by Barbora Sládková
The Work & Travel program allows you to come to the USA and experience the culture up close through temporary work and travel opportunities. You have probably studied this country and its culture for countless hours anyway so why not see it for yourself?
The phrase work and travel probably rings a bell to many university students. Maybe you have seen the flyers advertising this program around the campus, or you might have heard the many stories of students, some of them being your peers, that participated in this program in the past.
The Summer Work Travel Program was founded and is still maintained by the United States Department of State and brings in thousands of students to the US every year. It provides the students with the opportunity to live and work in the United States during their summer vacation from college or university to experience and to come into contact with the people and way of life in the United States. The types of jobs vary greatly: students can work in a hotel or in a theme park, but they can also take up a lifeguard position in a waterpark, or spend the summer working in a camp… The list goes on and on. After their working period is over, the participants then get a chance to remain in the country for an additional 30 days, also known as a grace period, during which they are allowed and encouraged to travel around the country.
Choosing the Right Agency
Any full-time university student is eligible for the program; however, each participant needs to be represented by an agency. Agencies assist the applicants in finding the right job and they take care of all the necessary paperwork. They also provide students with support along the way and they must be able to solve any issues that may arise during the whole process, both when searching for a job offer and also during the actual stay abroad. In order to sign up for this program, students simply need to contact their preferred agency and register online. Afterwards, the applicant is contacted by an agency representative and together they go over all the details and questions the eligible student might have. To seal the deal, the applicant needs to sign the program agreement, pay the program fee to the agency, and after that the job hunt can start.
As the interest in these programs grows, it is no surprise that there is an abundance of agencies to choose from.
Some agencies offer a rather general approach to the job search (Student Agency, for example) and some are more focused on certain types of jobs (like CCUSA or Campleaders). Below, you can see the overview of the most reliable agencies with the most positive feedback and their specific agenda.
Getting Your VISAs
The next step in the journey to the USA is obtaining a VISA. The Summer Work Travel Program falls under an exchange visitor program and the VISA you will be applying for is a non-immigrant visa category for individuals approved to participate in work-and-study based exchange visitor programs, also known as J1. In order to obtain the J1 VISA, the applicant needs to have: a secure job offer in the USA, a confirmation of studies certifying that they are, in fact, a university student, a valid passport, and a recent photo. Any prospective participants first need to apply for the VISA online, pay the fee, and choose the date and time to attend the appointment at the Embassy. The online application is very detailed and lengthy, but the agency assists every applicant along the way so there is no need to worry. The fee for applying for the J1 VISA was 160 USD in 2018.
In order to obtain the J1 VISA, the applicant needs to have: a secure job offer in the USA, a confirmation of studies certifying that they are, in fact, a university student, a valid passport, and a recent photo.
What Will It Cost Me?
The final price for the whole program varies. The amount of money you need to invest into the journey depends on what agency you choose and whether they provide you with flights tickets or if you have to buy them on your own. Below, you can find the breakdown featuring the service fees of the selected agencies. The overview also includes the average salaries that you might expect to make in jobs that are typical for these kinds of programs.
Ready, Set, Go!
After all that, the last step (and the most difficult one of them all) is to pack your suitcase, grab your passport and take the plunge. The Summer Work Travel program is a great opportunity for any student looking for an unforgettable summer spent in the USA. The applicants will gain a lot of practical skills which might be helpful for their future careers and experience a culture completely different to their own. They will also be exposed to the language and get into contact with native speakers in a very informal and casual way, getting to know people from all around the world. It is a great option for anyone to consider as it will most certainly provide plenty of opportunities to discover many new things, not only about the US and its culture, but also about themselves.
Barbora Sládková is BA student of English Language and Literature and when she’s not spending her time writing her thesis, you can find her trying to learn Spanish and planning her new adventure. She enjoys travelling, meeting new people, bullet journaling, giving presentations and avoiding her responsibilities, preferably by taking a nap. She believes in fairy-tales, making an entrance and that good coffee can solve anything. If you don’t find her sitting in a café, sipping on a chai latte and trying to get that perfect Instagram pic, she can be found behind the bar, making your coffee because she works part-time as a barista. Every summer she leaves Brno to work in a summer camp in the USA and teaches kids how to play tennis – a sport that she’s been playing since she was 6 years old.