Live and Work in London
The BUNAC Program Makes in Possible
After my semester in Italy came to an end, I was not yet ready to go home. I wanted to stay in Europe for the summer but I had to find a way to support myself, and obtaining an Italian work visa for an American student such as myself was impossible. Then a friend told me about the BUNAC program (www.bunac.org). Note: The program now takes the form of an internship.
It was exactly what I was looking for: a non-competitive application process, a minimal fee, and the opportunity to work legally anywhere in the U.K. for up to six months. I had visited London once before and I decided that I would love the chance to live and work there. And so I did.
BUNAC offers participants logistical guidance combined with tremendous individual flexibility. The BUNAC guidebook and orientation session provide invaluable information and resources regarding renting a flat, finding work, banking, deciphering taxes and insurance, transportation, and culture. The BUNAC staff members, many of whom have worked abroad themselves, are extremely friendly and knowledgeable. Additionally, BUNAC organizes pub meets and weekend outings.
Through BUNAC, I had the opportunity to live and work in the U.K. and assistance in doing so but it was ultimately my responsibility to find my own flat and job. Neither was a problem. As a BUNACer, I was eligible to rent a room in the long-term hostel the program has in West Kensington at a very reasonable rent for central London. I stayed there my first month and then moved to a more “permanent” place in Camden Town.
I found a job the second day I was in town (most BUNAC participants find work within two to six days of arrival) at a Starbucks in Mayfair. Since BUNAC does not require a commitment to any one particular job for the duration of one’s stay, I knew that if I disliked my job at any point, I could simply look for another. I ended up keeping my job as a barista and thoroughly enjoying it.
Though Starbucks may be far from a British cultural institution, I learned a tremendous amount about London and its inhabitants by working for this prototypical American company. My British, Irish, Italian, Kenyan, French, Russian, Malaysian, and Australian co-workers helped me better understand differences throughout the U.K. and Europe, the role of the European Union, and international perspectives on U.S. culture and foreign policy. Their range of experience and diverse worldviews turned seemingly monotonous labor into an exceedingly interesting and enriching experience.
The camaraderie amongst fellow workers was remarkable. My manager practically made it a requirement of the closing shift to visit the local pub together after work. Living and working in London for an extended period of time enabled me to develop friendships, return to my favorite spots on a regular basis, take in the splendor of the city daily atop the double-decker bus on my way to and from work, and really get to know the city from the inside out.
ERIN McEVOY earned a B.A. in Political Science from the Univ. of Michigan.