University comes to a close and the lights go down on studying, it's the real world now! Yet where to next? Ben, 22 from Leicestershire hit the same decisions at the end of his degree and decided to jump outside the box and work abroad. His travels took him to Work Canada, here's how it went.
After graduating university I hit a life crossroads. I was 22, and I had a degree in Journalism. Now I had to decide whether to enter the scary world of salaries, mortgages, and endless responsibility, or have one final adventure. A few months passed, and with it came grand ideas of moving abroad, starting afresh, and making the most of having a terribly British accent – at least for a while.
It was then that a friend told me about BUNAC. I looked at the various options detailed on the website of far flung lands I could go to. There were many options abroad for volunteering, but I wanted something more long term and eventually settled on the BUNAC Work Canada scheme.
I didn’t know too much about Canada at the time, but after my parents told me that “apparently Vancouver is nice” I went to Google Image Search, and stared awestruck at an aerial shot of the city. The breathtaking mix of skyscrapers, forests, snow-capped mountains, shimmering ocean, and sandy beaches instantly won me over. I applied for the scheme that afternoon, and found a temporary job to earn enough money to move out.
Obtaining my working holiday visa was simple. All information was well laid out and easily accessible. After a few weeks I received my acceptance letter. I booked a flight, packed a bag, said my goodbyes and got on a plane.
Arriving in Vancouver I was amazed by the beauty of the city. The place was so vibrant, so cosmopolitan, so full of development, but full of nature at the same time. The people were impressively upbeat, incredibly diverse, and immensely friendly. I remember walking into a clothing store a few days after arriving and having a 20 minute conversation with a sales assistant. It didn’t feel fake. It was just friendly, and easy.
BUNAC made it very easy to get settled in Vancouver. I went to the partner office for my orientation, and met many fellow newcomers to Canada. I made many friends there, and gained valuable information on obtaining my social insurance number, a job, and permanent housing.
A few weeks passed, and I found myself sat on Jericho Beach. It was Canada Day, 2008. It was scorching hot, I’d been playing football with my new friends, I had a Canadian flag painted on my face, and I had a beer in my hand. I stared up at the still snowy peak of Grouse Mountain, across the waters of the Burrard Inlet. “I could stay here”, I thought. A seed was planted in my mind. Months passed, and with it I discovered hiking, kayaking, cycling, eating food from all across the globe, meeting interesting people, and of course many days were spent snowboarding in Whistler.
At Christmas I made a life-changing decision. I would stay for good. I would emigrate. Three years have passed since I came to Vancouver and I’m still here. Thanks to a sponsored job I was granted permanent residency in Canada a few weeks ago, and now I’m a landed immigrant. I’ve made a whole life for myself out here. I now live with my girlfriend, who’s Iranian-Canadian, and through her I’ve been totally immersed in a new, Persian, culture. In a few weeks I’ll be taking my first trip back to the UK – after three years, and my girlfriend is coming with me.
I think back to the day I looked up Vancouver and decided to try it. It turned out to be the most pivotal day of my life. It was the best decision I ever made. I’m overjoyed to be here.
Ben Allen, 2011
If you want to join Ben on a similar Canadian adventure of your own, there are still Canadian visas available, head to our Work Canada page now!