The difficult situation in the Balkans makes young people worried about their future. Many students choose to go abroad for the summer so they can earn some money for their studies and living expenses. Studying is not so cheap in Macedonia so the students encounter costs for enrollment, books, a lot of fees and general costs for living near or in the city where they study.
Young people choose some of the many agencies that are mediating between the students and their employers abroad. Students can choose the “Work and Travel USA” program or the “Summer Educational Practice in Germany” program.
As in Slovenia also in Macedonia the most wanted is the “Work and Travel USA” program. But in the past few years the working program in Germany is competing with the working program in the USA.
The first difference between the programs except the country and payments, are costs for the agency. I know some students whose their parents borrow or take loans, so they can send their child to go on the USA program in hope that he or she will return their money and have a good time there.
The “Summer Educational Practice in Germany” is different from Work and Travel USA because in Germany the costs and salaries are lower. But the biggest difference are the agencies. The agencies that “sell the job” are not so professional and serious about the necessary things, however most of the time they complete what they promised.
“Summer Educational Practice in Germany” is cheaper but I think it is a riskier program.
Despite everything you hope to have wonderful summer with all the goods of life. But in reality things go differently. When you apply for the summer job you do not think about how it will go or about what can happen to you. You only see the opportunity to earn money and to experience life far away from home. For me that was a test to see how I will endure it and how far I can go. I am sure that everyone who has had this kind of experience will agree.
The procedure starts with the application that you must submit until April, but it is in your interest to submit the application earlier so you can have time to choose where you will go or if you do not pass the language interview to have time for another one.
Every student has a different story to tell, but at the end all gain a lot of life experience and see life through different eyes.
My story for my “Summer dream job” abroad began in cold January 2016 when I decided for the first time to go to Germany for my summer vacation. In that time my family was in a very bad financial crisis so my sister and I, two good students with a dream for an academic education found ourselves fighting alone so we could accomplish our goal. My sister decided to work as a waitress in our city and I as the braver one decided to go to Germany. My sister was a little bit skeptical about my decision and the whole program, but she supported me and helped me with the costs that I had for the application and my first month there.
The whole process before I stepped on German soil was very stressful for me. First, I had to finish all my exams otherwise I would have had to repeat the year, because I would have lost the two-examination deadline while being there. Second was all the needed documentation: as I first said you submit the application, then they call you for the first interview to check your German language abilities. The interview is very basic with simple questions regarding to your interests. I prepared myself very well although I did not have prior knowledge of German. When you pass the interview, you wait for another interview with your future employer.
On my first meeting with the employer I did not understand a thing that he was saying to me. But that did not discourage me, so I asked if I will have another offer later because I did not pass the first one. I waited almost two months and in the first week of April I passed the second interview and I was accepted for the job. Despite the fact you are accepted, you do not know what your job position will be until you go there. Even in May when almost all the documentation is completed you find out the town where you will be. But the good news is that you can write your preferred town in the application and with some luck they will put you there. When I passed the interview I was obligated to go on an online German language course, so I could get the job. Those were extra costs that you do not want to have, in my opinion they are not necessary. In my case the agency said that I must go to the course because that is a demand from the German boss. At the end, I gained a little knowledge of German, butI did not get a certificate. Though looking on the bright side I secured my job and I could go to work in Germany. At the end of May I received an email that I will be working in a beautiful tourist city Cuxhaven on the coast of the North Sea. So, I started with preparations and I decided to buy my flight ticket because my documents needed to be done in a couple of days. Later, they told me that my certificate of enrolment or in German “Immatrikulationsbescheinigung” will come late and I will not be able to go in the middle of June. They never wanted to compensate the damage and lost money. When I got the document and bought another flight ticket for the end of June, I felt so relieved that everything is completed and all I can do now is finish my exams and pack for Germany. But three days before I left for Germany, the agency told me that I will be working in another town called Henstedt Ulzburg and living in a nearby town Kisdorf. Because of the new situation I needed a different travel plan so that I could arrive in the new city. They offered to pay the bus ticket from Hannover to Hamburg because of the change of plans.
But, unfortunately my flight was late 3 hours and I missed the bus for which I already had a ticket. When I contact the agency, at first they were willing to help. But when I arrived at the Hannover bus station they said that I was on my own. For the first time I felt a huge fear while traveling alone, because for the first time I found myself in the middle of the night, surrounded by drunk and drugged people at the train station in a country whose language I did not know very well. As a lucky coincidence, I met some people from my country (Macedonia) and they helped me buy another ticket to Hamburg and sent me to the train station. Somehow, I arrived in Kisdorf and the task now was to go to the town hall, bank, to the working place and to get a sanitary booklet. The work was 6.2 km far away from my living place and without a bus line that would go in that direction. The good thing in all of this is that in every place you have at least one person who is from your country, so you are not alone in such unpleasant and difficult situations. The first days were very hard, because we were obligated to go to work by foot and walk to all the institutions in nearby towns in order to arrange our documents. But later it was much easier because we bought cheap bicycles and continued with our adventure to complete the documentation that we needed to start with the job. All in all, you need at least one week to finish all the required documentation in different institutions, but of course that depends on the place you are in. Some employers allow you to work even if you do not have all the paperwork.
When you start with the job you are not sure that you will fulfill the “guaranteed” 160 working hours. How much you will work depends on the location and managers. Through this program I have been to Germany two times and I worked enough hours to earn a satisfactory amount to cover my costs and to save some money for my studies. Next summer I was in Hannover where some of the roommates had barely enough money to pay the rent and buy some food. That is not a very pleasant situation, because you came with the purpose to earn some amount, not to be almost without money or have a negative balance on your account.
While you work at first you feel like an outsider, almost everyone had a disliking for the students that came to work for only two and a half months. They think that you do not deserve this opportunity and that you will steal their jobs. Many of them are migrants with difficult life situations and maybe because of the fear that they may lose their job, they are not so welcoming to us. They treat you like you are from a country that has nothing and that you have not seen a burger in your life (I worked in a fast food restaurant at the time). The managers most of the time have a correct regard for you but when it comes to helping you with the documents they retreat. Also, a lot of students do not tell the boss when their working time has expired so that they can gain a little but more money before the boss realizes that their working time is over. While working you will tolerate injustice, mocking, conflicts, but at the end you hope to be satisfied when the money comes on your bank account.
My friend had one similar experience, but theirs was in the “Work and Travel USA” program:
X: I have been in the USA two times with the “Work and Travel” program. The first year my experience was not as good as in the second year. I injured myself and I was feeling very bad, no one cared that I was working with a lot of pain. The job description that the agency gave me before I left Macedonia did not coincide with the real one that I had gotten at first. The salary was not enough, I didn’t have enough guaranteed working hours and also I was not able to have a second job, because of the working schedule. The second year was much better, I was very satisfied, I chose the work position and knew exactly what my obligations were. The “Work and Travel” experience is one of my most unforgettable, I met a lot of people, had fun, enjoyed myself and travelled. At the end it depends on what city you choose and the agency.
All in all, it is very difficult to control the whole situation while working through these programs, because you do not know what will happen next. Young people can be left in unpredictable situations, all because they represent a cheap workforce for companies and because these agencies make such exploitation possible as there is money to be made from this for them as well. I hope this article can serve as a warning to other young people, who are looking for a way to support themselves through summer jobs abroad.