A Workandtraveler’s Guide to the States

Students at Grand Canyon; Photo credits: Orange- BG

Every summer has a story.

Since it is the end of September stories and memories are all that has left from my favorite season. For AUBG students it is a trend to work in the States during this long vacation. The thing is that you cannot just pack your stuff, catch the plane, and find a job there. Here comes the significant role of agencies that offer Work and Travel programs.

Most of the people use agencies, without realizing that their help makes work in the States possible. The main task they have is to help students with all the paper work and in many cases with job arrangements. Elisaveta Staevska is Office Manager and Advisor in Orange, Blagoevgrad. In her experience, most of the AUBG students deal with job offers by themselves. The paper work remains a hassle though, along with precise steps of the entire process.

If you have your own job offer, the process starts with the agency forwarding the information to the sponsor organization. They will validate your offer and give you permission to work in the US. There is a trick here. If your dream job is a landscaper for example, guess what- sponsors will not accept it because it is life-threatening. And even though some people decide to take the risk, it remains against the rules.

It is not a must to find a job offer by yourself. You can choose from the jobs offered by your agency, the so called premium placement. The advisors help you find the most suitable offer.

“There is no such thing as good or bad job offer,” Staevska said. “I remember cases when ten students have accepted the same job. For seven of them it turned out to be the best experience but for the other three it was a nightmare.”

The premium placement is a direct jump to your job interview which can be conducted via Skype or in person. Every year there is a job fair in Sofia where you can get a slight idea how crazy your future boss is.

You are a smart guy and you have successfully passed your job interview. Going back to the agency, their next step is to arrange your visa interview. Being a regular student with all exams taken is mandatory, good grades are preferable. If you are not, you can say farewell to your visa. Blagovest Todorov is Advisor Exchange Programs for Usit Colours Bulgaria, office Blagoevgrad.

“There are and there will always be cases of denied visas, otherwise there will be no point of the visa interview,” Todorov said. “The official statement of the American embassy is that they have every right to deny a visa for whatever reason. Receiving a permission to enter the States is not a right, it is a privilege,” he continues.

Okay, visa taken. You are going to the States, but most probably living on the beach is not an option for you. Finding a job through the agency means that they will offer you a job with arranged housing. If you have found the job on your own, the advisers from the agency will give you guidelines how to arrange your housing as soon as possible.

There is one more important step- plane tickets. It is part of the agencies policy to arrange your airplane tickets. Those tickets come with the option of full refunding if your visa is declined for example. Moreover, you have the opportunity to change your fly-back date. You should inform the agency about your plans and they will do the rest.

Nantucket, Massachusetts; Photo credits: Gabriela Belnikolovska, personal archive

“The idea of Work and Travel is cultural exchange. The USA is not Europe and the interaction with Americans is an inseparable part of the whole experience. The agencies are not only to deal with the paper work. As advisers, we always encourage students to travel, to explore. The idea is not to work 24/7. Nobody has become a millionaire from a Work and Travel program,” Staevska explained.

Gabriela Belnikolovska is a current student at AUBG. This is her third year at the university, she has already spent two summers working in the States and is planning to go there again. She shared that she did not know anything about WAT programs before coming to Blagoevgrad and talking to students and specialist from the agencies. 
“I think they are especially helpful when it comes to late submission of documents. This was my main problem the first year of WAT, and they still managed to work things out for me,” Belnikolovska said. 
She also added, “The reason why they’re so responsive is because they realize we have a lot of things on our plate.”

The company she used helped her with an early scheduling of her visa for the upcoming summer. Belnikolovska is joining an Erasmus program the following semester and a late visa interview would mean she would have to spend money and time to come back to Bulgaria just for this. 
To sum up, WAT is not a one-fold controlled experience. Everything unexpected can happen to a student there but as Elisaveta Staevska explained travel agencies are there for much more than just basic paper work.

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