“A 22-year-old Korean female college student was killed in Australia during a working holiday. One month later, a 28-year-old Korean man was also killed in Brisbane while he was studying abroad during his working holiday.”1 These news stories are reported frequently, especially during university vacation season. Most students look forward to participating in a working holiday but still tremble in horror. Since going abroad can cause us to become caught up in a fantasy, we are much more vulnerable to tragedy. Hidden behind the grip of the working holiday fever, there are so many terrible situations that students encounter.
Catching Two Birds with One Stone
Every year, the number of students applying for a working holiday visa increases. In the case of Norway, Korean students on working holiday visas in that country totaled between 23,000 and 30,000 in 2013 but the figure increased into 60,000 in 2014. In other words, there was an approximate 37% increase of students on working holidays.2 The working holiday program started in January 1975 with the goal of promoting international understanding by giving young people the opportunity to experience the culture of another country. Students participating in the program can have both work and travel experience, which enables them to enjoy wide benefits from the systemic approach of the program. Because of the high number of people overseas on working holiday visas, students can easily extend their stays abroad. More importantly, a working holiday offers students a great chance to learn various languages and cultures. According to the Foreign Secretary Group’s survey, the percentage of students applying for working holiday visas to improve their linguistic ability was 55% and students dreaming of traveling around the visited nation were 45%.3 That is, a working holiday fulfills a student’s need for work experience and travel opportunity at the same time. They also have no concerns about living necessaries because the program generally offers them. Lee Donghyun, a working holiday student in Warburg, said, “The program suits me since I can learn English through real life experiences and visit various sights.”4 This thought has led to more and more students participating in the program even though its application procedure is quite strict. “A 22-year-old Korean female college student was killed in Australia during a working holiday. One month later, a 28-year-old Korean man was also killed in Brisbane while he was studying abroad during his working holiday.” These news stories are reported frequently, especially during university vacation season. Most students look forward to participating in a working holiday but still tremble in horror. Since going abroad can cause us to become caught up in a fantasy, we are much more vulnerable to tragedy. Hidden behind the grip of the working holiday fever, there are so many terrible situations that students encounter.
One Shot, Never Killed
Students bump against big obstacles while they prepare for a working holiday. Although participating in a working holiday seems to be considered important among many people and has had much improvement, there are still a few loopholes. To begin with, each working holiday host country has lax infrastructures, which students struggle to comprehend. Since there are so many things that students must adapt to the new environment, it is necessary for most students to seek help and information from their working holiday program. Unfortunately, these students suffer from hardships and cannot receive enough compensation during their sojourn. For example, one typical problem is wage payment delay. People from other countries such as international students cannot have occupations or part time jobs. However, working holiday visa holders like foreign students are able to work in the host country. At work, many problems arise such as not receiving one’s wage at the right time. Foreigners rarely voice their opinion because they don’t qualify for the same protection as locals. Choi Joohyun, a working holiday visa holder in Australia, said, “I worked as a street cleaner which should pay the minimum wage of 16 dollars per hour, but I just received 8 or 9 dollars an hour. The procedure to apply for assistance was so complicated that I couldn’t get full compensation even though I followed the right steps.”5 Also, students do not receive adequate compensation when they are injured at the workplace. They are not covered by insurance policies as they are foreigners. The only way to obtain adequate compensation for an injury is to seek assistance agencies but they are scarce or nonexistent near students’ residences. Moreover, working holiday participants face visa problems in their home countries. Assistance for students preparing to go overseas is limited, so students cannot get enough aid. The Foreign Ministry and other international organizations merely encourage students to go abroad without substantial help such as providing preparation programs. According to a National Statistical Office survey, more than 48,000 Koreans applied for working holiday visas to overcome youth unemployment last year.6 Although the number of Koreans applying for working holiday visas is increasing, there are no specific administrators managing the program. Most of the programs are operated by external specialists from the Foreign Ministry and other agencies which lowers the program confidence. A working holiday also has flaws in the individual aspect. One of the big problems can be racial discrimination. Language and culture are naturally different when one goes to another country. Even though students spend a lot of time adapting to the new environment, they cannot evade racial discrimination. Most local students are reluctant to accepting international students since there is a huge communication gap. Song Dayoon, Department of Environmental Sculpture at University of Seoul ’13 said, “When I went to Australia as a working holiday participant, I had a hard time to make friends and communicate with them since they had prejudice toward Asians. So, I couldn’t sufficiently achieve my goal of improving my English skill.” The real aim of a working holiday is to learn language and a new culture, but students are unable to truly achieve this aim. Lastly, most working holiday participants, enter the program under the illusion of merely going overseas. Visiting another country can be an amusing experience, but these participants are just filled with pure excitement. Most are unaware of the need for sufficient preparation. Students need to strengthen their foreign language skills and get as much information as possible about the new environment before going, but most students are unaware of these. If students have shabby preparation, they would suffer tremendously throughout their stay and get bothered from wide experiences.
Just Hit the Bull’s Eye
For the working holiday participants to live comfortably, the government should firstly strengthen infrastructures related to foreign labor wage and injury compensation. In some cases, it is important for students to receive free legal advice from the Korean Consulate General and Bar Association. These kinds of systems need to be implemented and expanded. In the case of Europe, European students rely on a special Labor Administration when they are abroad for working as an employee in a foreign country. Whenever they encounter unfair treatment, they are assisted by the agency in the way of submitting a paystub and workplace information. With this help, students’ minimum wage and welfare system improve each year.
In addition, language institutions should frequently hold international expositions or briefing sessions to provide students with plenty of information before going abroad. At working holiday expositions, students can meet experts for sharing tips. Students can freely ask experts about needed preparation and living advice. The manager of EDM Educational Center, said, “Even though there are about 48,496 people who have prepared working holiday visas since 2012, most students waste money and time with their ignorance. We are trying to expand our seminars to ensure students receive sufficient preparation.”7 For the individuals, participants in a working holiday program should be prepared to handle racial discrimination while aboard. They must have basic understanding of their host nation and be receptive toward locals’ unjust attitudes. That is, specifically, students must share experiences and tips on websites or in clubs. Listening of other’s happenings while overseas can release anxiety and widen the knowledge of necessary precautions. Rather than dreaming of a fantastic life with ludicrous expectations, students should recognize the reality and prepare for a stable life in the foreign country.
For a Bright Holiday
It is true that working and studying abroad can widen one’s perspective. Working holiday is likely to be the perfect chance for students to have global experiences and expand their knowledge. However, the dark side of this holiday is a huge obstacle which bothers students from achieving their goals abroad. Everyone should endeavor to overcome the darkness with the help of society. Removal of these loopholes can lead to be a true ‘holiday,’ which would be a valuable experience for participants.
1 Jung Jaeho, “Murder Continues among Working Holiday People in Australia,” E-Daily, January 20, 2013
2 Lee Wooseok, “Widened Possibilities in Norway and Employment in Australia,” Seoul Life Magazine, March 8, 2014
3 Bang Jaehong, “Research on Actual Conditions of Working Holiday Participants,” Newstoday, February 12, 2014
4 Lee Jaejin, “Working Holiday, a Great Chance for Young Adults,” Korea Economy Magazine, January 19, 2014
5 Kim Jieun, “Silent Sufferings of Working Holiday Participants,” Asiannews, November 27, 2013
6 Park Wonkyung, “Is It Really a Working Holiday?” SBS News, December 25, 2013
7 Ahn Joonyoung, “The Rules of Success for a Working Holiday,” News1 Korea, January 9, 2014