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Jenza Talk / Australia

Working and travelling Australia on your gap year

A lot can happen in a month on a working holiday in Australia. Adithi fills us in on hers...

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Meet Adithi. One of our Youth Advisory Panelists (the stakeholders who help shape JENZA) and also our Australia roadtester (the community who report back to make sure we’re doing a good job).

From starting her Sydney job to the time she found something nasty on her hostel bed, here’s Adithi’s roadtester rundown on working in Australia.

Why Australia as part of a gap year

I was actually born and raised (as a kid) in Oz. We then moved to Bangalore in India, and I went to college in the USA. I'm on a gap year before returning to the States to do my MPH in New York. Since it’s been a few years and I wanted to pause on my education, I’d been craving a massive dose of adventure and to experience Australia as an adult. To do fun jobs that I perhaps wouldn’t otherwise do, and to reconnect with my roots.

I almost booked a seven-week trip up the East Coast of Australia, but then quickly realised I wasn’t interested in purely being a tourist in my own country. I guess I’m in a unique boat as a slightly foreign Aussie! I then found out about working holidays with welcome weeks and job support, and I felt like someone had read my mind. Except for the fact that I didn’t need a visa, an Australia working holiday was precisely what I was looking for. And I was excited to roadtest the arrival week for JENZA.

Booking my Australia working holiday and finding a job

I dove straight in by calling up to talk to the team, getting my questions answered, and securing my first job through their virtual hiring fair – where you can video interview with Aussie employers over a hiring week. If there aren’t any hiring fairs on when you book, don’t worry. You can apply and video interview for working holiday jobs year-round on the JENZA Job Hub.

I then booked in the date of my welcome week in Sydney (they’re mostly Sundays, but they do get busy, so make sure you book your start date well in advance!). After going down incessant travel rabbit holes on YouTube and figuring out what to pack, I was ready. Within no time, I was on my way back to this beautiful country in a whole different way than before. I could not wait! After some tough personal challenges bringing me down this year, my family were thrilled to see me excited again.

Coming to Australia this time around was different from any other time before. I was coming as an adult, I was going to be hopping around different places I was unfamiliar with, I was going to solo travel for the most part, and I was going to work jobs unrelated to my career path. Australia has a special spot in my heart that no other place in the world has, and I knew it was the place I needed to be for a decent period of time at this stage of my life.

It was refreshing to come without a real plan per se. I could take things as they come and figure it out as I went. Even if that meant I would find myself temporarily homeless one night while seeking accommodation for a last-minute weekend shift at my job in Sydney… yikes.

Arriving in Sydney – the good, the bad and the ugly

When I landed on my first night, I went straight to my hostel – Wake Up! Sydney – to check in and meet up with my fellow travellers for the welcome week. I dropped off my bags in my room and went to the reception for a second. When I returned, I found my bags tossed on the floor and vomit on my bed (the aforementioned “ugly” part of the arrival). It was a bit of a rude but hilarious welcome and I thought to myself, “What the heck have I gotten myself into?”

It didn’t really phase me because of the adrenaline surging through me. And it was one of those things that could have happened anywhere. So I laughed it off, learnt my lesson and moved my stuff to the top bunk to avoid something like this again. Then I met my roommates and group who had already gotten the party started, and we ended up going dancing at the bar attached to the hostel while jet lagged. It was a wild first night to say the least! I couldn’t believe my life at that moment. It hit me that I wasn’t in familiar Perth with my family and childhood friends anymore. This was a different Australia altogether.

Meeting my energetic fellow travellers and people in the hostel showed me a whole backpacker world of Australia that I had no idea existed. Most of them were coming here for the first time so it was interesting to experience Australia with non-Australians who were in different yet similar working holiday situations as me.

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Working at The Ivy

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My welcome week group in Sydney

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Learning to surf on my JENZA welcome week

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adithi Kumar

Work Australia Roadtester

It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Our roadtesters trial and shape every JENZA experience to make sure it serves our travel community first. Because if it didn't fly with them, it's not going to fly with you.

Watch the video

"I was going to be hopping around different places I was unfamiliar with, I was going to solo travel for the most part, and I was going to work jobs unrelated to my career path."

The welcome week – the fun, the dull and the in-between

JENZA welcome weeks are designed to set you up in that first week with everything you need to work and travel in that country. And it was the most jam-packed, ridiculous, and whirlwind of a first week in and around Sydney. It was run by JENZA’s partners on the ground, Welcome to Travel. And my group was a melting pot of 20 young people filled with a range of personalities and nationalities, each with varying purposes for this trip. Thanks to that, there was never a dull moment.

Because people trickled in at different times, it seemed like the earlier birds had bonded already which initially made me feel out of place. But that feeling soon disappeared. With the environment that we were in, it was impossible not to make friends easily. Our itinerary included a walking tour of Sydney, group meals, a cocktail making class, road trip to an overnight surf camp, exploring national parks and cliff lookouts, blow holes and dolphin watching, coastal walks from Bondi to Bronte Beach, trivia nights, silent discos, pub crawls and barbecues, dancing, and lots of socialising in the rooms. We were on the go from early mornings to late nights, but it was so worthwhile.

It’s a funny concept in reality – coming solo to an unfamiliar city and living in small mixed 8-bed hostel rooms for a fun-filled week with a bunch of strangers that you just met… I wouldn’t have done it any other way, because it started this adventure off with a bang! It was so interesting to hear everyone’s stories and what led them to this moment. And I got set up with new likeminded travel friends right off the bat.

Now, the more boring stuff like bank accounts and phone numbers got set up almost immediately at the beginning of the week, which efficiently took the weight off our shoulders. We were informed about the banks/phone plans, requested to provide our details, and got set up soon after. We also had a day dedicated to assisting us with our next steps after the week.

Of course, nothing lasts forever, so our group of 20-something people split off into solos, duos, trios, and a dozen – either starting work or beginning the next leg of their travels. However, we have a ridiculous Snapchat group which is always getting spammed, so we knew we were all going to stay in touch and possibly link up again. I already had a job lined up at Ivy Pool Club by Merivale, so I was eager to dive into local life next!

Starting my hospitality job in Sydney

My first role was a wait staff position at one of Sydney’s premium rooftop bars, Ivy Pool Club, in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. To work in places that sell alcohol in some states in Australia, you have to do an RSA course (Responsible Service of Alcohol) – which I did at the venue. I also had to buy some clothes that fit the uniform requirement and once I got there, they gave me the tour, ran me through the menu, and everything else. My co-workers were of similar ages, which made it a fun work environment. One of the first questions I got asked was “Do you know how to carry a tray?” I was kind of confused for a second because I thought, “Doesn’t everyone?”

It was a humbling moment when I realised how ‘technically’ we had to carry trays, pick up and serve drinks, and take orders. Seemingly simple tasks had to be executed with such technicality that I had not considered before. One of my co-workers showing me the reins told me that if a drink seems like it’s going to spill, spill it on yourself rather than the customer. He said, “It’ll probably ruin your night but it’s better you than an angry customer. Trust me, been there, done that.”

That was a hilarious anecdote which summarised the hospitality industry perfectly. Additionally, my co-workers were quietly prompting me about the VIP patrons. I felt like I was in a movie. The Saturday night shift was another experience altogether because the venue practically turned into a nightclub.

Now, onto some of the cons - a girl who was a bit too intoxicated walked in and accidentally spilt her entire drink on me at 1am, the shifts ranged from 5pm to 2am so your sleep gets messed up, the overly short notice of the rostering system was a bit inconvenient, I had to do more cleaning and less customer interaction than I thought, the work got a bit monotonous sometimes because you have to always be on your feet into the late hours, and the rainy season and late night hours made me fall quite sick. So, I eventually quit that job but I’m so glad I had this job experience! My first taste of local life put me in the busy deep end which was honestly a really cool experience. I have even more respect now for the hospitality industry and its employees.

I then switched over to retail, and got a job working at David Jones in the central coast of New South Wales as a sales professional. It was a whole different landscape - learning merchandising, working Point-Of-Sales systems, sales strategies, and customer engagement. I got to meet interesting customers and it was fun to be on the other side of the register.

What are some tips for people doing an Australia working holiday

I’m living an absolutely unreal life right now. I can say that I’ve done and will continue to be doing unbelievable things that I had no idea I was going to do. I am happier, I’m becoming my best self, and learning new things about myself such as… I’m more of an adrenaline junkie than I thought. Additionally, outside my comfort zone has become my comfort zone - when things get too comfortable or stagnant, I get uncomfortable. Finally, being on the JENZA Youth Advisory Panel (where we work with the team each week) has also been such a cool opportunity to work on amongst all of this.

Packing I reckon I packed pretty well for the most part, but if I was to pack again, I would bring one more Australian plug adapter, bring one less jacket (you don’t need three), and avoid the beanie – it’s not THAT cold in September. Plus, two or three less ‘fancy’ items, and maybe less exercise gear (because if I’m being honest, you’re not working out that much). Note to self – most of your stuff will probably be worn out by the end of you trip!

RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) Although I secured my first job before arriving in Australia, I wasn’t aware I needed my RSA certification. This significantly delayed the start date of the job, and I could have saved time on that had I known more about it by getting it done earlier.

Check your shifts When applying for jobs before you go, check what hours you’ll be working and what your employer can commit to. ‘Casual’ staff often don’t get regular shifts, so if I did this again, I would use my time more wisely by choosing multiple jobs.

If sunnier shores are what you're wanderlusting after, head to our Work Australia page for all the info on how to make the most of that gap year, ditch the job you hate or just head off in a really bloody amazing adventure.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adithi Kumar

Work Australia Roadtester

It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. Our roadtesters trial and shape every JENZA experience to make sure it serves our travel community first. Because if it didn't fly with them, it's not going to fly with you.

Watch the video

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