Work And Travel In USA : A Wonderful Experience & How To Apply

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I have always dreamt about going to the United States, a land that I had only witnessed through the lens of a television screen.

While I have been to many parts of the world, USA was always on top of my travel bucket list. It is not just the American dream, but also the vast amount of things and wonders to visit makes me eager to go and see for myself.

I always thought I would only have the chance to go once i started working and able to fund my own trip to the United States not only because the flight to the states are long but also the expenses at the states are not cheap.

The opportunity to explore the states became clear to me when my housemate shared with me her experiences to the states by going on a Work And Travel in USA.

At that time, I was a university student studying my final year and scratching my head for the final year project. Hearing my housemate’s experience in the USA makes me want to take this opportunity to go on a Work And Travel trip to the States as well. So I quickly grab the chance and applied for the Winter batch.

Malaysian student Work and travel in USA
A visit to Boston when I Work and travel in USA.

Requirement To Apply For Work And Travel (WAT) To USA

That was the time when I first learnt about Work And Travel.  And, not soon after I found out that the expenses were actually cheaper then I thought. 

The Work And Travel program to the USA is a program applicable for students only. There are certain requirement needed :

  •  18 years old and not older than 30 years old
  • A full time tertiary student in local university with official semester break OR on final year semester
  • Undergo an interview to secure a job offer

 

How Do I Apply For The Program?

The short answer is : Apply through an agency!

Before I sign up the program, I compared several agencies in Malaysia that can help with the application. 

These agencies act as a bridge or so called middleman to help us arrange work with the company in the states.  There are not many agencies in Malaysia and those that have good reviews are like Speedwing, Infinity Abroad and Out Of The Box (OOTB). 

These agencies all have different types of jobs and companies to work at so it is better to get as much information from these agencies and pick the one that appeal to you the most. 

And lastly, it is the fees to pay to the agency. Among them, Speedwing has most reviews due to their long history in this industry but their fees are the highest too. After considering several factor, I decided to go with OOTB.

Types Of Work Opportunity

Though the companies and locations are different, the wages and types of jobs are almost the same. Most of the jobs are in recreational park or hotel jobs like hotel cleaner, recreational park ticket staff and restaurant waiter, just to name a few.

Another thing to take into consideration is the start date and duration of the work you want to apply for. Each of the jobs on the list has a specific timeframe.  So it’s really important to align on your semester break or your final exam date before you book.

Once I submitted the application to OOTB, they responded pretty fast and provided the information and things we need to provide to apply for the job.

The agency guided us well and provided very clear information. There was an “orientation” held about two months before we embark on the journey.

During the orientation, we also get to know new friends that will be working at the same place that we applied for too.

The place I worked at : Sugarbush Ski Resort
The place I worked at : Sugarbush Ski Resort

How Much Does It Cost?

When I applied in 2018 Winter batch, the fee was USD 1250, which includes: 

  • Registration Fee
  • Legal Documentations
  • Visa Application
  • Job Placement
  • Health and Medical Insurance Coverage provided by Cultural Exchange Visitor program sponsors
  • Pre-departure Orientation
  • A scheduled interview with the employer via Skype

In addition to the fee paid to the agency, I had to prepared for other expenses such as:

  • Flight ticket (Around RM 4000 when I bought to depart in late November)
  • Pocket money for living and emergency purposes. I carried around RM 5000 as my initial allowance for living expenses and unforeseen circumstances during my Work and Travel (WAT) experience in the United States. Typically, we are required to cover grocery expenses and rent for the first two weeks from our own funds, depending on the payroll arrangements.

The total cost would be approximately RM 15000 before you start to work in United States.

Would The Pay Cover The Costs?

The wages were around USD 10 per hour back in 2018 Winter. I worked at a ski resort called Sugarbush which is located in Vermont.

The pay could cover the initial cost of application, flight ticket, accommodation rent and even able to fund for my travel expenses after the work!

And I also took a second job as a restaurant waitress. I will explain more in the FAQ below.

Travel to New York city is a must! -travel bucket list
Travel to New York city is a must!

The Procedure Of The Application

1. Choose Your Agent

The first step is to choose the agent that you want to apply with.

Upon hearing a recommendation from my friend, who had previously gone for the Work and Travel (WAT) program in the United States through Out Of The Box, I opted to follow their advice and apply for the same opportunity via OOTB.

The application is easy. Fill up the form on their website or through Instagram and you will receive the next steps.

2. Choose Your Preferable Job

Once you have submitted the form, OOTB will share you a list of the works and brief you on the program a little bit.  

The list will cover the wages, employee, locations and other information regarding the job. You can then choose your preferred job from the list. Applying as early as possible is advantageous since it grants you more opportunities, considering that many jobs have limited availability.

3. Interview With The Employee

Once you have picked your employee and workplace, they will arrange an online interview with your employee or agent.

The interview is very simple. Its purpose is to assess your conversational English level. They will ask basic questions, such as introducing yourself, your reasons for joining, post-program plans, and discussions about the program itself.

The interview is not to test your ability to do the work but more to assess your English speaking. Therefore, just remain calm and have a natural conversation as you normally would.

4. Apply For Visa

After the interview is passed, you will get a confirmation on the job offered.

Then, you will be required to pay the program fee and provide the related document to apply for the Visa to United States.

The Visa type we need to apply is J-1 Visa. J-1 Visa is known as the Exchange Visitor Visa and it is a nonimmigrant visa for foreign visitors to apply exchange program. The detail on the Visa can refer here.

The documents needed includes but not limited to : 

  • Latest Medical report
  • Job offer letter from the employee in US
  • Student status letter (request a copy from your faculty)
  • DS-160 form
  • A valid passport

5. Visa Interview At US Embassy

The last step of the procedure (excluding buying flight tickets) would be the interview at US Embassy. Bring along all the required documents and wear formal to attend the interview.

The US Embassy in Malaysia opens at 8 in the morning and when I got there early at 8am, there was already a line in front of the Embassy.

Luckily, the line was quick. The interview was quick. When we entered the embassy, we were required to go through scanner to scan our belongings and then we will be escorted to “counter” for the interview.

During the interview, I was requested to provide the necessary documents, and the interviewer posed basic inquiries regarding my travel dates, duration of stay, destination in the US, and the purpose of my visit.

The process took about 5 minutes only. 

FAQ

1. Can I look for a second/part time job in USA?

Based on my experiences, the answer is YES. 

But it really depends on your first job nature and hours. Since I worked as a ski lift operator and only required to work during the day, I have some free time during the night to get a second job.

So my roommate and I found a second job at a restaurant nearby to our hostel. We checked with our first job employee which was the Ski resort and once we got approved, we applied to the Thai food restaurant and worked as a part time waitress!

The job was fun and we got to receive TIPS! It blown my mind because tipping in USA is very common and most of them were really generous.

2. Is the program available anytime in a year?

There are only 2 batch open for registration each year. 

The 2 batches are : 

  • Summer batch ( May to September)
  • Winter batch ( November to March)

3. Is the living cost expensive in USA?

The answer varies depends on the location you stay. 

I worked at Vermont, which is a small town and we rarely eat out except for special occasion.

Usually, my friends and I will go to the grocery store once a week to buy food. We cooked our own dinner and sometimes we bring our own lunch. Doing this really saved a lot of money for us. 

The expenses including the rent is less than USD 100 for us. 

4. Do I have a person-in-charge there to guide us?

With OOTB and Sugarbush, I am glad that we had a person-in-charge to guide us when we first arrived at the resort.

When we first arrived at the airport, there was a transport and a staff who guided us to our resort. Then, the next day, she brought us around to settle our bank registration, social security, mobile sim card registration and etc. 

The snow in front of our hostel - Travel With Gee
The place we stayed at was called " Christmas Inn "

Work and travel in USA is a once in a lifetime experience and I really enjoyed it.

Till this day, I still treasure the short three months that I spent there, no. matter at work or staying with new friends in the hostel or going on short trip to nearby city.

The experience is genuinely unparalleled, and I strongly advise you to seize this opportunity as a student to explore the world, relishing the chance to work and travel.