Gap Year Tips and Tricks

This is post to follow up on the entry called Gap year- friend or foeEnjoy it!

Alison Marsh, Senior Lecturer in Journalism, spills the beans on her gap year experience in Australia. 

What made you decide to go on a gap year?

It was partly because it was a life-long ambition. I was 24, a couple of years into my journalism career and had gone from school to college to university to job. I wanted to get an idea of where I could progress my career. I knew I didn’t want to stay in district news reporting for the rest of my life and this was a means by which I could try a few other things and enhance my CV.

How did you prepare for the trip?

I saved like crazy for about a year and worked out a very, very minimal budget. And I did a lot of reading and early planning. Also, there were a couple of traveling companies still around today: TrailFinders and TravelBag. They specialise in this kind of travelling. They can create you a sort of path around the world to follow and get great deals on flights. I just spoke to them about putting the trip together myself, with their help.

What did you learn by traveling?

I’ve learnt a lot about the countries I visited, aboriginal lifestyles and cultures in Australia. At that time, it was predominately former Brits and northern Europeans, but it was beginning to see an influx of people from South Asia and South-East Asia as well. Sydney, in particular, was very cosmopolitan. I also went to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

I got this experience of self-reliance, meeting people and working out if I could manage on my own. I did a fair amount of travelling by myself – it was sort of strengthening of the character. I also made lots of friends and I’m still in touch with a few of them!

What did your parents think about it?

They thought I was mad! They were worried because I gave up my job to do it. But I had a plan. I decided that I’d try to work, to get a job in broadcasting. I’ve already been doing some work experience – as we here, on our course, recommend students to do.

My idea was that, while I was there, I’d try to get work experience wherever I could. And I was fortunate enough to manage to get two sets of work experience: one with a TV station in Adelaide and one with a radio station in Queensland.

That was brilliant because it felt like I could convince my parents that my backpacking wasn’t just one big holiday. I was doing it for a reason. My point was proved when I got home: within months I was working back at the BBC and in the following September I got on the BBC Journalism Training Course.

Prior to going on my travels, I remember looking through some information about the course. It said: “One thing you might consider doing to enhance your CV is traveling”. I’m happy it was proved to be true.

What advice do you have for students thinking about taking a gap year?

I’d say the most important thing is to have a plan. Sometimes you can go on these things and treat it as a big holiday. You have the most fantastic time, but then come back into this current job situation and not really have anything to show for it.

So, be strategic, think about where you’re going and what opportunities might present themselves while you are there. It shouldn’t be just a holiday, but something that will really enhance your CV when you go home – assuming you come home. My friend didn’t, she’s still there!

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