Some useful (I hope) advices, tips and tricks for all the participant in Work and travel USA based on my own experience and some life observations. Part 1. For the next five see part 2.
1. Choose wisely!
How will you spend your summer in the US depends only on you. Well, let’s say mainly on you and mostly on the place where you choose to go. America is a huge continent and each state is like a different country. So you can not generalize what America is like, because it may be the most glamorous and funniest place if you are in NY, SF, LA, FL or not that glamorous and funny if you are in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of cowboys and cows. If you want it to feel more like summer experience choose a summer resort that is on the coast – you can enjoy the beach and there will be a lot of things to do – which means that you would probably have more expenses and the accommodation, food and taxes would be more. On the other hand, if you want to save more go somewhere in the middle, where you can enjoy the mountains, a good hike and you will not have so many things to spend money for. This, of course is general speaking, there are a lot of places where you can have both. I spent a summer in Montana (not what I wanted at all), and then a summer in New York and oh, my God – it was like a completely new America for me.
2. Go alone!
If you want to fulfill the main aim of the program (cultural exchange) I would recommend you to better go alone. As scary as it sounds I am really happy that I came alone this summer. Was it hard and lonely in the beginning? – 100%. Was it worth it? -Definitely.
I do not want to sound selfish (actually I do not find selfishness a bad thing at some point but this should be a whole new post) but if you experience a situation like mine this summer you do not want to take care for someone else as well. It is hard to find a place to live and change your job in the middle of the season already. Imagine if you should look for two people. You are not that free in making decisions. What is more, if your friend is more antisocial than you are, or not that adventurous and risk taking you would probably stick to him/her and you will not do what you actually want to do (this is what a good friend would mean, right?). And the most important thing – if you want to expand your borders, broaden your horizons, meat new people, learn about new cultures, and see yourself through the eyes of other international people, you should really go alone. This way you have to find new friends, you have to speak up (even if you are shy and antisocial) you have to deal with conflicts and challenges by yourself and you have to communicate in a new language. You are fully in charge and you have all the freedom to see who you truly are and express yourself! If you are with your friend or with a lot of people from your country you would most probably speak your own language, stay in your own group and never get to know others, improve your English and explore new worlds. I would not choose a place where there are a lot of Bulgarians for example. I already know how they act and think and I can already speak Bulgarian (since I live in Bulgaria). Hanging out with Bulgarians and talking in Bulgarian is like staying in my country just making more money.
3.Do not pack too many clothes and shoes!
Take mostly clothes that you are willing to trash. Why? First, because the clothes in America are much cheaper (even brands like GUESS, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren) and you will shop till you drop so you will need a lot of available space in your suitcase. Second, because most likely you will work most of the time and you would either have an uniform to wear or you could wear old clothes since most of the jobs involve cleaning, bussing or cooking. Well, if you are a hostess then it is another thing, but you still can buy nice and stylish clothes once you arrive. And third, because there is the opportunity that you may arrive and no one welcomes you at the airport or you have to look for a place to stay so you do not want to pull a huge, heavy thing with you.
4. Represent your country
If you are from Bulgaria like me, probably a lot of people have not even heard of your country. I am sorry! Or they have heard stories on the news – usually about corruption, really bad politicians, Syrian refugees and other not that pleasant things. So I think it is your responsibility to represent your country in the best (but still realistic) way you can. Even a simple step by each individual can make a positive impact for the image of a country. I was sharing so many great stories about my country – the delicious food, the beautiful nature and girls that a guy changed his already planned excursion to France and went to Bulgaria instead. He was thrilled, mostly by Bansko (our famous ski resort). So you can start just with learning some basic information for your country and what are the best things to do and see there. I am not suggesting you do not know them already, but sometimes when you live there you can not really appreciate what you have. So just type in Google the best things to do in… I have learned so many things about my country that I did not know since I am in America so I can share and spread the word. And the people are really interested (or at least they fake it very well) and find me kind of exotic which is great. Because in my point of view being different is an asset.
5. Be your best!
Most probably you are not working the job of your live. That is not what the program is about, anyways. But this does not mean that this job can not give you opportunities. Putting efforts in what you do and making a good impression to your employer, colleagues and clients may open a lot of doors for you. Especially if you are planning to come back again or to stay in the States. There are a lot of people being promoted the next summer they come and their salaries are getting bigger as well. Working as a hostess in the best restaurant (Sant Ambroeus) in Southampton this summer gave me the opportunity to meet so many successful and famous people and communicate with them. Giving my best, even when I was tired or not in the mood, gave me the opportunity to establish relations with some of them and even to have some job offers. What is more, I knew that I can always count on my employer and the manager since they were satisfied with the way I do the job. You never know when your biggest opportunity will come and who will bring it to the table. So it is your responsibility to be always prepared for it and to be the best you can be!
Continue to → part 2.