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Eyewitness

Markets

Recent graduate Joe Ward exchanged Leeds for sun baked South Africa.

'Before moving out here I worked in Leeds for two and a half years and had some basic experience of managing projects. But I knew that I wanted to work abroad so I started looking at where I could go with WSP. South Africa looked interesting, there's the sun, the sports, so much to see and do and different cultures to experience.

'It took a while to settle into working in South Africa and when I got here I thought 'Oh God, what have I done?' I was put straight into a massive development and it was pretty hectic to say the least.

'Alongside that, South Africa felt so far away from home and I moved here alone. But a few people took me under their wing and straight away I was out in the bush having adventures.

'Jo'Burg is much bigger than Leeds and so are the projects. Unfortunately Jo'Burg has a reputation for crime, which indeed is validated on a daily basis - particularly in townships such as Alexandra. The reality is that you will be safe so long as you stay away from deprived areas, and be on guard when driving around at night.

My salary depends on the exchange rate. In the space of one month I had the contrast of the highest and lowest salary I had ever earned due to fluctuations in the rate!

'Overall I would say I have more disposable income in South Africa; it helps that beer costs less than - £1 in a bar and a luxury pad with a swimming pool costs around £200 a month. It seems strange to say it but another essential is a maid. Unemployment here is high so you almost feel obliged to employ someone, and of course it's brilliant never to have to iron a shirt.

'Living here has opened my mind a lot.

Professionally it has been a fantastic experience.

I have spent the last two years working across all levels of projects, from client liaison to management to teaching technicians.

On the downside the mentoring system here has collapsed. There is little support from above, and much to teach to those below you which is very difcult considering the quantity of work and limited time in which to t everything in.

In addition the lack of strong social network is difficult to deal with. But this year I am returning to London as a senior engineer, which is great after four years experience.

'To enjoy it out here you have to be tough, independent and open to other cultures. It is easy to come here and be a bit arrogant because you are English and have a good education, but you have to be a bit humble, because when you arrive you will nd you have a lot to learn.'

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