Name: Emma Fletcher
Degree and university: BA (Hons) English, University of Wales, then at the University of Birmingham for a PGCE in order to teach English to secondary aged students.
What did you do on your gap year?
I graduated from Aberystwyth in 2005 and returned to work at PGL, where I had worked during the summer of 2004. My role involved looking after and entertaining children at the outdoor activity centre. I played games with the children and organised evening activities for them. I then returned home and worked at Boots over the Christmas period, where I had also worked previously.
At the start of January I went to New Zealand for four months. The trip had been organised via World Challenge and meant I had some support while I was travelling. I had applied to work at The Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand, which is based in the centre of the North Island. While I was there I helped out with the gear hire for visitors, carried out general maintenance tasks, and was able to go out with the instructors and their group of students on their week of activities. The work we did was voluntary, but they provided us with board and food. I remained there for three months working alongside other international helpers. We were able to use the facilities on site and also had the opportunity to go rock climbing and kayaking around the area using equipment from the centre. During the time we were there they opened another centre on Great Barrier Island and I was involved with some of the opening ceremonies, which included a man-powered journey from the first centre to the second centre. I was the support driver for the teenagers aged 16-18 that completed the journey. I was also lucky enough to be able to meet Sir Edmund Hillary and Helen Clark the prime minister.
After I finished work at the centre I travelled around New Zealand for a few weeks. I spent some time on the North and South Islands. I was able to do a parachute jump, a bungee jump, go in a helicopter and on a jet boat. I had a fantastic time and was able to experience many things that I had never done before. On one of our trips we were also invited to stay with a Maori family, which was a unique experience in itself.
After I returned from New Zealand I went back to PGL and continued to work there from May until the start of September.
What was your motivation in taking a gap year?
I wanted to have a break from study before going in to a full-time job. I did not have a year out before going to university as I didn’t feel ready to do it, but after I graduated I wanted to see some of the world.
How did you fund your gap year?
I worked at Boots, which provided me with a bit of money, and I was also fortunate enough to have some help from my parents.
To what extent has your gap year helped your career?
It gave me further insight into what it was like to work with children, and I have subsequently returned to university to do a PGCE. I also gained more confidence in my own abilities.
What did you most enjoy about it and were there any downsides?
I enjoyed all of the new experiences that I was able to have, and the once in a lifetime opportunities such as meeting Sir Edmund Hillary. However, the cost was considerable and also I had to have an interview before I could confirm my place at Birmingham for the PGCE. As I was on the other side of the world I had a lot of email and telephone contact with the university and was still not firmly guaranteed a place. I had to fit my departure around the interview dates.
What skills do you need to make a success of a gap year?
Flexibility – you need to take things as they come. Be ready to try all different things. A friendly approach to everyone around you as you never know what they will be able to offer you!
What would be your best piece of advice for students considering doing a gap year?
Do it! Once you get into a job it becomes a lot more difficult to take a career break.
Anything to add?
Cheesy as it sounds, the experiences you have can change your perspective on the life that you are used to. I have also been bitten by the travel bug and would love to extend my travels when I can!