Agency Experience: Positive
The consultants who helped me were very friendly and understanding. I didn't meet a single issue on any of the stages: from preparing the documents for my stay in the USA to the tax refund. The consultants themselves have previously participated in WAT and thanks to their advices and shared personal experience, my friends and I chose our employer and the perfect job offer. They also offer different types of insurances, plane tickets and the opportunity to pay for the program once you return from the USA. I definitely recommend Orange as an agency you can trust.
Location: Framingham, MA
Location Experience: Positive
The town we lived in was not that big, according to the American standards. There were stores and places to go out, but unfortunately our housing was at the end of the town and far from it's downtown. We had to walk around an hour and a half to get to the retail zone. However, at around 10-minute walking distance there was a Stop & Shop (supermarket), a pharmacy, a diner, Dunkin' Donuts, so we weren't that cut off from everything and we could buy basic products nearby. I think there was a small bus, which was the only public transport available, but it was pretty irregular and I didn't get to use it. Fortunately, however, people there are awesome, they are used to having lifeguards from Europe, who come to the USA for WAT, and they would get us around the town very often, they helped us when we had to run some errands (like receiving the Social Security number at the beginning for example). Amazing people! Framingham is approximately 30 minutes away from Boston with a train and the trains are very regular, so we often went there in our days off. And Boston is definitely a city worth seeing. Unfortunately, there weren't many options for a second job, or at least we couldn't find one, again most probably because of our housing's location. I guess, if you live closer to the downtown, you could find a second job at a restaurant or a store.
Employer: High Sierra Pools
Employer Experience: Positive
We chose High Sierra Pools because of the conditions they offer: they hire groups, provide housing and transfer from the airport, lifeguard training conducted in Bulgaria, prior to leaving for the USA. Since I traveled with two friends of mine, it was very important that we would be together. We worked at different pools, but we lived together, which was great. The transfer from the airport and the provided housing are also a great advantage for someone, who is going to a new place so far away from home for the first time and has no idea what to expect. Another advantage is that the deposit for the housing and the rents are deducted from your paychecks, and therefore you start paying bills only after you have earned some money. In most cases you have to pay a considerable amount of money for deposit and first rent even before you have worked a single day. This way, you only need to prepare pocket money enough to pay for food for the first two weeks, before you receive your first paycheck. In 2015 the wage in our state was $9/hour, as far as I know, it's higher now. We had overtime opportunity in the first 2-3 weeks. because the lifeguards from the other countries usually arrive later. During these weeks we worked without a day off, which was actually perfect for us, because you don't really feel like spending money, before you have received your first paycheck, or at least that was the case with us. Plus everything seems so expensive at the beginning :D During the rest of the season we would work 50 hours a week and the hours per day depended on the working hours of your pool. Usually we would work 5 days a week, 10 hours a day, and we would have 2 days off. There were also 1-2 weeks at the end of the season, when we would get to work more hours overtime. Our housing was nothing special: a kitchen, a living room, two bedrooms, a balcony, a bathroom. We slept on air mattresses (from the nice ones :D), there was a table, chairs, dishes, an oven, a fridge, central air conditioner, perfectly enough for the small amount of time we spent there. There were 5 of us living in that apartment: 3 Bulgarians and 2 Czechs, which helped for the cultural part of the program. It was inconvenient that some of the pools were far from our housing. Our supervisor would take us to work and bring us back home, when he had the chance, but sometimes we had to go several miles on foot or by a bicycle. In general, the job is responsible, but very nice as well. After all you get paid for being at the pool all summer long. Our pools were for residents only, so pretty much the same people would come to the pool every day, you get to know them, you talk to them and, if you are lucky like we were, you become friends with them. Honestly, the best thing about our job and the town we lived in was the people we met: extremely friendly, nice, helpful, ready to invite you in their homes and to do as much as they can to make you feel good in their country.
Comment: I highly recommend the Work and Travel program. It's a very interesting and fun way to spend your summer. You get the unique opportunity to visit the USA, to find our how people live and work there, to meet lots of new people and to visit places you have only seen in the movies. You gain a very important experience, you find out what it's like to live by yourself, independently, you get to communicate with many different people and meet different cultures. The entire experience is very enriching and it gives you memories and friendships for life.