It’s early 2017 and Level 2 childcare worker Jessica Cottrell is feeling nervous. But in a good way.
She’s spent two years supporting children with special needs at a secondary school but now she’s looking for a new experience. A fun job in the sun that will also develop her skills. And that’s why she’s at a TUI recruitment day, hoping to become a member of the holiday giant’s international childcare team.
“Working overseas was always something I wanted to do,” she says. “I also knew children who’d been on TUI holidays and had amazing memories of the activities put on by its kids’ reps. But because I wanted the job so badly I was quite nervous and ended up sitting there being all shy.”
But after chatting with the TUI team, Jessica’s nerves didn’t last long: “They were really welcoming – I felt valued straight away and put at ease.”
She got her dream job. Her first posting: a summer on the Greek island of Zante.
“I had never been to Greece before so I did a bit of research before I went to prepare myself and, honestly, the pictures that I saw online did not match how beautiful it was actually being there – it was amazing,” she said.
By the time she arrived in Zante, Jessica had already spent a training week in Mallorca learning all about TUI’s childcare programme and gaining a first aid certificate.
Her accommodation was also ready and waiting. “We lived in this really nice block of eight apartments,” she recalls. “I had this really nice little self-catering apartment with things like Wi-Fi. There was a pool bar at the end of the road that we would go to on our days off and in the evenings.”
Giving children memories for life
Soon her and the rest of the Zante Kids’ Club team were giving children great holiday experiences. “What’s great is you’re really able to give children an amazing holiday. You’ve got these fabulous facilities and childcare programmes and you know the children are going to love it. You’re making amazing memories for the children for life and even though they are only with you for a week or two, you can really go above and beyond for each child.”
The programme that year included activities such as face painting, mini-discos and flossing competitions. But the highlight – for the children and reps alike – were the extra messy chocolate parties.
“The chocolate party is always sold out,” says Jessica. “Every week we and the kids would be absolutely covered in chocolate. The kids love it. Parents not so much! It’s funny seeing all the little chocolate monsters coming out afterwards wanting to give their nicely dressed parents a huge and the parents are, like, ‘No thank you, stay away from me!’ The joy on the children’s faces at those parties is always memorable.”
Gaining new skills
As well as having plenty of fun, Jessica’s experiences in Zante and the following year in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, have given her plenty of new skills.
“One reason I wanted to work with TUI was because my previous experience was working with older children, so I was looking forward to working with three- to 11-year-olds,” she says. “I’ve learned so many different skills. I’ve worked abroad in a big team with a broader age range of children.
“I’ve got involved in recruiting TUI Kids’ Club reps, mastered the floss and gained the confidence to host mini-discos. I’m doing my third summer with TUI this year in Ibiza but I’m sure the skills I’ve gained here will open many doors once I decide to go back to the UK.”
An amazing lifestyle
The life experiences have been amazing too, she adds.
“It’s an amazing lifestyle. I’ve done things I never thought I’d do. I’ve tried new foods, learned about different cultures and done Greek dancing. I even tried Para-sailing when I was in Sunny Beach – that was so scary I won’t be doing it again but at least I can say I’ve tried it!
“Just living and enjoying life overseas in the summer is so rewarding and now I’ve got friends all over the world too.”
What TUI can offer you
– TUI Destination Experiences operate in 115 destinations
– The most competitive package for childcare reps in the travel business
– Insurance provided
– Flights, accommodation, meals and uniforms included
– Training every season, including NSPCC safeguarding