It feels like the dreaded question is coming at you from every direction. Family, friends and even the Tim Horton’s employees fuelling your late-night study sessions asking, “So what are you planning to do after you graduate?” Even though it feels like your whole life has led to this very moment, it’s possible you might not have thought this far ahead.
And who can blame you? It’s been a whirlwind of education, a non-stop journey from point A to point B. There were the good ol’ days in school, with nothing more than summer jobs in-between. There hasn’t been time to think about what you really want to do. As graduation nears, a terrifying thought hits you: For the first time in your life, you have no clue what to do next.
It seems like everyone else has it figured out. Classmates talk about grad school, getting internships and applying to jobs. If you’re anything like me, then maybe none of those options feel right. What if you feel torn between gaining work experience and seeing the world (on a budget, of course)? Not having an obvious next step may be unsettling, but it is also incredibly freeing. You can do whatever you want, wherever you want and it’s hard to say when you’ll get this chance again. There is literally a world of opportunities ahead of you.
A few months before my crossroads, I had been introduced to the SWAP Working Holidays Program at a university fair. For the past 40 years, SWAP has helped over 54,000 Canadians between the ages of 18-35 work and travel abroad. Their programs include opportunities in Australia, Austria, India, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, the US, and the United Kingdom.
If you’ve never travelled abroad on your own or started fresh in a brand new city, the thought can be more nerve-wracking than your upcoming finals. But the SWAP program gives you the structure you need to tackle the intimidating world out there. They sorted out my work visa and accommodation, so all I had to do was get on a plane and go. The hardest part of the process was picking a country to work in (we are incredibly lucky as Canadians). Maybe, like me, you’ll be inspired by the whimsical stories of an exchange student and find yourself Down Under on an experience of a lifetime.
No matter where you decide to go, when you get there, the friendly staff at the hosting centre will check your résumé, give you job and housing resources, and plan social activities where you can meet new friends. You’ll be halfway around the world, but you won’t be alone. Take advantage of their expertise and you’ll settle pretty seamlessly into your new life. Before you know it, you’ll have a favourite coffee shop, a breathtaking morning commute, new roommates, and a funny way of talking (if you are Australia-bound like I was, you may even find yourself ending your sentences in “ay”).
On my SWAP adventure, I answered my “now what?” with surf lessons, scuba diving, coastal road trips, my first ‘real’ job, and lifelong friends. Work and travel teaches you to embrace life, experience new things, and gives you countless stories to share — one may even involve facing a pack of hungry dingoes (spoiler alert: I lived to tell the tale). As Neale Donald Walsch said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” One day you’ll find yourself saying you’d do it again in a heartbeat, ay.
So consider a working holiday as the answer to your “now what?” You’ll find that life is a lot more fun when the question becomes “Now where?”
Carla Bragagnini, SWAP
SWAP Working Holidays. Celebrating 40 years of trusted work and travel. Find out more about our programs at www.swap.ca