Julia spent her summer after graduation working on a campground in Martha's Vineyard on Work America.
The first time I heard about BUNAC was during the first week of my final year at university. After talking to my friend about what we’d like to do after graduation and telling her one thing I’d really love to do was live in America but had no idea how to do it, she asked me if I’d looked at BUNAC and explained that they help students to get temporary working visas for the summer holidays. I couldn’t wait to get home and look them up! I successfully spent all evening not doing any uni work in favour of reading other people’s BUNAC experiences and just knew that this was something I HAD to sign up for! I was in my final year so I wouldn’t get another opportunity and so there was really no doubt in my mind that I would end up working in America the following summer.
The Job Search
I confess I was a bit slow off the mark when it came to applying for jobs. Even though BUNAC recommends that you apply for as many jobs as possible, the pressures of final year took over and between working on my dissertation and revising for exams, I just didn’t have the time. I began my desperate hunt for a job with only just over a month to go before I was due to leave and applied for any job on BUNAC’s exclusive, online Job Zone that I felt like I’d like to do. After several days I hadn’t heard from any of them, so I followed up with another email, and heard back from two of them. One informed me they’d finished hiring for the summer. The other was from Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground, inviting me for a phone interview. I was so nervous speaking to Sue, one of the managers, but it was more like a friendly chat than an interview, and she informed me that she would love to give me the job except there was only one position left and she’d already given the job to someone else and was waiting to hear back. I hung up resolving that if it was meant to be, it would be, and if not, then I would manage somehow. The following day I logged onto my emails to find two from Sue. I felt the blood drain from my face and my heart plummet as I read that the other girl had decided to take the job. With a heavy heart I clicked on the second email. Imagine my delight when I read that the girl had changed her mind and there WAS still a vacancy after all and would I be interested in the job! It was the kind of miracle moment you desperately hope for when you get bad news, but very rarely actually happens! I replied immediately that YES, I would love the job!
Arriving in the States
It was quite emotional as I said goodbye to my family at Heathrow on 4th June. I was also going to miss the London Olympics, as well as the wedding of some close friends, so I wondered if I was doing the right thing, but I reminded myself of that happy feeling I’d had when I’d first found out about Work America, and forced myself to carry on. It also helped that I ended up with a whole row of seats to myself on the plane!
I found out on my first night that it’s true what they say: Americans really are very friendly, as a lovely young American couple helped me get the right subway train to my hostel, even swiping me through using their pass so I didn’t have to pay, and continued to talk to me until our journeys took separate paths. From that moment I felt like I was welcomed and was going to be happy there. I’d never stayed in a hostel before but it was a really nice experience, and I got talking to lots of people who were doing a similar thing to me over the summer.
New home, new job, new friends
The following day I made the journey to Martha’s Vineyard, a couple of hours from Boston. Sue picked me up from the ferry terminal and took me to the house I would be staying in. I shared a room with a girl from Ireland, and there were another two Irish girls, who were friends beforehand, as well as an English guy, one American girl and an American guy sharing the house, all working at the campground. We all got on so well, and writing this now, it seems strange to remember when we were awkwardly meeting and not really knowing each other.
The girls’ job was mainly office based, taking phone calls and answering emails about the campground and making reservations, checking campers in and explaining where the toilets were etc, while the boys were involved mostly in maintenance. There was such a happy atmosphere that I never had any first-day-at-a-new-job nerves, nor did I ever have a day when I was dreading going into work. At the end of the first week I reflected that it had been one of the most eventful weeks of my life – I’d left my friends and family behind, moved to another country and in with a load of strangers, started a new job, and on top of all that I also got the results of my degree that week! The campground owners, Sue and Dan, were lovely and made every effort to help us settle in. Half the time it didn’t even feel like work, as the campers were so friendly and curious to talk to us – it’s also true that Americans love a British accent! I’d never felt more interesting in my life!
We worked in rotating shifts, so that every fifth day was our half-day, and the following day was our day off, meaning that we had lots of time to explore the island, go to the beach many, many times, eat lots of ice cream and seafood. Martha’s Vineyard is almost a dream-like place; an island where many wealthy people own holiday homes (including Barack Obama!) so there are many impressive houses. It has some breathtaking scenery, tons of boutique-style shops, gorgeous sandy beaches, and such a sense of community that I felt was happily extended to all the summer visitors and I felt at home almost instantly. There is a lot of truth in the phrase that I saw written on a plaque on someone’s front door: ‘It’s a Vineyard Thing’.
We finished working on Labor Day in September and I was immensely sad to leave but a friend from home had come over so that we could have a holiday together, and so we set off for Boston once more. We had a great few days seeing the sights and shopping before she had to go back home and I set off to the one place I’d really wanted to go while I was still in the States – Washington D.C. The 10-hour bus ride but was worth it because the city is amazing! I stayed in a hostel and it was strange being alone at first, but everyone was so friendly I quickly settled in. I even got to see Obama after all when they closed one of the roads for him and his motorcade!
When the time came for me to return home, I was heartbroken to leave America. I’ve been home a month now and every few days I Google ‘how to get a job in America’ in the hope that I will find a way to return as a non-student. The summer was one of the best I will probably ever have and if anyone is reading this feeling unsure of whether or not they are brave enough to go for it, I beg you to do it. I’m not the most confident or most outgoing of people, but I did it, and getting out of your comfort zone from time to time is SO worth it! I honestly feel like a changed person and I owe it all to BUNAC’s Work America!
Work America is open for bookings from October - March. Available to full-time university students, the programme allows you to spend your university summer holidays working and travelling in the States. Find out more about Work America by giving us on 020 7870 9570 or request a callback. Don't miss out on a summer to remember!