WAT an Adventure
With the end of fall semester knocking at the door, the race for summer 2015 Work and Travel arrangements is on. You know the deal – finding an agency, signing a contract, choosing a job offer and getting a visa, all in hopes of a great summer experience in the U.S., meeting new people, enjoying yourself and making a few extra bucks.
Work and Travel is a program created in the 60s when the US Department of State set up a series of programs through which young people from all over the world could get a taste of the American lifestyle for a period of time. Although it started as a travel program, with time it kept evolving and took a life of its own, turning into what we now know as Work and Travel, an opportunity for exploring America, while earning some money.
For the second year in a row, on Oct. 21, AUBG students interested in the program had the opportunity to hear about it from Deborah Campbell, U.S. Consul General, who explained how the process works, focusing on the visa interviews, as one of the things the majority of young travelers worry about the most. “I want to make it clear that we, at the embassy, want to issue the visa. We want you all to go to the Unites States on summer work and travel, enjoy yourself, have a great, wonderful experience and then come back,” Campbell said.
She went through the requirements for getting a visa, namely being a full-time student at an accredited university, having adequate English and having good enough grades to show that you are a serious student. Campbell also debunked the most popular myths such as the rumor that first and last-year students are denied a visa. Finally, she gave some practical tips and hints to students and explained the difference between agencies in Bulgaria and sponsors in the U.S. As she said, everyone going on WAT will have an employer in the United States – that is who you work for and who pays you. Legally you also have to have a sponsor in the U.S., this is an organization, might be a company, might be a group, which is certified by the Department of State to look after your interest, to keep you safe; they’re the people you go to if you have any problems. A lot of times they will help you find the employer, and if you have problems with something you contact them. Most people in Bulgaria often go through Bulgarian agencies first, but what many don’t know is that it is legally not required. However, they do make your lives a lot easier. The agencies can be skipped completely if you can find your own sponsor. The only requirement is for the sponsor to be in the U.S.
Don’t be discouraged by the technical part of your summer adventure. While it may seem like a tedious and, at times, extremely time-consuming process for newbies, the WAT program has its advantages. In fact second, third and fourth-year AUBG students are the ones to talk to if you want to get yourself hyped up for an adventurous U.S. summer. Among the many, Viktoria Georgieva, an AUBG second-year student, majoring in JMC and POS, shared her experience on how self-transformative a transatlantic travel could be.
In the beginning, Victoria’s stay in Alaska proved to be rather challenging. Gradually, though, the city of Anchorage, where she resided, and the people with which she lived won her over. In her words, “if someone had told me, one year ago, that I would end up in Alaska, in the middle of nowhere and I would come to love it… I would have slapped that person in the face. But the truth is that I do love it. And I love everything about it.” Her time in the coldest state did not go smoothly, but as with many other travelers, it was all beneficial in the end. “For those four months I spent in the US I grew up. I had to be more responsible, more careful, less naïve, less stupid. ”
Victoria dedicated a blog to her U.S. adventure called “wattimes,” which shows her special bond with the place, as well as her desire to inform newcomers of what they need to know about U.S. life. When asked about the idea behind it, she described the blog this way, “Yes, I knew that I had to get a phone and a bank account, but nobody told me that the buses run from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. It was a huge surprise, one that I want people to not experience, as it is super discouraging…I just wanted to help people who have yet to go abroad on the WAT program, I wanted to give them some guidance, the ‘dos and don’ts’.”
As with all expectations to it, the travel does provide you with a financial profit. However, rushing after the big money may easily turn out to be the least of your priorities, travelers remind. Considering all the exploration, cultural shift and self-dare with the unknown, you may as well forget about the search for the $9 and above hourly pay rate.
It seems AUBGers are waking up for yet another thrilling summer ahead of them. Past all the contract signing, agency calls and tax pays, the U.S.A. awaits its new freshies.
This story is a joint effort between AUBG Daily’s owls Nicole Meshkova and Georgi Dobrev.