Broadening your horizons in the work field

Finding a job and saving money for the next school year is something that everyone will be doing very soon. While many people will be working in Montreal, others will be going home and trying to find work there. Something that is becoming more popular though is working abroad, which SWAP (Student Work Abroad Programme) and Travel CUTS/Voyages Campus strongly advocate. Not only does working in another country mean broadening your horizons and meeting new people, but also acquiring foreign experience that impresses future employers and perhaps can give an edge over other job applicants.
David Smith, the Director of SWAP, strongly encourages students to work abroad because of the global experience one acquires. “In our shrinking world and its global economy… international experience is becoming more important because many jobs nowadays do involve dealings with other countries,” he points out.
“Through even further advancements in communication technology, this will become even more so as the years roll by. We often argue that any job abroad will impress an interview board back home in Canada as it shows the applicant as someone with broader horizons and as someone who did something about it [and] who actually did go to another country and work.”
According to Smith, Canadians are far more interested in working abroad than are Americans. Roughly 15,000 young Canadians will work abroad through working holidays, SWAP, and other organizations. Three thousand of them will go through SWAP. Travel CUTS has helped over five million students and budget travelers enjoy low-cost traveling opportunities.
Travel CUTS has helped 30,000 to 40,000 students work abroad. The gender difference is one that intrigues him though. “I find it interesting… that the majority of SWAP participants and those who work abroad generally are women. My guess is about 60-40 women over men. Women seem more adventurous these days.”
Since 1969, Travel CUTS (Canadian Universities Traveling Service)/Voyages Campus has existed to provide students with affordable traveling costs and a chance at broadening their horizons by getting work experience as well as exposure to a new culture. The SWAP program began in 1975, with a purpose to provide inexpensive travel opportunities for Canadian university students. The advantages Travel CUTS has over other travel agencies is that it focuses on students’ needs and negotiates special fares on air carriers.
SWAP is extremely helpful in guiding students through their working abroad experience. While it provides employer contacts, resources and helpful hints in the host country, it is not a placement program. Once you decide where you want to go, SWAP arranges all the legal documentation so you can get your work visa. After you fill out the applications, the rest is up to SWAP. Jobs in the tourism, clerical and hospitality industries are the ones mostly advertised at the hosting centres since these industries often hire seasonal staff. The day after you arrive in your host country, you go for your orientation session held at a hosting centre where the SWAP office is located. These hosting centres have information about employment and accommodation (most SWAP destinations include a two night hostel stay upon arrival). They are there to answer your questions and help you from the day you arrive until the day you leave.
Eligibility, age limits, application deadlines, the SWAP registration fee (taxes are not included), visa duration, and support funds (Support funds are financial resources that ensure a foreign government you are not entering their country empty-handed, and you can thus be granted a work visa), are important to note when one thinks about which country to work in. Europe is by far the most popular destination for students. While Britain is the most popular country, it is followed by Ireland, France, and finally Germany.
To go to Britain, for instance, no student status is required and the ages are 18-27 inclusive. While there are year round departures, it is recommended that one applies at least six weeks prior to departure. The SWAP registration fee is $335 with accommodation and $285 without accommodation. The visa duration goes up to two years and the support funds are $1,500.
According to Clara Soares, the Manager of Voyages Campus at Concordia, the interest in working abroad is on a rise from last year at ConU but is not as high in comparison to other places. Voyages Campus has existed at Concordia since 1986 and has helped over 1,000 Concordia students have a working abroad experience.
Since the organization always likes to position itself where the students are, Montreal was a great place to come to because of the large student population. When asked if the demand for working abroad is growing, Soares says, “the French universities send a huge volume. It’s a fantastic program. Sometimes people don’t know about it. It’s a great opportunity. I think it’s one of the best programs offered.” The most popular destinations for Concordia students are the United States, the U.K., and Australia.
Soares is a firm supporter of the SWAP experience. “It’s gaining experience and a vacation at the same time,” she says. “…Everyone we have sent has come back, and the feedback has been very very positive. Even when they come back, people just grow, and it builds your character.” However, despite all the advantages of working abroad, some people are wary of the disadvantages of the experience. “The only disadvantage is that one has to pay for the flight to the other country and be able to support themselves until the first pay day!” Smith says. “Indeed, there are no real disadvantages.”
So, what does Soares have to say to students interested in working abroad? “Do it!” is her reply. Smith wholeheartedly agrees. “Good for you!” he smiles. “You will be enhancing your work resume, and you will appear far more interesting to a future Canadian interview board than the student who chose to stay home. You will learn something about another country. Quite a bit if you keep your eyes and ears open. You’ll see the rest of the world from a perspective other than our own.”

If you are interested in working abroad, you can contact Concordia’s Voyages Campus at 288-1130 or visit them at H222. SWAP can be reached at 416-966-2887 or their website is


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