Do you find yourself dreaming of world-class surfing (or surfers), exotic wildlife (not all venomous), vibrant cities (with a friendly laid-back vibe) and exciting adventures (in a country on the other side of the world)? Dream no further: Australia is the place for you! And if you’re going to travel that far, you might as well plan to stay for a while. Canadians aged 18 to 35 can apply for a Working Holiday Visa in Australia and stay up to two years to work and travel in the Land Down Under. In case you need another reason to move across the world, Safia (a French-Canadian digital nomad chasing summer as a pastime) shares her experience in Australia.
- Name of the WHV country: Australia
- Name: Safia
- Last Name: Dodard
- Age: 33 years old
- Hometown: Montreal
- Period of the WHV: February 2008 to August 2008
- Instagram handle: @nomadicsafia
What Motivated You to Apply for a Working Holiday Visa in Australia?
During university, almost all of my friends did a semester abroad and came back with tons of memories and new friends from all over the world. Having missed that opportunity, I was hoping I could also experience living in a different city for an extended period of time.
I had already backpacked in Europe for a couple of weeks, but I loved the idea of starting a new life and working abroad.
There was a certain excitement about living on my own for the first time and being independent.
I didn’t want to hop from one destination to the next while watching my bank account get depleted. I figured that getting a WHV would be the smartest way to travel.
How Did Your Family and Friends React to Your Decision to Work and Travel in Australia?
My mother is to blame for passing along the travel bug to me at a very young age.
She always knew that I would travel far and wide, so there was no surprise when I announced my decision to leave for six months on a WHV. In fact, she was quite excited about the prospect of visiting me while I was abroad, which she did for two weeks. She always encouraged me to seek out new opportunities and broaden my horizons. As for my friends, they had all gone abroad to study so they were just happy that I could also have this experience.
Why Did You Choose Australia as a Destination for Your WHV?
I finished my undergrad in December and didn’t have to be back in Canada to start my Master’s Degree until August. Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, I saw staying here as the best opportunity to escape winter. It was my first solo travel experience, and it was comforting to know that there wouldn’t be a language barrier and that the culture was very similar to that in Canada.
The WHV application process was pretty straightforward and could be completed online, which was very practical for me. I also had a few friends who had done a WHV in Australia. They were able to provide me with tips and advice to get me started as well as put me in contact with Australian friends who could help me settle in.
Did You Save Some Money Before Leaving? How Much?
Since I was a year younger than most people at school, I took this opportunity to extend my degree by a semester. This allowed me to work and save some money. I don’t recall the exact amount that was necessary to show as proof of funds, but I just scraped by. It was enough to cover my expenses for the first few weeks before I found a job, although in hindsight I could’ve saved up a little bit more money.
What Are the First Things You Did When You Arrived in Australia?
I went straight to the beach! I had this image of Australia with waves breaking on beautiful beaches, surfer dudes, and a chill vibe.
Then came the less exciting stuff such as getting a “tax file number,” opening a bank account, and buying a cell phone with a local number. These were all necessary steps to initiate the process of working in Australia. Since I didn’t have much money saved up, it was essential to start working as early as possible. Not wanting to be ill-prepared for this big move across the world, I had started my research before leaving and managed to score an interview on the second day after I arrived.
What Steps Did You Take to Find a Job?
Even before leaving for Australia, I had started sending emails in response to job postings I found on Craigslist and GumTree. This step allowed me to assess the job market, and I quickly realized that I would need to hustle a bit more once I arrived in Australia. I tried to use my network of existing contacts with friends who had been to Australia and relatives who knew people in Australia.
Patience and resilience are key because it’s easy to get discouraged during this process.
I was set on living in Sydney, so I had to make compromises to find work during my time there because it was a very competitive job market. With the six month restriction for working with the same employer, it was hard to find work in my field on a WHV. It seemed as though the most accessible type of jobs were in hospitality. Having absolutely no experience working in bars and restaurants, I invested in a one-day course to teach me the basics of hospitality work. Once I knew I was ready to commit to this type of work, I had to register for the Responsible Serving of Alcohol (RSA) certification. Only then did I go from restaurant to restaurant to introduce myself to the manager and hand them my resume.
What Work Experience Did You Have During Your WHV?
I found a job in a small Italian restaurant working as a waitress. The team at the restaurant became my family away from home. Everything I’ve learned about hospitality, I’ve learned from my time there. Years later, I’m still in contact with past colleagues!
Eventually, I applied for a temp job at a hospitality agency and was hired as a cocktail waitress. Most of my assignments were at the Sydney Opera House. It was absolutely magical to be standing on the marquee of the Sydney Opera House with views of the Harbour Bridge and the skyline of the city, serving champagne and canapés to guests. Almost all the staff were young people on a WHV, so we created tight bonds, and they became part of my social circle.
Would You Say That the Money Earned During Your WHV Was Enough to Cover Your Cost of Living?
At the age that I was and for the type of experiences that I was looking for, it was enough. Also, I didn’t intend to work full time because I wanted to enjoy the city and have the freedom to go on day trips whenever I felt like it. There were opportunities to make more money by working weekends and during holidays, but that was not my goal during this WHV.
Where Did You Travel in Australia During Your Working Holiday Visa and What Was Your Favourite Place?
While close to Sydney, I visited the Northern beaches, went to the Blue Mountains, and did a wine tour in Hunter Valley. I also went on holidays to the Gold Coast and Airlie Beach, where I embarked on a sailing trip in the Whitsunday Islands and had the opportunity to dive around the Great Barrier Reef.
I had so much fun on the sailboat in the Whitsundays! To this day, it’s one of my most memorable experiences. That’s where I went scuba diving for the first time and saw some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets from the deck of the boat.
Share an Anecdote or Travel Story From Your Experience in Australia :
The first time I went to the beach in Australia, I completely disregarded all the warnings about covering up or wearing sunscreen. I figured that because I have dark skin and had just returned from a trip to Florida that I would be fine. Little did I know that there is a hole in the ozone layer just above Australia. That’s when I learned that anyone can get a sunburn, even more so in Australia!
What Was the Most Rewarding Part of Your Stay Abroad?
Stepping out of my comfort zone!
Initially, I was supposed to leave with a friend, but circumstances changed so that I was suddenly travelling solo. I learned so much about myself and my level of tolerance for situations that affect my general happiness. Travelling with a WHV is meant to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I learned that if I was miserable in a situation, it was up to me, and me alone, to change it and make the best out of it. I learned to talk to strangers who then turned into friends.
In life, you make your own destiny and going on this trip was my starting point to building a career where travelling is at the centre stage.
Did You Visit Other Countries During Your WHV?
It was really important for me to take some time off before heading back home. The WHV was such an exhilarating experience that I needed to “debrief my mind” before coming back to the daily grind in Canada. I decided to go to Fiji since the flights are really affordable from Australia. I went island hopping for 10 days in a place that I would’ve never dreamed of visiting if I were flying from Canada.
Did You Return Home With Savings or Debts?
I spent the last of the money I made in Australia on my trip to Fiji. Fortunately, I was starting my Master’s Degree at the time and was able to get some grants and scholarships. I’m glad I didn’t have any additional debts since my ultimate goal was to build a travel fund to help me explore the country during my time abroad.
What Advice Would You Give to Someone Who Would Like to Get a Working Holiday Visa for Australia?
Getting a WHV will allow you to build skills, discover a new culture, and gain a new perspective on life which you wouldn’t get from any other experience.
Trust that this time abroad will bring you so much more than what you ever expected. It will not always be easy, and you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone, but you will be rewarded with an invaluable experience that will last you a lifetime. Pick a destination, apply for a WHV, buy your plane ticket and GO!
You would also like: Travelling and Working in New Zealand: Stories from a Canadian on a Working Holiday Visa (WHV)
Make your dream come true of working and travelling in Australia. Head over to International Experience Canada’s website to find out about the 30+ countries/territories where you can apply for a Working Holiday Visa as a Canadian. What will your next destination be?