As the school year comes to an end I often get asked the same questions. Such as:
“Is it hard to leave your friends and family for a year?”
“Do you recommend taking a gap year?”
“Is it hard to come back to study after being away for so long”
My answer is always YES! But everyone deals with life differently. My decision to take a gap year was very easy. I booked my tickets before even consulting my parents and this is why:
My family and I had our first overseas trip to Fiji when I was 7 years old. I fell in love with travel immediately. I remember spending a week talking and playing with the local kids. There was something about exploring the lives of others that excited me and still to this day I dream of the lives people live.
It was no surprise that I took every opportunity to travel that was offered to me. At 15 I explored New Caledonia with my school group. And then when I was 18 years old and just finished my Higher School Certificate I embarked on my best adventure yet.
It was January, 2010 and it was bloody cold as I arrived at Heathrow International airport. We were met with a winter blizzard that covered England in glorious white snow. Talk about been thrown in the deep end.
I had enrolled myself in a gap year with Lattitude a global voluntary experience for young people. They sent me to a quaint little village south west of London named Sandhurst. The school of Eagle House was to be my home for the year and it turned into so much more.
Within weeks I had become part of a family. I was a sister to about 40 boarders and a friend to all the staff. I learned patience, gratitude and love from those little terrors.
On my days, weeks and months off I explored all I could around me. I loved catching the 40 minute train ride into London to explore a city I dreamed about for so long. Without a doubt my favourite place in London is Hyde Park and the Peter Pan statue.
That winter was cold and I learnt very early that a whiskey or two will keep you warm. To my parents dismay I spent many of my afternoons at the local pub called The Bird in the Hand. If not we ventured to the one around the corner called the Fox and the Hound.
It was at the pubs I learned to communicate with people on a level I had never before. I think this is what people refer to as ‘adulting’. The pubs were warm and felt like you were in your grandparents loungeroom and sitting around a fire.
When I wasn’t at the pub I was at the school playing with the boarders. I learnt to play Poker, Mario Cart and Just Dance. They were exhausting and liberating at the same time.
On weekends the boarders and I would be treated to an adventure from one of the staff. We spent this time exploring places like Madame Tussauds, The Shakespeare Globe, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and walking the halls of some truly impressive galleries and museums.
For a girl whom left just school months earlier I was learning something new everyday. It was as though the world had opened up to me and shared its secrets.
On my holidays I was on the move. I travelled Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands. I will dave these stories for another time.
My favourite part of living in England was that I was exposed to so many different cultures. On a daily basis I would have a random conversation with someone from another country and we could talk for hours about our lives.
I made memories with people I probably will never see again and friendships with others that remain to this day. The opportunities were endless as soon as you relinquished your worries and just live.
It was never about finding who I was or who I am. It was simply about finding happiness.
These were the things that made me happy:
1. The School
2. The train rides
4. Cheap flights to Europe
5. Getting lost
7. Art around every corner
8. The people you meet along the way
9. The pubs
10. The culture