by Ronja Baerecke

I love traveling, I always wanted to see as much as the world could offer. So, when I finished school, I decided to go to Ireland. Lots of my friends went to Australia and New Zealand, but I wanted to go somewhere else. I was 19 at that time and I didn’t want to plan the whole trip myself. Since I was a young girl, I liked horses and the riding sport, hence I wanted to work on a farm. I looked up some agencies online that would help me find a suitable one.

Watch out with whom you travel

I should mention that at that time, in 2009, there were not as many agencies that organize Gap years or a school year abroad as today. As a student, I didn’t have that much money to spend on an arrangement so I decided to work with an affordable one. I got the contact from an Irish Lady, Constance, for which they charged me 290 Euros. The whole contact ran over the agency so I talked to Constance just once, on the phone. And there the problem began to emerge. The agency didn’t have workers because they had just started their business. I had to manage and pay the flights by myself and I was just hoping that everything with Constance would go fine.

Expectation and deception can be huge

When I arrived at the airport, first thing she said was: “You are too tall and heavy for my horses”. Boom! So, the next days I tried to help her in the house and I was allowed to ride one of her six horses. Most of the time I was bored. That was really not what I imagined it to be like. So, I called the agency and told them, they should have told Constance that I was very tall and that I wanted to go to another place. They said they didn’t know that size would be a problem.

Very unprofessional, especially because I told them that this could be a common issue. After three weeks they send me to another place. Again, I had to organize the trip to that place myself. When I arrived there, no one really took care of me, so I just put my things in a room and looked for some workers. And I found one, beating up a horse that was young and wild. “You are the new one? You can learn, just watch.” and again he hit the horse with a whip.

“Stop that, it is not right to treat an animal like this” I yelled at him. “So if you don’t want to listen what I teach you, you can just leave.” So I left the same day. I called my agency once again. They were very mad about that I “didn’t give it a try”. Although I told them I would not support animal cruelty, they still totally ignored. I traveled to the last farm. Long story short: it didn’t work out either. You might think that I am just too demanding, but hey, I paid for it and I told them exactly what I wanted. Of course, it is never as you expect, but this third place, it topped it. The owner of the farm sexually molested me, multiple times! The agent on the phone just told me not be so slinky. Was he serious? After one week I left and decided to end my collaboration with that agency.

Take your time choosing the right partner

So why did I tell you all that stuff? Mainly because today you have many more offers to find good travel agencies. More over they have to be efficient, otherwise they dismantle after a short time. The one I used was a German one: So the prices for agencies to work abroad depend on different factors: the country you want to go to, what you want to do, how long you want to stay and where (private or with families) and if you want to visit language schools. America and Australia for example are much more expensive than Europe. Usually you should expect a price between 700 – 1500 Euro. What you also should notice is how much you earn while at that job. Some agencies just offer unpaid internships or a very low payment so you will not even get the money back you are spending on them.

Be aware the bigger does not mean the better is the agency. EF is one of the biggest players in this market of language and working experience segment and nevetheless I heve heart many negative experiences from people that travelled with them. They just control the market, but they do not garantuee that the experience for you is unique like it should be. Especially the trips to the US, Ireland and UK where kids stay in host families are very sensitive. EF is known for paying poor money to the host families and charge a lot to the students which creates not a good atmosphere.

Try to go without an agency

A very important thing in going abroad to stay with a host family is the match making. The host should more or less have the same general view on basic things like religion, nutrition and education. But in the US is for instance is already a challenge to find a place where a European kid feels good and does not freak out with the liberal gun use, the importance of belief in daily life and the American food.

All in all, I would say today we have so many opportunities to find a place to sleep, book some low-priced flights and find a good place to work where we can decide for ourselves if we fit in or not. So we don’t need these agencies and it is wasted money. But if you don’t want to stress yourself and use an agency, check that list and don’t let yourself be fooled by people that just want to make money at your expense.

  1. How is that agency rated? Experiences from other travelers
  2. How many people do work there?
  3. Is the website professional?
  4. Are they offering paid jobs?
  5. What complaint policy they have?
  6. What exactly do they offer for the price?
  7. What customer service do they have?
  8. Are there some extra costs for some things?
  9. Is there someone at that place who can help you if something is going wrong?
  10. How are the payment policies?
  11. In case you go on a “work abroad-programm” it is important to know, when do you get payed?
  12. What happens if they can’t find the right job for you?