SWAP Stories – Meet Asha!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

SWAP UK Testimonial - Asha

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.

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SWAP Stories – Meet Kaleigh!

Kaleigh gained valuable work experience abroad (and learned how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness) in Dublin, Ireland!

Why did you want to go there? How long have you wanted to go?

There’s something romantic that drew me to the Emerald Isle and I’ve wanted to go there for as long as I can remember.

If you met someone who was considering going on SWAP but were afraid to take the leap, what advice would you give them?

It’s taking that first step that’s the hardest but once you make the first move it’s smooth sailing, everything will fall into place and you’ll surprise yourself with the things that you can accomplish.

SWAP Ireland Testimonial - Kaleigh

What made you choose SWAP?

I chose SWAP because I wasn’t really sure how to go about get a visa and all that jazz on my own. SWAP really helped prepare me and set me up for success. The helped in getting organized when I got there and laid out everything I had to do to get set up right in front of me!

Tell us about your job(s)? Also, how long did it take you to find work?

I found a bar-tending job at an AMAZING pub the VERY FIRST DAY I went and applied. To this day it remains to be my favourite job.

What has been the best part of your working holiday?

The best part of my working holiday was getting to experience a different culture and completely different way of life. It’s also AMAZING to live somewhere where you’re the one who has the “weird accent”

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned about living/working abroad?

The most valuable thing that I have learnt is that I can handle anything that is thrown my way and to trust my gut. You never think you can do so much until the time comes that you have to!

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Give us one good recommendation about your destination country! (e.g. a great little restaurant, overlooked attraction, etc.)

Take the train on a day trip to Howth. It’s a beautiful spot to walk along the ocean.

In what ways did our abroad partner help you during your working holiday?)

They were able to answer ALL of my questions and concerns and made it so that I never felt alone. It was nice to have that safety net there.

What did you do during your SWAP experience that you wouldn’t have if you just stayed at home in Canada?

Absolutely everything, staying in Canada wouldn’t have let me meet some of the friendliest Irish people, I wouldn’t have traveled the island seeing some of the oldest and most beautiful castles, cliffs and thousands of sheep! It gave me a life changing experience and a wanderlust that cannot be contained. I miss Ireland every single day and only have amazing memories about my stay and experience.

You’re in luck, SWAP Ireland is accepting ongoing applications! Earn money in Euros and use your holidays to travel around the rest of Europe. Get the craig started at www.swap.ca/ireland.

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The Reviews Are in – Here’s What People Are Saying About SWAP!

When SWAP first started over 40 years ago, we were fully owned by the Canadian Federation of Students, a not-for-profit organization that devotes their time and energy to student issues and concerns.

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Today, SWAP provides a wide range of programs, for students and non-students alike. We help Canadians who want our traditional working holiday programs, but also teach abroad positions, volunteer abroad adventures, language programs, and hard-to-acquire work in the US visas. We’re proud that many of our programs are now open to people of all ages! Encouraging Canadians to live, work, contribute, travel, and experience the world is our mission and we provide the options to help turn even your wildest travel aspirations into reality. The best part is, having maintained our ties to the Canadian Federation of Students and our non-profit status, our priority is and always will be to keep our program costs as low as possible.

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At SWAP, we have been ambassadors of travel for over 40 years. We know the value of living and working abroad because we have done it ourselves. And if that’s not enough, there’s 70,000+ Canadians who have trusted SWAP and said “YES” to the extraordinary over the past few decades. We want you to join them in living, working, experiencing, and impacting the world, while gaining new skills, friends, and the stories of a lifetime.

But don’t just take our word for it, read on below for a sneak peek of what some of our participants have been saying about SWAP and their experiences! Our website now includes a SWAP Reviews and Testimonials page with more personal stories and reviews!

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SWAP Stories – Meet Mathew!

At first you may feel a wee bit scared, but once you take the leap, you’ll see that life in Scotland is grrreat! We had a chat with Mathew, who is having the adventure of a lifetime in the Land of Scots!

What city and country are / were you in?

Originally I worked in a village called Loch Awe, Scotland located two hours west of Glasgow and have since moved to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Why did you want to go there? How long have you wanted to go?

After graduating university I worked as a bartender for a year and while I enjoyed it, I was beginning to feel unfulfilled, so I decided to give the UK a try. I chose Loch Awe because it was a live-in job and the company was willing to hire me as soon as I arrived. Initially I intended on staying there for five weeks before moving somewhere else but working in a hotel surrounded by lakes and mountains was too good to pass up so I stayed for eight months.

Loch Awe Staff

If you met someone who was considering going on SWAP but were afraid to take the leap, what advice would you give them?

Embrace the fear and leave your comfort zone, that’s how you grow as a person. Document it as a blog or personal journal so you can reflect on your journey.

What made you choose SWAP?

It was my first time applying for a visa and I was nervous about making a mistake so SWAP was perfect because they walked me through the process and reminded me to set-up things like a bank account, which is something I wouldn’t have considered had it not been mentioned by SWAP.

Tell us about your job(s)? Also, how long did it take you to find work?

My first job was as a bartender at a hotel in the West Highlands of Scotland, which had been arranged before I moved to the UK. Every three days 150 guests arrived on coach buses and we served and entertained them for the duration of their stay. I started in mid-November which was the Mountains and Mistletoe festival so we celebrated Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Hogmanay (New Years’ Eve) every three days. I celebrated Christmas 11 times in 2013. I worked at the hotel for eight months before I made the decision to give my two-week notice and go backpacking for the summer. I traveled all through the Highlands and islands of Scotland and fell in love with the country. I had originally intended on moving to London but as my travels took me further from Scotland I began to yearn to return, but this time to a city.
In August I moved to Edinburgh and started looking for work. It took about two weeks to find a job as a tour guide at the Scotch Whisky Experience and I’ve been working there for 10 months. The job was tough at first because I knew nothing about whisky but the company trained me very well and within a month I was well versed in the subject. The job offers a variety of tasks including selling tickets, serving drinks, giving tours and tutored whisky tasting as well as meeting people from around the world and basically getting paid to sample whisky.

What has been the best part of your working holiday?

I spent the summer of 2014 backpacking around Scotland and living in hostels, and although it is nice to meet new people, I did start to miss having a space to call my own. When I started planning a few days on the Isle of Mull, I couldn’t find a hostel option and bed and breakfasts were well out of my price range. It was then I found a campsite with shieling tents, for 11GBP a day. I rented a private tent with a little gas stove to cook meals. The campsite overlooked the Sound of Mull with Ben Nevis (the tallest mountain in the UK) in the background.

SWAP UK Testimonial - Matthew

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned about living/working abroad?

The most valuable thing I’ve learned is to accept the new culture with open arms rather than compare it to home. I learned that haggis is delicious and can be eaten for dinner with tatties and neeps or the next morning as a part of a full breakfast. Irn Bru is the best cure for a night out. Kilts are incredibly comfortable yet deceivingly heavy. Roundabouts, while tricky to navigate at first, are amazing for reducing traffic congestion and travel time. Britain isn’t England and there is no such thing as a British accent.

Give us one good recommendation about your destination country! (e.g. a great little restaurant, overlooked attraction, etc.)

My favourite place in Scotland is Oban, preferably during the summer. It’s a coastal village on the west coast of Scotland with amazing seafood from the green shack by the pier. Oban distillery makes a great 14 year old whisky which can be paired nicely with chocolate made in house from the Oban Chocolate Company – I’d suggest the Marmite Chocolate. Head to Cuan Mor for dinner, the fish cakes paired with an Oban Bay beer which is brewed upstairs is a great call. Then hike up Pulpit Hill to watch the sunset over Oban Bay with Mull and Balliemore islands on the horizon.

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In what ways did our abroad partner help you during your working holiday?

SWAP’s abroad partner was incredibly helpful for a newby solo traveler, they facilitated nights out, offered suggestions and advice on places to live within London, free things to do, work resources and CV advice.


What did you do during your SWAP experience that you wouldn’t have if you just stayed at home in Canada?

When I arrived at Heathrow Airport, I was terrified about what the next two years had in store. My mind was in fight or flight mode and I was considering staying in London for a few days and then flying back to Canada. Somehow I managed to push through it. Two months ago I felt that same fight or flight feeling before I got on stage to perform comedy for my first time. My five minute set was received fairly well by the audience. The sense of accomplishment after I stepped off stage made me feel like I could conquer the world. To experience that kind of personal growth fills me with pride.

So you heard it here, laddies and lassies… embrace the kilt and haggis! Your SWAP UK Working Holiday visa gives you the chance to work in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, AND Scotland! Start your UK adventure at http://www.swap.ca/uk/

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SWAP Stories – Meet Amelie!

Amelie is having a brilliant time living across the pond through the SWAP UK program.

What city and country are / were you in?
I now live in the best city in the world: London, UK

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Why did you want to go there? How long have you wanted to go?
My mom visited London many years ago and since then I had ben dreaming of seeing Big Ben and London. I finally got the chance to visit 2 years ago and absolutely fell in love with this wonderful city. I heard about SWAP in July 2014, decided that it was the perfect time in my life to move to London, applied in August and moved in October.

If you met someone who was considering going on SWAP but were afraid to take the leap, what advice would you give them?
Just do it. It might seem too crazy, too big, too scary, etc, but it’ll be the best thing you will ever do in your life. And if for some crazy reason it’s not all what you thought it would be, just move back home. But you’ll never know until you try, so just go for it.

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What made you choose SWAP?
I heard about SWAP from a friend and thought it was the easiest way to move to a new country.

Tell us about your job(s)? Also, how long did it take you to find work?
I’m a teacher so I had a job before I even left home. I did supply work from October to January in different elementary schools. Since January I’ve been doing supply and support work in a school not too far from home. They’ve asked me to take a contract with them next year and we are discussing the possibility of a sponsorship after that. I fell back in love with my job since I’ve moved here.

What has been the best part of your working holiday?
It’s hard to choose just one as there are so many to choose from. I think that being able to travel to so many places, and meeting a bunch of awesome people who are doing the same thing you are.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned about living/working abroad?
It’s also difficult to choose only one thing for this question as I’ve learned so much about myself since I left. I learned that I absolutely love living in a house full of people my age (I had always lived either with family or by myself and I never thought I could live with roommates). I learned that no matter how far I am, I will always have friends and family in Canada who love and support me. I learned that it is possible to fit your life in a suitcase, and that you really don’t need to have more belongings than that. I learned to let go of a lot of things and just enjoy life.

Give us one good recommendation about your destination country! (e.g. a great little restaurant, overlooked attraction, etc.)
There are so many things to do and see in London, and a lot of them are already known by a lot of people. If you love British TV, you can be part of the audience of tv show recordings by signing up on a website called sroaudiences.com. I’ve been to many recordings, discovered new shows and cried from laughing too much because these nights always turn out to be great entertainment. As for restaurants, there is a place near my house called Lizard Lounge (on George Lane in South Woodford, far east in London) where they have 3 for 2 meals and 2 for 1 cocktails every night before 8pm. I spend a lot of Friday nights there with my roommates to relax from our crazy week.

SWAP UK Testimonial - Amelie

In what ways did our abroad partner help you during your working holiday?
The abroad partner is simply the best! I have met so many friends through them and been to incredible events, parties, and trips thanks to them. The staff is amazing, friendly, helpful and just make you feel at home. They have activity suggestions for every single day of the year. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

What did you do during your SWAP experience that you wouldn’t have if you just stayed at home in Canada?
So many things! I probably wouldn’t have gone to Amsterdam, Krakow, Bruges, Malta, or on a ski trip in the French and Italian Alps. I wouldn’t have been in 5 different countries within the same week. I certainly wouldn’t have gone to see the Queen at the Royal Ascot Races. I wouldn’t have seen so many musicals (James McAvoy almost fell on my feet during his!). I wouldn’t have visited the Harry Potter Studios. I wouldn’t have been to the NYE’s Fireworks by the London Eye. I wouldn’t have partied at The Church, the craziest, wildest club in London. I wouldn’t have ridden a bull or been chased by zombies (long stories!). I wouldn’t have gone on crazy Paddington Bear and Shaun the Sheep hunts. I wouldn’t have met some of the most amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have grown from this experience. I would have stayed in my little routine and continue to grow discontent with my life every day. I wouldn’t have been this happy and satisfied with the way my life is going.

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If you want to have a brush with the Queen at the Royal Ascot like Amelie, you’re in luck! This year’s event doesn’t happen until June 14-18, 2016. Plenty of time to book the adventure of a lifetime with SWAP UK!

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5 Reasons to Volunteer and Travel in India this Spring

We survived a long winter in Canada and now, spring is in the air! As the days get longer and with March Break just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to think about travels. The SWAP India Volunteer and Travel project offers you the chance to get involved in a local community to empower women and teach children, while taking the chance to tour the country, including a visit the majestic Taj Mahal and an overnight camel safari to Pushkar!

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Here are five reasons you should consider exploring India this spring with SWAP:

1. Holi Festival: Also known as the “Festival of Colours,” this is a celebration that marks the end of winter and the upcoming spring harvest season. People crowd the streets and throw coloured powder all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers, making it one of the most vibrant festivals in the world! Holi takes place the day after the full moon in March each year. In 2016, Holi will be celebrated on March 23 and March 24. If you book the SWAP Volunteer and Travel in India program for the March 14, 2016 arrival, you will participate in the once-in-a-lifetime Holi experience in Pushkar!

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2. Taj Mahal: A trip to India is incomplete without a visit to the Taj Mahal. Luckily, the SWAP Volunteer and Travel in India program includes an excursion there! Located in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a tragic memorial of love and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore described it as “a teardrop on the face of eternity.” The best time to visit the Taj Mahal is between October to March, perfect for the start of spring when the temperatures are moderate and most comfortable.

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3. Easter in India: Although India predominantly follows Hinduism, there is a small Christian population that celebrates Easter, the largest Christian holiday in the world. This year, Easter Sunday falls on Sunday, March 27. Similar to North American tradition, Easter eggs and bunnies are used as symbols. Traditional Indian art is used to beautifully and uniquely decorate Easter eggs. Carnivals take place throughout the country (and especially in Goa), where songs and dances are staged.

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4. Spring flowers: India is a sensory experience, with sights and smells that are constantly stimulating. In March, flowers spring up around the country, gardens are open to the public and spring bird festivals take place. See 11 beautiful places in India to bask in the season here.

5. Festivals, festivals, and more festivals: We mentioned Holi Festival, which is the biggest spring festival in India. However, there are dozens of other festivals that occur throughout the month of March. For a full listing, see here.

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Going on SWAP India Volunteer and Travel this spring means you will get to volunteer and explore India during one of the best times of the year! You’ll get to visit Agra and Pushkar, have the chance to take part in the Holi celebrations (if you book for the March 14 arrival), and give your service to a community in need. Start your life-changing experience with SWAP India Volunteer and Travel.

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SWAP Stories – Meet Jake!

Jake is living the American Dream with an internship in turf management in New Jersey through the SWAP Internship USA program.

What city are you in?

Springfield, New Jersey (about 20 miles outside of New York City)

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Why did you want to go there? How long have you wanted to go?

I was given the opportunity to work on one of the best golf courses in the world. I have always wanted to travel to another part of the world. This internship finally gave me the opportunity to travel far away from home, while also being great for my career.

If you met someone who was considering going on SWAP but were afraid to take the leap, what advice would you give them?

I would tell them that yes, it can be scary to leave home for a new job in a country away from home, but in order to grow as a person it is important to leave your comfort zone. I guarantee that after a week you will no longer be afraid, but instead will be taking in and learning more then you ever could have imagined.

What made you choose SWAP?

SWAP was the easiest and fastest way to get me through the complicated VISA process.

Tell us about your internship? How long did it take you to find work?

I found this job before joining SWAP. I have spent the past month working on one of the best golf courses in the world. My days are spent working as an intern on the grounds crew. My duties included the maintenance of all turf areas. This involves, mowing, irrigation, fertilization and many other important duties.

What has been the best part of your internship?

I have been able to learn from the best of the best in the industry of turf management. I have been given the opportunity to propel my career forward in a way that I never imagined. Plus, I have been able to explore New York City, which was on my bucket list.

SWAP USA Testimonial - Jake

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned about living/working abroad?

I have learned that even though leaving home is hard, it is totally worth it to explore other parts of your world. Learning to leave your comfort zone will help you grow and become more successful.

What’s a good recommendation in your city?

TD’s Pizza is a small little pizza joint in Springfield. The small family run business makes some of the best pizza I have ever had.

What did you do during your SWAP experience that you wouldn’t have if you just stayed at home in Canada?

I walked the streets of New York City, saw the Empire State Building, and even walked through Times Square.

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The SWAP Internship USA program is now open! Apply by March 11, 2016 to be considered for an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC for a leadership conference! More details here.

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Go Beyond Backpacking… Immerse Yourself Abroad!

There’s a difference between seeing a place and really being in a place. Between being a tourist and feeling like a local. Between making meaningful connections and contributions to a place instead of just passing through.
Backpacking allows you to meet an endless array of people, see so many different sights, and experience new things, but it can also be an exhausting whirlwind and blur of faces and places.
When you take the time to settle somewhere, you get to really experience it. You actually live there, you go out to restaurants, make friends, go on weekend excursions, and participate in extracurricular activities. You go more in depth versus just scratching the surface. Here are some ideas to help you go beyond backpacking abroad:

1. Study abroad: When you go to school, you already have a routine, which makes it that much easier to settle in a place on a temporary basis. You’ll meet people at orientation, in residence, and in your classes, so making friends is really easy. You’re more likely to make connections with others on exchange or studying abroad who are on the same page as you and are always up for adventures after classes, on weekends, during school breaks, and even after the term. There’s usually no extra steps in finding a job or accommodation because as an international student, housing is often included and your goal is to attend classes, which are all set up for you. While you study, you’ll be fully immersed in the lifestyle of the place you are studying in and get to enjoy the perks of living in a new and exciting location.
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2. Volunteer abroad: There are various volunteer abroad projects that give you a shorter-term glimpse into living in a place. In addition, you’ll get to give back to a local community, whether it’s through volunteering on lion research, rhino/elephant protection, an orphanage, community outreach project, or another cause close to your heart. You’ll get to volunteer side-by-side with members of the community and other volunteers from abroad, so there are vast learning opportunities. Normally, the accommodation and transfers from the airport are included, so all you have to do is book your flight and go! Most volunteer projects will include side excursions, which also give you the chance to travel and see more of your adopted home.
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3. Work abroad: Working Holiday visas are one of the best ways to fund your travels abroad. Typically, you get a one or two year visa, giving you plenty of time to explore a place. You can choose to settle in a big city and then pick up and move to the countryside and find a job there or vice versa. You can travel slowly and get to know people. There are no restrictions on the location or work you do within a country. That makes it the most flexible option because you really do choose your own adventure! Additionally, there are options to teach abroad, and intern abroad, which give you work experience and allow you to get involved in the local community or take steps towards building your career.
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4. Language programs: Trying to learn a new language in Canada is difficult because your learning stops at the end of class. The best way to learn a new language is to really immerse yourself in an experience abroad. If you want to learn Japanese, consider moving to Japan for a while, or if you want to learn Spanish, perhaps a stay in Costa Rica is fitting. When your classes end, your learning doesn’t. That’s because all aspects of your daily life will involve your new language. Whether it’s shopping at the grocery store, taking public transportation, or just being at home, you’ll get to practice during your entire stay! You’ll get to know locals and learn more about their culture. Culture programs and excursions are usually included, so you’ll get the chance to travel and participate in extracurricular activities as well, to learn more about the way of life there.
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Find out about these options and more in person at the Study and Go Abroad Fairs coming to Victoria, Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto from Feb. 23 – 28! It’s FREE to attend and you will get the chance to meet with representatives from SWAP Working Holidays offering a number of these experiences, as well as post-secondary recruiters from top-ranking institutions worldwide for tons of study abroad options. Pre-register online to skip the lines and enter to win in the Grand Prize Draw, a return international flight to any Air Canada destination!

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Teach in Thailand – Registration Deadline: March 17!

“Living in a new culture has been the most difficult, yet amazing thing I have ever done. The students are the best part of this whole Thailand experience. They are always full of smiles, have lots of energy and are eager to learn English. Hearing ‘Good morning, teacher!’ every day from hundreds of students will forever be a special memory of mine. Teaching in a Thai classroom has been more difficult than I had anticipated but still very rewarding and always lots fun. I teach eleven Matthayom 1 classes (grade 7) and five Matthayom 5 classes (grade 11), each with approximately 40 students. The English speaking ability varies from one classroom to another and within the same classroom. The teachers have been so helpful, kind and extremely generous. They include us in all school events, take us on field trips and help us experience the Thai festivals and culture first-hand.

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Living in rural Thailand has been nothing short of amazing. The people in Thoeng are so kind and will always go above and beyond to make sure we are happy. Living in a small farming community has given us a sense of Thailand that we would never have experienced if we were backpacking. We see and experience more than the big cities and tourist attractions. Being a small town most people around the community know we are the foreign teachers so they look out for us and are extremely kind to us. Thoeng has been the perfect temporary home, I couldn’t have asked for a better placement than rural Thailand.

The SWAP and OEG organizations have also helped immensely to make this experience stress free and wonderful. Orientation week was full of helpful teaching ideas and introduced us to the culture. Both organizations have contacted us throughout the semester to make sure everything is going well and that we are enjoying our time. It is safe to say we are well taken care of, by OEG, SWAP, our fellow teachers and everyone in our community. This has truly been an unbelievable experience.”

Jill, Teach in Thailand

Go beyond backpacking with the Teach in Thailand program. Start your adventure here.

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SWAP’s Summer USA 2015 program is now open!

Board meetings are better in Hawaii.

swap.ca/summerUSA

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Travel: The Only Thing You Buy That Makes You Richer… But You Need Money to Make It Happen!

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Your feet are itchy. But luckily, it’s the kind of itch that needs to be cured with a plane ticket, not a foot cream. This trip, whether it’s for study, volunteer, or work, has been on your mind for the past few weeks, months, years. You don’t need any more convincing, you’ve decided to go abroad and you know it will be the best experience ever. Now, just one small detail – how do you get started?

They say that “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” While this is true, let’s keep in mind that you need money in order to make that travel dream happen in the first place. No matter where you decide to go, getting the ticket and spending money is going to involve some work. That means you’re going to need to save some money – pesos, yen, euros, you name it, and you’re going to need plenty of it! If you’ve been a student before, you probably have the frugal living thing down pat. You know you can trade in your car for a bike (hey, it even doubles as exercise!), browse the free section on Craigslist or shop at thrift stores (for second-hand footwear, remember to always wear socks, otherwise you’ll need that cream afterall). You can get into extreme couponing, cut your own hair, avoid shopping malls at all costs, find free events in town, tone down your caffeine intake, drinking and partying, and eat at home more. It’s possible to cut down your living expenses by getting a roommate, turning down your heating and layering up, and negotiating your utility bills. In order to make more money, there’s always the option of getting a second job, taking on random gigs, or selling some of your worldly possessions. One helpful money tip is to think of things in terms of wants and needs. Before you buy something, ask yourself which category it fits into and go from there. That simple question and a little pre-purchase pep talk can seriously help curve impulse spending.

By now, you may already be on your way towards saving, but what if you’re not sure where to go and what to do? There are just so many options out there and it can be really overwhelming. One great place to start your trip is to attend the Study and Go Abroad Fairs taking place in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary between Feb. 25 to March 1. There are study, work, and travel abroad options to over 100 countries! The Travel Zone has exciting opportunities for volunteering, language travel, internships, and something that we know a thing or two about – work abroad programs. So make sure you stop by and say hi to the friendly SWAP staff in attendance. Pre-registering will save you time and score you a chance to win big in the Grand Prize Draw, including a trip of a lifetime (some serious money saving right there!). The best part is you don’t even have to decide if it’s a want or a need because it’s FREE to attend. See you there!

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Talk to us this month at the Study and Go Abroad Fairs!

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This month, we’re coming to you (well, 4 cities that you may or may not live in or be near) for the awesome Study and Go Abroad Fairs! Come say hi and ask us anything about working abroad.

VANCOUVER – February 25th
OTTAWA – February 27th
MONTREAL – February 28th
TORONTO – March 1st (our hometown!)

Check out this link for all the details and we’ll see you there!

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We have 3 NEW South Africa volunteer programs!

We’re excited to announce our 3 NEW South Africa volunteer programs! They are unique opportunities where you can help: research and care for lions, protect rhinos and elephants from poachers, or make a difference at a children’s orphanage.

SWAP South Africa Ukutula Lion Research Project: http://swap.ca/out_eng/destinations/south-africa-ukutula-lion-research-project.aspx

SWAP South Africa Soweto Children’s Orphanage Project: http://swap.ca/out_eng/destinations/south-africa-soweto-orphanage-project.aspx

SWAP South Africa Mutogomeli Rhino and Elephant Initiative: http://swap.ca/out_eng/destinations/south-africa-mutogomeli-rhino-elephant-initiative.aspx

South-Africa-Ukutula

South-Africa-Orphanage

South-Africa-Mutogomeli

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Guest Post: To gap or not to gap? That is the question!

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While the gap year or “year out” has been a common and popular rite of passage in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and many countries in Europe for decades, traditionally North American students have ridden the academic conveyor belt all the way from preschool to university without a break. Now the tides are changing and many soon-to-be high school graduates are saying they’re burnt out, and need more time before deciding what they want to take at university. Instead of packing for their first year, they are now booking their flights to go volunteering in Africa, or work on a yacht in the Caribbean.

North America is starting to catch on to the “gap year” syndrome, and for good reason. Amid concerns about drop-out rates, researchers now say that students who go straight to university often find themselves in a program that doesn’t interest them, and are more likely to change programs, thus prolonging their degree and increasing their debt level, and they are more likely to quit. Experts now say that going straight to university may be short-sighted for some and a year out is the way to go.

Taking a gap year has never been easier. Many universities are now willing to defer start dates for a year – York University is embracing this gap year phenomenon with its Bridging the Gap program and “celebrates” a student’s choice to take a year off to gain work experience, do community service or go on an international exchange and will reserve the student’s admission spot for up to a year provided he or she is accepted into the program. Harvard University, one of the top universities in the world, has always been ahead of its time and for the past 40 years has proposed that students take a year out in its letter of admission.

Is there a downside to taking a gap year? Not really, according to a 2008 Statistics Canada report published jointly with Canadian Policy Research Networks. The report found that students who delay postsecondary education don’t face a disadvantage in the labour market later on – as long as they actually complete their program once started. In fact, a Canadian Council of Learning study found that students who took a gap year were eight per cent more likely to be employed upon finishing all their studies.

Understandably, many parents are a little nervous that their son or daughter will be side-tracked and destined to remain degree-less forever. However, even though there are no formal studies on the actual number of gap year students who do make their way to university, admissions staff say that only a few drop off the radar. On the contrary, a year out can make you more focused, better prepared for university life and more likely to complete at least one university degree. After all, it’s not getting into university that counts – it’s getting the degree at the end of the line!

“To gap or not to gap… that is the question.” Students who have taken the year out, universities, and the latest statistics are saying “Yes, go for it!” Although it may be a daunting prospect for parents and students to divert from the “safe” bound-for-university-after-high-school route, the rewards and benefits are well worth stepping out of that comfort zone. To find out more about gap year options, come and visit the Study and Go Abroad Fair and meet universities from around the world as well as student travel organizations.  For more information, check out www.studyandgoabroad.com.

Contributed by:

 Katie Idle, Director of Sales and Marketing
Study and Go Abroad Fairs
katie@recruitincanada.com
www.studyandgoabroad.com

1024x512_swapSWAP Working Holidays is thrilled to be at each stop of this year’s Study and Go Abroad fair. Stop by, say hello, ask us questions, get information!

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Meet us at the Go Global Expos in Toronto and Montreal!

We’re excited to be at the Go Global Expo – Work, Study, Volunteer Abroad this fall! If you’re interested in doing a working holiday and have some questions, come talk to us at our booths (and pick up our new brochure)! Can’t wait to talk to all of you!

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(Sorry, Boston, maybe next time)

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SWAP’s coming to you for the Study and Go Abroad Fairs!

1024x512_swapWe’re thrilled to be seen all around the country  during the Study and Go Abroad Fairs in five cities (we didn’t forget about you, West Coast)! Come say hi and ask us anything about working abroad.

VANCOUVER – September 27th
CALGARY – September 28th
EDMONTON – September 30th
OTTAWA – October 2nd
TORONTO – October 4th and 5th (our hometown!)

Check out this link for all the details and we’ll see you there!

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#Throwback Thursday: 90’s SWAPPERs Reunion!

When moving abroad, the first thoughts tend to be what you have to leave behind – family, friends, pets, your job, your routine, which we know can be a bit overwhelming! But there is also the exciting opportunity to think of what you’ll get to bring back with you (and we don’t just mean souvenirs for your folks.)

One of the best things about a working holiday though is that not only do you get to experience a whole new lifestyle, but you also get to meet people you never would have if you stayed at home – and these friendships can end up lasting a lifetime.

Scott, a former UK SWAPPER, got in touch with us recently to let us know that he was organizing a reunion for his friends that he met on SWAP – back in 1998! Not only did Scott have an amazing time in the UK, he also met some amazing people, and their friendship is now 16 years strong. With one of the gang approaching the big 4-0, they decided to throw a SWAP reunion to celebrate their time in the UK.

We were thrilled to be a part of their reunion and our awesome marketing department designed some pretty retro t-shirts for the big day:

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The gang was nice enough to rock the SWAP t-shirts and send us a group picture. Looking good, everyone! We hope you had a great time!

SWAP-reunion

Visas have their time limits, but the experiences, memories, and friendships you’ll bring back home with you last much longer!

SWAP has been sending Canadians abroad for almost 40 years now, so we’re sure there are many more friendships that all started out with a dream and a plane ticket. Share or make new memories with over 6,000 SWAPPERS on our Facebook group or tweet us @_SWAP_

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#ThisIsYourYear to live, find work and make new friends in an exciting new country!

SWAP-Australia-ThisIsYourYear

www.swap.ca/destinations

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SWAP Takes the ALS #IceBucketChallenge!

We were challenged to the ALS #IceBucketChallenge by USIT Ireland and we did it! This is a great fundraising campaign for important ALS research, so please go to http://www.als.ca/icebucketchallenge and give what you can!

We are nominating: IEP New Zealand, the SWAP Vancouver office, and Samesun Backpackers in Vancouver! You are challenged to donate for ALS research or dump a bucket of ice water on your heads!

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I8oMHyDV4A

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USIT Ice Bucket Challenge

“Sure what else would we be doing on our lunch break!? We’ve decided to take part in this challenge for an amazing cause, supporting the MND Association and have all donated our €2 by texting MND to 50300. Now, are you up for the challenge Fitzgeralds Bar SWAP Working Holidays and Ryanair???! #IceBucketChallenge
We accept this challenge! We’ll donate / film it this week and pass it on to three others! So remember everyone, this is not just for awareness but also fundraising – go to http://www.ALS.CA/ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE and throw in a few bucks if you can!
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