I got SO many emails in lately with all one subject: spending a year abroad. I just got one thing to say: if you want to do it, do it! I was able to do it so I'm pretty sure you're all able to do it :-) I'm super excited to share this experience with you and give you some tips, how to figure it all out easily. Let me explain how I prepared for a year abroad:
First things first: save up some money, get a passport, pick a location, check if you are able to get a visa and book your flight! I was dying to go as far as possible. I only planned on doing this once so I had to do it right! From Belgium, New Zealand is probably one of the furthest locations you can choose. BUT I also like good weather (and New Zealand is not the warmest all year round) and I like to experience new cultures. That's when Australia and Indonesia joined the travel route.
I decided to get a working holiday visa for Australia (which you can get here and for New Zealand here). This visa allows you to stay in the country for 1 year. During that year you can work up to 6 months with an employer, study for up to 4 months and leave and re-enter as many times as you want.
You want to stay longer? That's no problem, than you have 2 options. The easy option: you can do specified work for 3 months full time (for example farm work, fruit picking, ...) for this you can get a second working holiday visa. The harder option is to get sponsored by one of your employers, but this allows you to stay as long as the sponsoring is for (can be several years). Don't forget the visa application can take up to 6 weeks, even though I got mine in 20 minutes...
So what's next. Book your flight. For this I went to a Belgian travel agency called Joker. I did this instead of booking online for the following reason: I wanted to book several flights with adjustable dates AND I wanted the cheapest price. I ended up paying a very low fee for a flight from Belgium to New Zealand, New Zealand to Australia and Australia to Belgium (there was also a free stopover in Singapore which I ended up not taking since I stayed longer than originally planned). You can use this ticket for 1 year and can make (limited) changes on the dates for free. Great deal if you ask me! Also, if there is a problem such as cancelled flights or delays, the travel agency will help you out! Once, my flight from Bangkok to Belgium was cancelled, but the agency already booked me a new flight and because of that I even got a better connection home + I got to fly with a better airline, win win!
Don't forget a travel insurance! I got sick in Australia and spent a lot of money on doctor's appointments (which are SO expensive over there). Once I got home the insurance gave me every cent back. I got mine with Mondial Assistance. It's not just a health insurance, they also cover robberies, cancellation costs, ...
When you arrive... If you're just traveling, enjoy! If you want to start working, don't forget you have to get some things sorted:
The easiest way to find a place to stay is on Gumtree. You can find shared houses and apartments with locals or other travelers. I had a lot of great experiences with this, I ended up living right in front of Bondi Beach in this beautiful apartment with some amazing girls. Life couldn't get any better!
When you work in Australia, you will be paying taxes for the Australian government. Don't worry just yet, you are able to claim these back! All you have to do is apply for the Tax File Number (TFN) here.
As soon you got a place to stay, you'll be able to get an Australian bank account, which you definitely need, you do want to get paid right?! Just go to a local bank and they will help you with everything! I got with NAB, but kind of regretted not going with Commonwealth Bank... The thing in Australia is that every time you get money out in a different bank, you pay a fee, and in a way there were Commonweath Banks all the time but I ended up having a hard time finding the local NABs... Could have saved me a lot of Aussie dollars!
Get a job. Yes... not as easy as it might sound. From experience I can say it's quite hard to find a specific job. For me, working as a full time graphic designer in an agency was impossible, I got rejected so many times because I was there on a working holiday visa. Easier to find is a job in hospitality (if you're in a city) or farm work (if you're at the country side). But still, looking for a job in hospitality when winter is coming is not a good idea, the time to look for this is in the beginning of summer (when it is getting busy!).
So now you're asking me where to look for a job? Have a look on Gumtree or bring your resume to the places where you want to work.
After making money, it's time to relax! Go travel around Australia, it's SUCH an amazing country so don't get stuck in just one place! Do road trips, go hiking, enjoy the beach culture, go snorkeling in the great barrier reef, ... and catch it all on camera (to remember it forever). Also try to make trips to New Zealand, Indonesia or even Fiji (since you're in the neighborhood...). And make it the best year of your life! Cheers!
(Pictures of my trip in 2012-2013, you can find more pictures here)