Alumni Spotlight: Chris Williams


Chris Williams, 28, is from Rugby, England. Currently working within the family business, he enjoys editing videos, taking unique photos, and experiencing different cultures. Feel free to follow his Instagram - chrissjw

What inspired you to head to New Zealand with IEP?

After deciding that I wanted to head to New Zealand for a gap year, I quickly realized that learning a whole new culture/way of doing things was quite overwhelming – bank stuff, tax numbers, travel, currency, etc.

Personally, when traveling solo to a brand new country where I know absolutely NOTHING and NO ONE, I prefer to have a “safety net” of sorts. After reading about IEP’s services I quickly decided that it was the right kind of assistance that I was after.

They sort out a few days accommodation for when you arrive and they have their office/lounge in Auckland – both of which you are very thankful for after long flights and heading straight into the “unknown.”

The fact that they can help with the important stuff – like finding work, accommodation, etc, as well as the fun stuff – activities, pub meets, etc – is fantastic, as they realize that us backpackers need both!

The mini network/community that they have created is also a huge plus – not only in the office/lounge but also online through private Facebook groups as well as their own website. In short, IEP ticked all the boxes of what I was looking for in a support organization.

Ten years from now, what will you remember most?

One thing that I will definitely remember is getting to witness the All Blacks (New Zealand national Rugby Team – and reigning world champions!) perform the “Haka” live and in person. A Haka is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge from the Maori people of New Zealand.

The All Blacks performance of the Haka before each of their competitive games is undoubtedly the most famous version worldwide. My friend and I were sat on the VERY front row for the game between New Zealand and Ireland at Eden Park in Auckland.

The All Blacks lined up facing towards us, with the Irish team (their backs to us) stood arm in arm ready to watch the Haka. Aside from being a Rugby player, cameraman, referee or pitch security staff, this would be the closest that anyone else could get to being face-to-face with the All Blacks Haka right before a game.

To see the All Blacks Haka on TV is one thing, but to be in the stadium, being so close, and feeling the intensity and atmosphere is definitely something to experience. I was able to record the Haka and have uploaded it here.

If you could go back and do something differently, what would it be?

If I could go back then I would definitely head down to the South island to see what’s happening there.

Lots of people have told me (both before and since) that “you haven’t really seen New Zealand until you have been to the South Island.”

I was fortunate enough to get a good job up in Auckland that I was very thankful for and I also managed to see quite a fair bit of the North Island.

But unfortunately both time and money got away from me before I had the chance to venture South. In saying that, I am very happy with the time I spent in Auckland and around the North Island – and have lots of great memories to go along with it.

I guess it is the same problem that even the most seasoned of traveller’s face – no matter how many places you go, how much money you have, how much time is on your side – there will always be more places to see.

Tell us about one person you met there.

I met quite a few friends and interesting characters during my time in New Zealand, however the one person that I will mention here is one that actually worked for IEP – her name was Maryke.

IEP Work New Zealand has around 4 or 5 staff members, all of them very friendly and helpful, but it was Maryke that I actually built a friendship with.

Yes it is part of their job to answer questions and make us travelers feel at ease, however if Maryke had a spare moment then we would often have a chat about all sorts of other things – shared interests, sport, family, etc.

Obviously I have since left New Zealand, and Markye has also unfortunately (for those hoping to meet her) left IEP - she is currently working and traveling in the UK.

However we still maintain a close friendship on Facebook and are hoping to catch up sometime while she is over here in the UK.

Any tips for someone considering working in New Zealand?

Yes there will be hard times, yes there will be some cultural differences and yes you will feel like you want to go home early on in your trip – but DON’T! Keep going, get out there and start enjoying yourself…it is a working HOLIDAY after all.

Work-wise I would suggest being open – chances of landing that managers job or high-paying model contract are on the slim side. Lots of travelers I know work in jobs such as fruit picking, cleaning, au-pair, bar staff, etc.

Not the most glamorous jobs, but they are great for meeting people, creating unique memories and of course good for your wallet! Better than an empty wallet, right!? Be sensible with your budget – don’t blow all your savings in the first weeks on drinking, partying and traveling and then end up either having to call home for financial help…or worse having to cut your trip short.

Chances are that you are overseas for quite a few months, so spread out the big spending and keep an eye on your bank balance – if it’s getting low then head to IEP for some job help…not head to the bar!