Take advantage of short-term work-abroad opportunities when you are young because, even though you may have more money to travel when you are older, it's not likely you'll have the time to submerge yourself in other cultures.
If you want to work abroad, student work-abroad programs, for a fee ranging from $175 to $495, can help young travelers cut through red tape, enabling them to work legally in some foreign countries and providing support services in foreign countries. Two of the most popular student work-abroad programs are the British Universities North America Club and Council Exchanges.
The nonprofit British Universities North America Club ( 462-8622, www.bunac.org) began arranging work for young Americans in Britain in 1962. Today it offers work programs in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and, new this year, Ireland.
The club won't land you a job, but it offers support, information and help with the documentation needed.
All programs are year-round and open to U.S. students and recent graduates. For Australia and New Zealand you don't have to be a student but must be 18 to 30 years old.
The club's Britain program, which carries a $250 fee, is its largest: Up to 4,000 students participate annually. The fee includes a permit to work for up to six months in England, Scotland or Wales; a discount on your first three nights' lodging in London or Edinburgh; an orientation program to help you find work and accommodations and arrange tax exemptions; and a National Express Coach Card good for up to a 30% discount on transportation. In London and Edinburgh the club also sets up social events so participants can meet.
"We have a huge job base, far more job leads than we can fill," said Anna Crew of BUNAC. "What tends to happen is we get an employer who takes one or two people through the program, and when their time is up, they will take another couple. So there's no shortage of jobs."
Another nonprofit, the Council on International Educational Exchange, has been operating work exchange programs for young Americans for 25 years. Its two most popular programs for students and recent graduates are in Ireland and Australia; it runs programs in Canada, France, Germany and New Zealand as well. The Australia program accepts nonstudents up to 30 years old.
The council won't get you a job, but for a fee of $350 to $500, youths get help arranging documentation to work legally and services to assist in a search for jobs and accommodations. Most programs include two nights' accommodation in hostel-style lodgings. The council partners with foreign organizations to provide services, which typically include an orientation program with advice and information on job leads and arranging accommodation.
For information, call (800) 407-8839, www.ciee.org.
Some online sources on work-abroad opportunities:
Transitions Abroad, www.transitionsabroad.com, which has useful links.
Back Door Jobs, www.backdoorjobs.com, with links to volunteer opportunities.
Global Exchange, www.globalexchange.com, which is principally for Australians but which includes a message board on which you can share work-abroad information and post questions.
Cool Jobs Canada, www.cooljobscanada.com, provides job listings and allows you to post resumes for seasonal work in the Canadian tourism industry.
Lucy Izon is a Toronto-based freelance writer and author of "Izon's Backpacker Journal." Her Internet site is www.izon.com.