New Zealand and Australia Twelve-Month Student Work and Travel ProgramsIn my career I have traveled to more than 60 countries and spent substantial time working in places like Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New York.

The ongoing professional adventure started when I took a leave of absence from Yale Law School to travel to Tokyo as a Henry Luce Scholar to work in the Japanese Diet for a year. What looked to my family and friends like a detour became one of the key turning points in my life.

That’s why I’m such a big proponent of exchange programs, travel breaks, work/study programs, and the like for students. Immersing yourself in a new environment while relatively young can teach you a lot about yourself, focus and reorient your thinking, and open unimagined and life-changing possibilities.

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And that’s why today I want to highlight a great program between the US and New Zealand which – for reasons I can’t quite fathom – seems to be relatively unknown and woefully under-subscribed. It’s the New Zealand (and Australia) Twelve-Month Work and Travel Program.

In effect since 2007, the Program is a reciprocal arrangement between the United States and New Zealand which allows students or recent graduates from tertiary schools (i.e., universities and polytechnics) to work and travel in the other country for up to twelve months. It’s a big deal. The US only has such arrangements with New Zealand and Australia.

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The objective of the Program is to offer Kiwi students the chance to experience the US in a deep and meaningful way.  Not just as a short holiday. But for an extended time and in a way that allows you to explore options, including for future travel or academic study in America.

To reiterate, the lynchpin — and special beauty – of the Program is the approval to work and earn money during your travel year in the US. The arrangement allows you to check out parts of the country you wouldn’t normally come to know if you were traveling on a short-term, pre-financed shoestring budget.

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On the Program, you can go somewhere and work for awhile. Then go somewhere else and work for awhile. And so on.

Or you can just go to one place you really like, set up a crib, find a job, and travel around from there in your free time.

Or you can spend a year working in your field of study. To give you a current real-life example, a recent film graduate from Victoria University went to the US on the Program and is now working as a production assistant in Hollywood.

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It’s a win/win situation.

You get an extended adventure by working as needed to finance your travels. You get to know America as it is, not as opinion gatekeepers of various sorts tell you it is. You get to explore places you might want to study, live, and/or work in the future.

Americans get to know you and, through you, New Zealand. Bridges get built, and our two countries are drawn a bit closer together because of your travels.

So, what’s the catch or problem?

I have no idea. I can’t find one.

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The eligibility criteria to participate are remarkably easy to satisfy. There is of course an application process, but it looks to me as though you primarily need to establish the following:

  • You are a citizen of New Zealand.

  • You are a bona fide post-secondary student (in other words, have completed at least your first year of tertiary education), or are a recent tertiary graduate (in other words, have graduated from a tertiary institution within the last 12 months).

  • You have sufficient financial resources prior to coming to the United States to support yourself during a search for employment or between breaks in employment.

  • You don’t have a criminal record.

In terms of process, you make your arrangements through one of a variety of approved “sponsors” across the US such as the New York City YMCA, Camp Counselors USA, Walt Disney World, or the International Cultural Exchange Organization.

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Those requirements don’t sound at all onerous to me.

You can access details about the rules, application process, and sponsors through the Program’s webpage on the Embassy website.

Take a look.

Tell your friends.

Apply.