia?
“Australia is backpacker-friendly, especially if this is your first time travelling abroad. Everyone is welcoming in Australia. There are many jobs and hostels available. I got the impression that employers understand that you come from far away and that your goal is to see as much as possible. It’s really free-flowing. ”
Do You Have Any Tips for Traveling to Australia on a Budget?
“To get the most out of your trip, you need to maximize your use of discounts like Groupon. You have to find the cheapest place to buy your food during each day of the week. Plan your longest travel days based on prices and deals on buses, boats and trains. Meet people online so you can do group activities. This way, the cost goes down.
One advantage I had was that my accommodation was covered. I mainly had to pay for my food, activities, and cell phone. I could have managed my budget better, but I didn’t limit myself on all the things I wanted to do. If I found myself struggling, I could have found another job easily. I made enough money to cover the expenses of my trip. ”
What Did You Miss the Most About Canada?
“I really missed the bacon. Bacon in Australia is like regular ham. But other than that, I loved immersing myself in a new culture and just enjoying it as it goes. I always knew that my home would be there in Canada and that I could come back anytime to share my experiences.”
What Advice Would You Give to Someone Who Wants to Do a Working Holiday Visa in Australia?
“I could talk your ear off about how great travelling in Australia is, but you wouldn’t fully understand until you experience it for yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and do it! ”
You’ll never know if you don’t go! If you’re an 18 to 35-year-old Canadian with dreams and an adventurous spirit, be sure to check out the Working Holiday Visa program. You can visit the International Experience Canada website for full details on working and travelling abroad after the pandemic.
Travelling and expanding our horizons helps us define our identity and learn more about ourselves. What dream or passion would you follow to the end of the world?
The original interview was conducted by Safia Dodard and compiled by Britney Claveau.