Going to the United States has always been my dream since I was in Form 4. Therefore, I signed up for American Degree Transfer Program (ADP) when I was in university. However, I finished the full course in Malaysia as the tuition fee + cost of living in the United States is too expensive. Luckily, Out of the Box came to our university for a talk. That is how I got to know about Work and Travel USA.
Work and Travel for Malaysians
In Malaysia, there are 3 famous Work and Travel destinations which are Australia, New Zealand, and USA. Among the 3, I would highly recommend USA first because:
- To apply for Work and Travel USA, you need to be a full-time tertiary student when you apply besides being age 18-30
- For Australia, besides the 18-30 restriction, you only have to hold a degree or completed at least 2 years of undergraduate study. You can read about the list here
- New Zealand, you can apply if you are 18-30. You can study the full list here
Based on the restriction, for USA, the window of opportunity is likely from 18-22. This is the age where most people will be in tertiary education after Form 5. Although if you apply for Master’s degree or PhD, you can still apply for Work and Travel USA before 30. For Australia and New Zealand, once you finished college or university, you can apply before 30. Therefore, you can apply for USA while in college or university, then apply for Australia and New Zealand after finishing your studies. After that, you can even apply for Work and Travel in France or South Korea as mentioned by this article.
Work and Travel USA – Alaska
Initially when I signed up for Work and Travel USA, I wanted to work in Yellowstone National Park. However, I was late and there was no more vacancy. After scrolling through the available jobs, I decided to choose Alaska and that is one decision that I never regretted. If you decide to Work and Travel in USA, I would highly recommend you to choose Alaska.
I work for Princess Cruises in Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge as a housekeeper. As an employee, we can go on excursions for free. However, we will be on a waiting list as paying guests are prioritized. With the employee benefit, I was able to enjoy the following activities.
- A ride on a wheeled cart pulled by sled dogs at Husky Homestead
- A horse ride in Talkeetna
- A glass-domed train ride (McKinley Explorer) from Denali Park to Talkeetna
- Seeing wild animals roaming freely which includes bear, fox, and wolf etc
- Glacier landing
While working in Alaska, we stayed at the employee accommodation in a town called Healy. During my stay from May to September, I managed to experience the following:
- Snow fall
- Summer solstice
- Fall + winter on the same day
- Aurora borealis aka northern lights
Based on the activities and experiences that I mentioned above, therefore I highly recommend Alaska over other states in USA.
After 4 months of hard work, I traveled with my friends that I made during Work and Travel USA. The first city that we visited was Seattle. We purchased the Seattle City Pass to explore the main tourist attractions as we were only there for 2 days.
Space Needle – recommended
The first place that we visited was Space Needle which is the icon of Seattle. It is always nice to view a city from above.
However, if you don’t mind seeing the city digitally, they have a 360° live webcam here. You can choose the date and time to view Seattle from Space Needle. Besides that, now they have 2 new experiences known as Skyrisers and The Loupe which you can read about it here.
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) – not really recommended
Included in the Seattle City Pass is an entry to MoPOP. Unless you are a music lover or you have purchased the city pass, or else you can skip this location. However, there is an impressive guitar tower in the museum which looks like this:
Pike Place Market – recommended
The next day, we visit the Pike Place Market. There are a lot of walking tours which you can refer here as a start. If you are a Starbucks fan, the Original Starbucks is definitely a must visit. Although it is commonly referred to as the first Starbucks, it actually shifted once from its original location.
Besides that, another famous spot is the Gum Wall. For me, I feel the place is disgusting but it is definitely a photo spot with colorful gums stuck on the wall. The Gum Wall was cleared several times since November 2015 but the gums will just come back so this tourist attraction will certainly stay.
Seattle harbor cruise – recommended
The next activity we did was Seattle harbor cruise. There are several cruise companies but the one we did was with Argosy Cruise.
San Francisco, California
After a short and relaxing trip in Seattle, the next stop is San Francisco.
Pier 39 – recommended
Pier 39 is a shopping center but one of the interesting things to do here is watching sea lions. However, it can be slightly uncomfortable due to the strong odor from the sea lions. Therefore, if you do not want to view the sea lions in real life, you can watch them via this webcam instead.
Alcatraz Island – recommended
Alcatraz Island used to be a prison that holds some of the most notorious criminals. Now, it is a famous tourist attraction where you can reach it via Alcatraz Cruises.
While Alcatraz serves as a prison, there were 14 escape attempts. 5 prisoners were missing and presumed dead from the escape attempts as it is believed that the prisoners could not escape the cold waters and high tide. You can read more about it here.
One of the most famous escape attempts is Escape from Alcatraz. It is achieved through creativity, innovation, and perseverance. They used metal spoons to dig a hole out of their ventilation ducts and created a dummy head using soap, cement etc so they have more time to escape. This escape is later adapted into a movie starred by Clint Eastwood called Escape from Alcatraz.
Golden Gate Bridge – recommended
One of the must do activities at Golden Gate Bridge is to cycle across the iconic bridge. You can either cycle to and fro the bridge or cycle 1-way and use the ferry to get back to where you started.
I still remember vividly when I reached the location at the photo below, I immediately got down from my bicycle and take a good look of the Golden Gate Bridge. Before that, I can only see the bridge on TV or on the internet. When I finally get to see this majestic bridge in real life, I was so amazed with it.
Los Angeles, California
We were approached by a lot of salespersons selling their tours where they will bring you to see the famous Hollywood Sign and celebrities’ houses. As we did not sign up for any tours online, we took up one of the offers after doing some quick comparison.
After the tour, we went to Hollywood Walk of Fame and Madame Tussauds Hollywood.
Over the course of the next 2 days, we went to Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland Park. Even if you are not one that seeks for thrill rides, I would highly recommend you to visit Disneyland Park. There are a lot of mesmerizing musical shows that will definitely take your breath away.
Las Vegas, Nevada
As a guest of the hotel, we can visit the observation deck for free. There are also various thrill rides at the top of the tower which is not for the fainthearted.
Grand Canyon – highly recommended
Although Grand Canyon is situated in Arizona, you can take a tour to visit one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. We took a tour to West Rim to visit the Eagle Point and walk across the glass bridge known as the Skywalk.
A word of caution. If you have a sunglasses and you took it off and put on your collar to take a photo, please be mindful of it. I had my sunglasses on my t-shirt collar and peek down a hole to see how deep it goes. The sunglasses then came off and fell down the hole. But based on the landing sound it made, the hole is around 3-5 meters deep lol.
Las Vegas Strip – highly recommended
The strip is a dead town in the morning. Therefore, most people would go shopping at the Premium Outlets. But when the sun sets, this place gets very lively and lighted up with neon lights from the casinos.
There are free shows in some of the casinos which you can refer here. One of the famous free show is Fountains of Bellagio. Every night from 8pm to midnight, there will be a fountain display every 15 minutes. From Monday to Friday, the fountain show will be every 30 minutes starting from 3 to 8pm. However, it will start from noon to 8pm every 30 minutes on weekends and public holidays.
Luxor Las Vegas is not only famous for it’s iconic pyramid shape, the Luxor Light is also the strongest beam in the world. It is said that the beam can be seen from the space. However, a lot of sources refuted the claim.
From the last hotel at the Las Vegas Strip, you have to walk quite a distance to the famous Las Vegas neon sign below. Therefore, if you want to take a picture of it, I would recommend you to take a cab.
Skydive Las Vegas – highly recommended
While we were in Las Vegas, I took the opportunity to do skydive so that I can strike it off my bucket list. After various rounds of research, I decided to go with Skydive Las Vegas. I picked them because they jump from 12,500 feet, which is one of the highest among all the skydive companies in Las Vegas. Besides that, they are the largest and longest running skydiving center in Nevada. Last but not least, their parachute system is equipped with Automatic Activation Device (AAD). This device will automatically trigger the parachute if the instructor passes out during the skydive. You can read more about it in their FAQ page. Here’s the video of me doing the skydive:
New York, USA
After Las Vegas, me and friends went our separate ways as they are going to Singapore. On the other hand, I went to The Big Apple.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – recommended
There are a lot of art pieces here from famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Vincent Van Gogh.
9/11 Memorial and Museum – recommended
When I was there, the museum is still under construction so I was able to visit the memorial only. There are 2 Memorial Pools here which once stood the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. The pools are surrounded by names of those people that were killed by the 9/11 incident.
Glenn Watkins State Park and Niagara Falls – highly recommended
While I was in New York, I took a 2 days 1 night tour to visit the Niagara Falls. In the tour package, a visit to Glenn Watkins State Park is included. As I was there during autumn, the foliage definitely add colors to the tranquil park.
At night, there is a light show at the Niagara Falls. You can read about the latest schedule here.
Maid of the Mist – highly recommended
When you are here, do take the Maid of the Mist to experience the strong gush of Niagara Falls. It is an experience not to be missed.
American Museum of Natural History – recommended
There are several museums in New York that are worth to visit. In this museum, there are a lot of exhibits of animals and plants that will intrigue you.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – recommended
The Met is the largest art museum in USA. Here, there are a lot of art pieces and sculptures from all around the world from ancient times to the modern days.
Top of the Rock – recommended
Top of the Rock is the observation deck at Rockefeller Center.
From here, you can see the Central Park and Empire State Building.
Empire State Building – recommended
When I first enter the Empire State Building, the ambience feels a lot like Bioshock, which is a retrofuturistic video game.
The wind at the observation deck of Empire State Building is very strong and chilling. Even with my jacket and wind breaker, I can hardly stay outdoor for more than 5 mins.
Among all the photos I’ve taken here, the photo below is the one that I’m most satisfied with.
Sightseeing cruise – recommended
As the US federal government was shutdown when I was in New York, some places were closed which includes the famous Statue of Liberty National Monument. Therefore, the nearest I can get to it is by taking a sightseeing cruise around Manhattan. The cruise that I chose was Circle Line sightseeing cruise.
Writing this blog post about my Work and Travel experience in USA brings back a lot of memories. I will surely visit the country again one day but it is no longer at the top of my list as there are a lot more countries that I have not visited. Among all the cities in USA that I visited, I like Las Vegas the most. The bright colorful neon lights at the Las Vegas Strip and the free shows are definitely worth to pay a visit. Besides that, the hotels there are priced comparatively cheaper so you have more money to spend at casinos.
Have you been to USA? Which city or place that you like the most and why? Feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.