After several years of study many students feel like a change of scenery or a break from study. The lure of adventures in distant lands drives many to pack up the essentials, strap on their backpacks and head overseas.

Undertaking study, employment or volunteer work overseas (OS) is a fantastic chance to combine your professional development with travel. OS experience looks great on your résumé and there are many different programs that can help students balance study or work experience with travel.


Gap years

A ‘gap year’ is a year-long break – before, during or after university – usually to travel, work overseas or undertake volunteer work. Taking a break can be a great chance to re-energise before getting into the business end of your degree or starting a job, and can also be valuable for personal growth and employability.


Employers recognise the added value of staff who have seen a bit of the world. Organising a trip is evidence of a range of personal qualities valued in the workplace, including initiative, determination and curiosity.


If you want to take a gap year but are concerned it could affect selection for a graduate program, check with individual employers on their eligibility policies.


Working holiday schemes

Most working visas are provided on a once-per-lifetime basis, so it’s important to select the time that suits you best. You can utilise more than one working holiday visa for a given period, allowing you to plan a round-the-world trip with working stops in various destinations.


Many countries have specific working holiday visas and schemes that allow you to work for a specified period of time, within a defined age bracket (commonly 18-30) and under certain conditions (i.e. work type may be restricted).


For countries offering working holiday visas to eligible applicants from Australia and New Zealand, visit:


OS work can be challenging. You should consider:

Pros of working OS…

  • enhanced résumé and references
  • work experience and career opportunities
  • opportunity to travel
  • learn about other countries, cultures and ways of life
  • personal and emotional development.


… and Cons of working OS

  • a working holiday comes with costs – make sure you’re financially prepared
  • when you return from overseas it’s likely your peers will have made progress in their careers – be prepared to catch up!


Questions to ask before committing…

  • Ask yourself “What do I hope to achieve/contribute?”; “How will I manage times when I miss home?”
  • If you volunteer through an organisation, does it charge a fee for placements? Is financial assistance provided for housing or transportation? What are the living costs?
  • What skills training and support is provided by the organisation?
  • Culture shock is natural – in time, most people will acclimatise to a new environment.
  • Talk with past volunteers or holiday workers about their experiences.

Article based on a flyer produced by University of Melbourne Careers & Employment and an article by Ebony Frost, GlobalCareer Company.


For more information about working overseas visit:

Australian Government Smartraveller:
Global Exchange Australia:
Anywork Anywhere:
Paid Teaching Overseas:
Overseas Working Holidays:

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