Like most finalists, the last few weeks and months have been marred with near-constant fear about what on earth to do with the rest of my life. I’m constantly asked ‘What do you want to do when you graduate?’, and whilst I’ve gone through phases of having a self-assured answer (‘I’m definitely going into marketing/advertising/events/consultancy…’), I think it’s time I admit to myself, and to the world, that I have no clue. And I think that’s the best way to be. I did a year abroad last year in Canada and had a whale of a time, but I didn’t think once about how that experience may be beneficial for my career prospects; I just enjoyed myself. I have come to realise just one thing: I need to get OUT, as far away from Durham and formal education as possible. The further the better is my mentality. No, not London, further.
I respect the people who know what they want from their careers, but until I know what I want, I’m not going to settle down. I feel ready now, and spurred on by my year abroad, to see the world and to appreciate it in a way I know I wasn’t capable of when I was 18 and just leaving high school. So this article is my case for a post-university gap year.
Firstly, think how much you’ve learnt from all your friends (and not-so-friends) who’ve already been on gap years, already scouted out the best (and worst) places to visit, made all the mistakes first time travellers make so you don’t have to make the same ones! I’m not saying you should follow their itineraries to the letter, but generally travelling advice is always best first-hand from someone who’s been there. You can go out into the world in your own unique direction knowing that Delhi-belly isn’t just an urban myth and that the margaritas may be good in Vegas, but they’re bad when mixed with slot machines. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some mistakes you have to make for yourself, but the advice may just save you some serious time and money.
A gap year might also open your eyes to what you want to do later in life, I’m hoping so anyway. Especially working gap years – they can teach you where you want to work, in what industry, or at the very least what you’re not suited to, without the pressure of a contract or even of staying in the country!
Plus there is just so much of the world and so little time. There’s especially little time when you settle into a career and start to work your way up the ladder. Plus, researching and booking a gap year is infinitely more fun than writing my dissertation and searching for jobs!
STA Travel are running a raffle soon to win return flights to New Zealand (keep an eye out for us ambassadors with our raffle books around university over the coming weeks). New Zealand is arguably the perfect place to put off starting your adult life! So many people who do decide on a post-university gap year head straight to Australia, without stopping to think about other options. New Zealand is roughly the size of the UK, making it really easily to cover in a few months, especially as STA have some great offers including 40% off campervan hire. There’s also the favourable exchange rate with the British Pound, and travel on the cheap is more than ideal when you’re spending an extended time abroad. If I’ve convinced you to work abroad then do bear New Zealand in mind, their Working Holiday Visas are cheaper than Australia’s, starting from £158, and you can stay for up to 23 months. There’s oodles of natural beauty, extreme sports, and culture to soak up, and you’re still a stone’s throw from Australia and Asia.
The staff at the STA shop on Elvet Bridge are a great fountain of information if you want to book something, need advice, or don’t even know where to start looking when it comes to gap years and travel in general. They’re also offering 15% off their work and travel packages at the moment, taking all the hassle out of moving abroad by sorting out a week’s accommodation while you get settled and 12 months membership to Job Search NZ which includes a CV and job consultation, bank-account set-up, and more! By far the biggest bonus offered by STA is that you can book your whole trip and only put down a £49 deposit; you get all the fun of organising your adventure and none of the pressure to pay for it right away!
There are loads of ways to see the world and no desperate hurry. But if you’re like me and need to see more of what Planet Earth has to offer before you settle down, then working abroad is surely for you too.