It can be difficult taking a step into the unknown. How do you know you’re going to like a new country? Whether you’ll like the food, or the people? How will you cope with the public transport? Will you fit in? It’s completely normal to feel a little anxious and have questions swirling around in your head. Well, what if you could do a trial period? What if you could go to your chosen country and stay for a few weeks or months, and figure out whether it’s for you before you nose-dive into a huge commitment you may regret?Where there’s a will, there’s a way! Residencies and Workaway schemes are your new best friends, as they offer you the chance to try before you buy. We’ve put together a guide to some of the residencies and Workaway experiences you can use to figure out whether expat life is for you, and if the destination you’re considering is the best fit.
Residencies are probably the trickier out of the two to come by. Whilst they don’t differ much from Workaway placements in the sense that you are there for either a voluntary or learning experience and money doesn’t change hands, they are usually privately owned or run by a company, committee or fund. Rather than being just a voluntary experience, residencies have a specific aim or goal, and usually fall within a niche area. Some of the most popular and well-known, for example, are writers’ or artists’ residencies.
Sadly, residencies can be few and far between. They also usually have considerably more competition and longer waiting lists than Workaway schemes.
Here are some examples of creative residencies around the world.
Thailand (Koh Samui) Writers’ Residency: The Content Castle
Further your writing career, hone your literary prose and work on your personal writing projects on a tropical island.
France (Paris) Artists Residency: Cité Internationale des Arts
A city synonymous with fashion, art, and creativity, Paris is the perfect place for artists of all mediums to take part in a residency programme.
Canada (Banff) Curators Residency: The Banff Centre
Established curators can get the time and space to create something truly unique and special with a residency in Banff, Canada,
Workaway was founded as a voluntary cultural exchange website and has become somewhat of a global phenomenon. You pay a small amount of money (approximately AUS $25-30) for a yearly subscription that allows you to access all the opportunities and the online community. Most Workaway placements work on a voluntary basis. You will usually be given free accommodation and board in exchange for your work. Workaway has a great online community and a useful rating and review system.
There are Workaway postings available literally all over the world! Type almost any country that you can think of into the search bar, and something will come up. Some of the work will be simple, such as helping out at hostels or childcare, while some will be more qualified and niche, such as for small independent and family-run businesses. There could be opportunities for people with a knowledge of website design, SEO, wood carpentry… the list goes on! You’re bound to have a worthy skill or attribute that will benefit someone.
Here are some examples of recent Workaway placements.
Volunteer on a small family-run farm in Norway, 35 minutes from Bergen. Help with general farm duties, animal care, gardening and cooking in exchange for a room in the farmhouse and food. In the midst of stunning nature with gorgeous mountain backdrops.
A volunteer with carpentry experience needed for a houseboat project on Guatape lake, Colombia. Help an English/Colombian couple build a houseboat as part of their eco-hotel project. Surrounded by activities and nature, you’ll get your own private studio and weekly food allowance.
A mother needs help with childcare in both her main residence in Paris, and their Summer home near Forcalquier. A private room and free meals will be yours in exchange for help around the house and helping the children with their English.
Wondering how taking part in a residency or workaway will benefit you? Well, it’s the perfect opportunity to try living in the country of your interest, without having to commit to a work contract or sign the lease for a rental agreement. You can interact with people there and see how you get on, find out if your language skills are up to scratch, and have the opportunity to make some friends or helpful contacts prior to moving on a more permanent basis.