Asha spent her time abroad living in London town. She powered through her initial homesickness to have the adventure of a lifetime, travelling all over Europe and even having a close encounter with the dreamy Hugh Grant!
What city/country are you in?
I am in London, United Kingdom. I have been here a year and a half and I am loving it!
Why did you want to go there? How long have you wanted to go?
In my last year of university I knew I wasn’t ready to enter the work force and settle my roots in one city. An adventure abroad was the solution! I chose England because I wanted to speak the language and have easy access to Europe. Also, I love Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes and Hugh Grant- so naturally London was the best choice. I have been dreaming of travelling to England since I was a kid- but seriously considered it in my final years of university.
If you met someone who was considering going on SWAP but were afraid to take the leap, what advice would you give them?
When I landed in London I wanted to go home immediately. I got food poisoned on the flight, was exhausted, jobless, and lonely. I found comfort in the idea that, worst-case scenario, I buy a ticket home, if I really couldn’t handle it after a few weeks.
My intention was to go abroad for one year. I have been here for a year and a half and I am going strong. I love the people I have met, the city that I live in, the travel opportunities, the culture, food … the list goes on. I have also gained incredible independence and confidence from building a life for myself in a place that I started in with very little. The beginning can be tough but you just have to give it some time and things seem to magically fall into place. I couldn’t be happier!
What made you choose SWAP?
I chose SWAP because my Aunt went to New Zealand, back in the day, with the program and raved about her experience. After talking to the SWAP agents, I found them to be knowledgeable, patient and considerate in our interactions. Especially after having negative experiences when researching with other companies, such as the London Pub Company.
Tell us about your jobs? Also how long did it take you to find work?
I found my first job in my second week of the adventure. It was with a catering agency. I got British catering training in central London at a five star hotel. From there we were sent to different events such as weddings and celebrity parties throughout London. The agency found me full time employment at a Members Only Kid’s Club in Chelsea. I got to serve a variety of the elite- including royalty, oil and gas tycoons, and celebs (including Hugh Grant- who was my dream encounter). After a year at the club I decided to make a change and I got hired full time as a teacher’s assistant through an awesome teaching agency. I love my new job and am investigating a career path. I recommend finding work through agencies in London- they provide plenty of work opportunities and unique experiences.
What has been the best part of your working holiday?
It’s really hard to answer this question because I have lots of different answers. I could say, drinking at Oktoberfest! Or, viewing the art in Paris! Or, singing Mozart in Vienna! But it really comes down to the city I have been living in. So to answer the question: the best part of my working holiday is living in London. It’s expensive, noisy, polluted, highly populated, and grumpy. But I love it! London provides unique experiences, is packed full of like-minded travelers, has an amazing combination of history and modernity, and has vibrant and affordable cultural opportunities!
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned about living/working abroad?
The most valuable thing that I have learned about living and working abroad is that I can take care of myself. I managed to find jobs and homes without the help of my main support system, which was a challenge. At the end of the day, this experience has made me more confident and independent!
Give us one good recommendation about your destination country?
London has tons of hidden gems. One that I would recommend is The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. To get to this underground pub, you need to go to The Breakfast Club near Liverpool Street Station. You have a delicious meal in the restaurant while you wait your turn. Then you are taken through an old-fashioned fridge, down stairs, to the secret bar. It is so cool and they serve amazing cocktails!
In what ways did our abroad partner help you during your working holiday?
SWAP’s partner abroad has been amazing! From the first day, I was greeted with open arms and tons of knowledge. They set me up with my first job and gave me the contact info of my first landlord. I have also been on trips with them, and with a tour company, to Oktoberfest in Munich and the Christmas Markets in Bruges. I made some great friends with the staff and have been flatmates, for over a year, with a friend I made during my orientation. They help you settle in, keep you entertained throughout your stay, introduce you to potential friends and make sure you are happy and informed during your stay.
How might the SWAP experience be improved upon? What could we do better?
The send off, start up and duration of the trip have been seamless in regards to what SWAP has given me on this adventure.
What did you do during your SWAP experience that you wouldn’t have done if you just stayed in Canada?
SWAP provided me with plenty of experiences that I would not have been possible if I had stayed in Canada. For instance, affordably travelling from England to Europe on a whim, being immersed in a foreign culture for an extended period of time, seeing historical landmarks- such as Stonehenge on a weekend, or St. Paul’s Cathedral on a ten-minute walk from home. The list goes on. Sometimes my life abroad feels surreal.
Fancy having a brush with British celebs and royalty like Asha? Summer means exploring music festivals, backpacking through Europe, and scoring the perfect job. Start your British adventure at www.swap.ca/uk.