I am Milica from Serbia. Four years ago I discovered something that changed my life- traveling. I am always up to challenges and adventure. My hobby is photography. I am interested in ecology and saving the nature as well. As a youthworker, I was a part of international projects where I made a great friendships, helped the local community and developed my knowledge about the world around me.
Thank you for contributing with this awesome experience!
Here comes the story about one of the biggest challenges in my life, based on my experience only. I am sure that you can find a lot of articles about Work and Travel program and whenever you are reading them, you imagine yourself on a party in Los Angeles, on the beaches of Miami or you are just walking through Central Park.
A lot of agencies are offering these and other destinations for their program and I would say yes, you will have the chance to see all those places, but I would like to add one more part to it – reality.
Don’t worry, you will not be disappointed, just more informed!
How Did I Decide to Go to Work and Travel?
I needed something different – a small town on the East coast, for example
Preparations for my trip in May had already started in October, but even though they lasted almost eight months, everything happened so fast.
I heard different stories about this program and one day I just decided to go to the agency and apply. I wanted to change my everyday life and try this amazing experience.
Because of that, I had chosen a place that I’ve never heard about before – Rehoboth beach.
I am not that kind of person who loves beaches, sun and waves, but this time I decided I’m up for a change!
I have lived in the city for whole my life, I had already visited various cities in Europe and I needed something different – a small town on the East coast, for example.
Neither of my friends wanted to go with me and that even made it into a bigger challenge – going alone to the other continent and spending five months there.
Let’s do it!
Agency Procedure and Preparation for Interview
My friend shared her experience with me and I chose the same agency. I applied for the full program which meant that agency would find a job for you, accommodation, set the date of interview in the embassy, help you find the flight ticket and will be open for any question you have.
In this agency, I also could buy an American SIM card and they also offered a possibility to apply for student’s credit, meant for students who couldn’t pay the whole program before their trip.
Honestly, for Serbian standards, this is not a cheap program because you need around $2000 for all costs.
If you choose the self program, you will pay less, but you would need to do most things by yourself.
A full program is a good option for those who apply for the first time because it’s much easier to find a job with the help of the agency, rather than just wander in the unknown alone.
I had three interviews before I got a job offer. The first one was a person who was responsible for Rehoboth beach.
I was very nervous before it started, but after the first question I forgot about my anxiety and was thinking how to answer the questions properly.
Agency provided me with the list of the most common questions, but on my first interview, I didn’t have any of them. He asked me about my studies, why I want to go to the USA and what I would like to do there.
He offered me a job in one resort and I accepted.
Our conversation took less than 5 minutes. The second interview was with a lady who works at that resort, and the third interview was with a girl who works at the same resort, but in another department. Only one of the interviews had the questions from the list.
I remember I was talking about my weaknesses and strengths and situations where I had solved a problem and helped the team.
They also asked me if I ever been in touch with American dollars so could I recognize some coins that I could be working with. I tried to hold a smile on my face and I tried to look as relaxed and professional.
When I got a job offer, I could finally relax and buy a flight ticket.
Finding the Flight Ticket
I compared different options and the best solution to buy a ticket was in an agency that was cooperating with my W&T agency. The return ticket was around $600.
I went from Belgrade to Munich and then from Munich to Washington DC. When I was going back to Serbia, the departure was from New York to Frankfurt and then to Belgrade.
Today, there is a direct flight from Belgrade to New York, so it’s much easier nowadays.
Interview in the Embassy (Heart Attack!)
She looked like she will reject me and she gave me a yellow paper.
Oh my God! I don’t want to think about that day! I was so nervous. Before the interview, I heard so many stories of people who had already been there. Of course, I remembered only examples without happy end, but still I tried to be positive.
However, that was the last thing I could in that state of mind. There were so many questions in my head- what should I wear, what will happen if I get confused and don’t know the answer, will I understand the English of consul etc.
I came there one hour earlier. It was enough time to become even more nervous and to listen more stories from the people who were there.
When we passed control on the entrance, I walked through the yard and came in one room with windows, where consuls were sitting. On entrance you get a number and when you see your number on the board in front of the window, you go there.
The problem was that they were choosing numbers randomly so we had to expect our number every moment.
We counted how many people were rejected. We knew that because those people got a red paper. Green paper is for people who were accepted and yellow was…
I’m not sure. I stopped counting. My turn! Smile! Be positive! I only remember that lady asked me if I have somebody in USA, why I want to go there and how many exams I have left.
There were more questions, but I was so nervous that I forgot them right after the interview. She looked like she will reject me and she gave me a yellow paper.
I think I lost my smile in one second, but she just said I’m missing one paper. I was so confused, but people told me that I got the visa, but agency needed to send them one more document. It was true and my adventure definitely could start!
I’m in Washington DC and… What’s Next?
It was time to say goodbye to my family and friends.
Of course, it’s not easy, especially because I was traveling alone and I will not see them for few months, but I said to myself that it’s not a long period and that we have modern technology so we can speak whenever we want.
When we came to the airport, I was sad and confused. I was not aware of what was happening. The only thing I knew is that I’m leaving Serbia and I’m going to USA, but I still couldn’t imagine that it’s for real.
I met two girls who were going, too. Flight to Munich was very short, then we changed the plane and after eight hours we were in Washington DC.
The flight was long, but I enjoyed it. I slept, watched movies, listened to the music…and still couldn’t imagine what is about to happen.
When we arrived there, we met more students who were waiting for transport from the airport to their place. It was a van that we booked earlier on in Belgrade.
That ride was horrible, it was so hot and humidity was really heavy.
I thought I will die. After 2,5 hours I was in front of my new house with my luggage. It was night and suddenly I felt so lonely.
That was the first moment without people around me, after I left airport in Belgrade. Is there anyone inside? I didn’t know what to expect.
I knocked and two guys opened. One of them was the owner and the other guy was also a W&T student from Serbia. When I came in, I felt like in some American movie.
Everything was so…American. There was one more student from Serbia, but he was sleeping. So, three of us. There were two sleeping rooms, I chose one next to boys room.
During the next days, the house was full of people and the owner made one more room. So, at the end there were 14 people sharing one house with 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms.
Sometimes I had a feeling that there were too many people in one place, but it was fun. Some of them I haven’t seen for almost the whole week because we worked a lot so we had different shifts.
Argues about eating each other’s food ,washing the dishes, waiting for toilet were usual. One of the best parts of the summer was living with those people.
Friendships that were made there were built on an unusual ways, cause we first started living, breathing and sleeping together first and then slowly started to know each other.
It wasn’t always easy, but no matter how different we all were it learned us how to function together.. Whenever we now speak about our life there, and resemble those days, we are laughing. There were so many funny moments!
I couldn’t believe that everything I saw in the movies really exists..
Morning after I arrived to Rehoboth, I went to the working place.
I had to take a bus even though Rehoboth is place where people usually go by bike. The bus driver was smiling and he was very kind.
At first, I couldn’t understand him. I knew English, but I needed few days to get used on the American accent. On my way to work, I saw garage sales in front of houses. Okay, movies again! I couldn’t believe that everything I saw in the movies really exists.
The first day I met my manager and she instantly showed me what I should do. I was so lucky! She was so kind and she wanted to know more about me.
During the whole summer she took care of me and she always asked me is everything okay and if I need any help. Even when I changed departments, she still wanted to take care of me.
My colleges in both departments were great. Later, I met three more boys from Serbia who came few days before me. After just few hours I felt comfortable and I started enjoying my American life.
More people came to work in that resort, one of them was my roommate so I had a company every morning on the way to work.
After few days, I decided to look for the second job. Everywhere were ‘WE ARE HIRING’ boards and in one moment I thought that I don’t know the right meaning of word ‘hiring’ because it was impossible that so many places needed employees, but it was true.
Rehoboth is a place full of students who are working there during the summer and I was there a little bit before the season had started. I had found the second job easy, and those two jobs I kept during the whole season.
I worked with Americans, but with students from Serbia and Romania, too. We had a fun time on the work and that’s the reason why we could work so much and still manage not to be bored.
It’s up to you how much you want to work, but most of us worked a lot. Almost everybody had two jobs and usually only one day off.
For a long period of time I didn’t even had that one day, but only one afternoon off.. I was one of the ‘workaholic’ people there, but still, if you wanted money for traveling, you had to work a lot. Usually we were very exhausted and we wanted to quit.
After the season, I have never thought about moments when I wanted to quit or any other bad moment on work. I didn’t have many of them.
The biggest problem was the distance to our first job. We couldn’t spend one hour in the bus, 5 or 6 days per week. It was far from our house, and we realized that when we found a second job.
It’s very important to find a job near your house.
It means that you can sleep longer in the mornings, you would have more time between the end of the first and beginning of the second job and you could be earlier at home. One hour means a lot!
And one more thing, when you are going on any kind of interviews – SMILE! I was a server and it was very important to have smile on my face.
I learned to smile even if it was my bad day. It helped me a lot, sometimes it even made my day better. I spoke with customers, I was smiling and I forgot that I’m tired.
Both jobs helped me to develop my English and to become more open minded. I still remember some costumers and I think I will never forget them as well as people I was working with.
After four months of work, you have one month for traveling. During our staying in Rehoboth, church had organised few excursions. We visited Washington DC and Philadelphia.
There are agencies that offer different excursions during the working period, but they organize tours for traveling periods, too.
Those tours are more expensive than tours that you can organize by yourself.
You will need more time to organize everything, but you will visit more places with less money because tickets inside the America are cheap.
The last 7 days I had spent in New York with two friends of mine. Our accommodation that we booked on Airbnb was in Brooklyn. New York is an amazing city, I would recommend it for sure.
Try to visit as much places as you can because when you are there, you don’t have feeling that you will ever leave USA, but when you come back to your home country, maybe you will regret something.
Beautiful sunsets in Rehoboth, running on the famous Rocky steps in Philly, watching the whole New York City from the Empire State Building and sitting in the second raw on a Broadway’s show are just a parts of my memories.
Going Back to Serbia
Everything was so different and I became a bit depressed
After five life changing months, I was supposed to come back to Serbia and continue my ‘old life’. I felt the same like when I was in the plane to Washington.
I got used on the American lifestyle and I was scared of going back home. I was sitting in the plane and watching New York City becoming smaller and smaller until I completely lost it out of sight.
It all happened so fast, the landing back home and suddenly I’d found myself surrounded with my family and friends again.. I was happy to see them, but still in a state of shock.
Next few days passed by okay, because I was spending time with my friends, but after I had seen them all, I didn’t know what I’m suppose to do here.
Is this really my home, or have I left my real home in America?!
Everything was so different and I became a bit depressed. I had to keep finishing my exams, find a job and press ‘Serbian mode’ all the way.
It was hard, but now, one year later, everything is better. I have new goals and one fantastic experience behind me.
I could just dream about visiting the USA…until I decided to make my dream come true.