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As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine March/April 2001
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A Job in The U.K. via BUNAC

Program Provides Assurance and Incentive for the Move

By Luke S. White

In a spontaneous move, I decided to head to Europe in the autumn off-season and work through the winter to avoid the summer crowds. After landing a student fare from the West Coast to London and back via Dublin for $330, I also found out through Transitions Abroad about BUNAC, the reciprocal work exchange which lines up 6-month visas for Americans who want to do short-term work in the U.K. The program is open to currently enrolled students and those still within a semester of having graduated.

Slightly taken aback by the greyness and impersonal grandeur of London, I made my way up to Edinburgh in hopes of a more welcoming small-city atmosphere. The first week I landed in a grungy hostel that turned out to be a virtual refugee camp for Australians doing service jobs, mostly through temp agencies. Then I landed both a job and a room on the same day.

Opting to live with locals rather than get a place with other BUNACers made the search a little harder, but it was worthwhile in the long run. I worked for a temp agency the first month, mostly at a bank doing data entry. Not much fun, but I managed to save enough to fly to Sweden and spend a lovely white Christmas with a new friend’s family on the island of Gotland. Then, determined to do something other than office work, I found a job with a courier company as a bike messenger. (On international flights most airlines allow for a boxed bicycle as one piece of baggage at no extra charge. So I’d brought mine for inexpensive transportation and as a pleasant way to see the countryside.)

Edinburgh is a beautiful city. The job gave me freedom to ride all day, on radio call, through downtown and around the lovely old castle and all the spectacular monuments of weathered stone. It was often exhausting and the pay wasn’t great, but I was on my own and could take lunch in the park or sit and read in bookstores on slow days.

By keeping on a shoestring budget, I managed to save enough to travel through Italy, France, Germany, and Ireland before heading back stateside in mid-spring. Miraculously, I made it home with most of the funds I had left with intact.

I found my room and jobs in other ways than through the BUNAC office, and I was rarely asked to show my visa for inspection. However, the program provided me the assurance and incentive to go ahead and make the move. It served as a base if I needed it and as a resource to fall back on (and it made me legal). Plus the biweekly pub meets provide a decent way to meet other working travelers. All of this is well worth the $225.

Contact BUNAC USA at

LUKE S. WHITE received his BA from the Univ. of Texas at Austin before traveling and working in Chile, Central America, Japan, and Europe.

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