The Travelling Student – On The Way Out

My name is Philip Kirkbride. I’m a college graduate from Ontario studying at AU. I’ve always wanted to do an exchange program or study abroad but never found the right time to do so. This is part seventeen in the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program. In part sixteen I caught up with Matt who had been brush cutting in remote areas of Quebec. The lack of responce from the Australian government in regards to his work visa had us both waiting in anticipation.
Another two weeks passed as I waited in Quebec to hear back about Matt’s visa application. Matt had moved from Northern Quebec to Trois-Rivieres, a small town between Montreal and Quebec, and the brush cutting company was now working on a contract for Hydro-Quebec. Instead of getting paid for how much they cut, everyone was now being paid a flat rate?around $350 daily. In addition to the good pay, the work load had become easier. For at least a few hours each day workers congregated in a circle to chat, drink beer, and smoke. When I heard this, part of me wished I had pushed through and stayed at the camp. Though, in the end, I consider the path I took an investment in my education that I won’t regret.

Matt still hadn’t heard back about his visa application. I was getting nervous because I had invested a lot of time in creating a master plan on how to get to Australia cheap. Through analyzing common flight routes, and current promotions I found an insanely cheap route using a combination of what I’ll call travel hacks.

The first segment of our trip would be to Las Vegas. Starting on October 31st there would be a hackathon in Vegas called Money 20/20. A hackathon is an event usually lasting several days where a large number of people meet to engage collaborative computer programming. Often prizes are given out, in the case of Money 20/20, a total of $125,000 in prizes would be given out. Money 20/20 brings together the biggest companies in finance and electronic payments including MasterCard, PayPal, and Visa.

I’d found out from a friend that the hackathon included a promotion where anyone competing would get a $250 credit towards their flight and hotel. Instead of booking a single ticket to Vegas I was able to find a flight to Honolulu, with a 4 day stopover for in Vegas for $400. I had a $350 flight voucher from United for agreeing to be bumped off a flight the year before. In addition I had an unrelated promo which got me 4 nights free at a hotel, all be it a low-end hotel. All in all I’d be able to get stop in Vegas and get to Hawaii with a small profit. I’d spend 4 nights in Honolulu and then fly into Sydney for another $450. Opposed to a one way flight to Sydney for $1300.

I feared if I didn’t jump on the deal soon it’d pass me by. Not only that, but I was genuinely excited to go to the Money 20/20 Hackathon. The conference and hackathon directly related to the e-Commerce course I’d recently started, and I felt meeting people in the industry would inspire me to do even better.

That said, I was unsure about travelling into the outback of Australia alone. While I’d camped as a child, it’d been a while and I knew going with Matt would make things go a lot smoother.

Time quickly passed as I waited for Matt’s response for his Australian visa. My landlord was growing inpatient needing to know if I’d be moving out at the end of October or staying longer. I had to make a decision, with or without Matt. Without too much thought I considered the adventures that would await. With that I made the leap. Within minutes I was on the Australian website finishing my visa application.

The first year visa application is very straight forward. In about an hour it was all filled out, and the hardest part was giving up the $420 administration fee to process my application. For Matt, doing his second visa, the process was much more complicated. Canadians between 18 and 31 are eligible for a single working visa which lasts a year after entry into the country. Canadians who finish three months of qualifying work may qualify for a second visa.
Over the next week I would prepare my large, 70L backpack and laptop bag, the only luggage I would bring with me for potentially the next year. Our first stop?or my first stop, as Matt had yet to get a visa with no hint that he would, was Las Vegas. My week of preparation also included re-visiting my favourite Quebec City locations to reminisce on the months that had passed in the beautiful city.
Among these favourite spots were the previously mentioned:

– La Bureu du Poste, a restaurant previously mentioned with both excellent food and cheap prices for your student budget. Located in St Roch neighbourhood with plenty of young patron and skateboards lining the wall, La Bureu du Poste is a restaurant I highly recommend, be prepared for a line.

– Bruleriede Cafe, a favourite espresso bar among both locals and tourists. In addition to having excellent espresso drinks it’s a great place to brush up on your French or study. In a city where reliable wifi hotspots are hard to come by, Bruleriede is for the most part reliable. On one of my many visits I was given an assortment of beers to sample alongside fresh oysters from PEI.

– Walking along the city fortifications for an amazing view of the city.

– The famous Old Quebec City. This goes without saying, as Old Quebec is one of Quebec’s top tourist destinations. That said, Old Quebec feels different from the rest of Quebec City. It inspires a feeling of youthful energy in awe of historic buildings, rich history, and culture.

After all that, I found myself completely packed and ready to say goodbye to Quebec City. It was October 30th, my flight was scheduled to leave the next morning, and Matt, who had still received no response on his Australian visa, had made his way back to Ontario.