Travel Confessions: Shannon Hansen on working in the UK & Europe
Student Flights customer Shannon Hansen made the most of her gap year – starting off in Germany visiting family, then on to London where she worked for three months for a hospitality agency, arranged through The Working Holiday Club (WHC) Jumpstart London package. Then, the WHC live-in pub program called and Shannon answered, moving to Devon in the southwest of England where she spent three months at the Turtley Corn Mill with a trip to Amsterdam and Ireland in-between gigs. But she didn’t stop there. Next she went to work for Topdeck at the San Fermin Festival (Running of the Bulls), followed by a month in Venice as a kitchenhand, and also at Oktoberfest. She went to Paris, travelled around England, Scotland and Wales for three weeks with her best friend, and ultimately had the time of her life! Here's more of Shannon’s story:
How did you find out about The Working Holiday Club Jumpstart program?
I had been looking online for how to go about taking a working holiday over in the UK and Europe and I had found a few companies that weren't very suited for me for the likes of jobs, so I went into my local Student Flights to talk about taking a working holiday gap year and Brenton Hall, my travel agent, told me about The Working Holiday Club! After doing a fair amount of research on the company, I decided that they really were suited to me and the planning began!
How did you find out about live-in pub jobs in the UK?
I worked with The Working Holiday Club in London for three months doing the hospitality job they provide, but I started to get itchy feet to see more of the UK and a quickly declining bank account (London will do that to you!). As if it was meant to be, Andrew Stewart (the relocation consultant for WHC) started asking around about interest in a few live-in pub jobs around the UK. He made it really easy to apply and I had three job offers the very next day! Then it was just up to choosing which location and off I went, moving my life to the country only six days after it had crossed my mind!
What prompted you to take a gap year?
I had just finished my undergraduate degree and knew that I was planning to do postgraduate study, but wasn't quite ready to commit myself to another year or two of university without doing something else with my life first. I was originally planning to take a short trip to go and see my family in Germany and take possibly six months off to save and work and refresh myself. However, I realised that I was eligible for dual citizenship with Australia and Germany and then the possibilities seemed endless, so I ended up planning an open-ended trip!
What was one of the biggest lessons you learned from your time away?
The biggest lesson I learnt was how to be myself, and how to love the fact that I can be myself. Travelling alone does mean a lot of sightseeing, eating, walking around on your own, which is actually not a bad thing in the slightest. You also meet a lot (I emphasise a lot!) of other solo travellers who are feeling the same way as you. The best thing is that 99 percent of solo travellers are the friendliest people you could meet! You build up the confidence to just go and talk to people that you may have never talked to back home and you learn so much about different cultures and ways of life, and have a great time doing it!
What was the highlight of your trip?
Definitely working for Topdeck. Hands down the most awesome job I have ever had! I volunteered for them as Ground Crew for the San Fermin (Running of the Bulls) Festival in Pamplona, Spain and for Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, as well as working as a kitchenhand in Venice, Italy for a month. There is nothing better than being paid to travel around, and working with a group of awesome, like-minded people! Topdeck is such an awesome company to work for and they may find me crawling back in a few years after my postgraduate study!
Any advice you could offer anyone interested in a live-in pub job?
Go for a location that suits you over everything else. While I absolutely loved the pub I was in, it was very remote and it did get to me after a bit - I ended up going to London every couple of weeks just to be able to go out! Saying that, if you're travelling with a friend or in a couple and don't mind sharing a room, then it wouldn't really matter.
How did you find living in the UK compared to life in Australia?
Surprisingly easy to adjust to! In London especially, you will find you mainly meet Australians, hence why I was leaning towards doing a live-in pub job after a few months in London. When I was out in Devon I was completely immersed in the UK culture, which was nice (especially Devon's specialty of cream teas and the tradition of Sunday roast at the pub). The main thing I noticed was that they celebrated and wore summer dresses when it got to 18 degrees, while I just looked at them like they were slightly insane!
What was the most challenging part of your trip?
Being alone and managing my money. Being alone was very challenging at times, but like I said earlier, it was so easy to meet other travellers that I was only really alone at my live-in pub job (only because when I wasn't working, all my friends were!). You get used to your own company and start to enjoy it anyway. Managing my money, however, is still not a skill I have mastered. My thought trail was always something like: "I could save money, or I could spend that €80 on that cheap return bus to Paris and have an awesome time". And to be honest, my travelling brain always won. However, those are the times I remember the most, not the times that I sat at home because I had to save, and there are always free things to do!
Was it easy to find work after you finished at the pub job?
I was incredibly lucky to have the job with Topdeck organised by the time I left my live-in pub job. However, when I was applying for the live-in pub jobs I also applied for quite a few regular jobs in London and got quite a few call backs for trials, so I imagine it wouldn't be too difficult. There is always work in London if you know where to look (for example, working for a hospitality or temp agency), as long as you are willing and hard working!
Did you have any prior experience working in hospitality?
Yes I did, I had worked in a restaurant/bar in my home city of Perth for a year, as well as a fair few years working for Boost Juice (yep, I was a Boost girl!). I definitely think this gave me a big step up when applying for jobs, but if you go with an agency they teach you all the basics, so it's not a necessity.
What was the most rewarding part of your trip?
The most rewarding part of the trip was being immersed in other cultures and meeting so many new people. I travelled and experienced Germany, Ireland, Amsterdam, Paris, the UK (including Scotland) and all the places I worked with Topdeck. Just knowing that this is something you have chosen to do with your life and that you are making the most of it is reward enough.