University: Newcastle University
Gap year: Madventurer / Independent travel
Mhairi went to Fiji with Madventurer, which runs development projects, to do netball coaching for six weeks. She then went on a safari that Madventurer offers as an option in Fiji – not a conventional safari, but an "adventure" that includes hiking and cycling. She then had a week at the end to relax and see the island. So she stayed in Fiji for nine weeks overall. She then went independently to Australia, Hawaii and San Francisco. Mhairi was attracted to Madventurer because it offers short-term opportunities, so you don’t need to go away for a whole six months or year.
What motivated you to apply?
It was a combination of factors. Sport and Fiji – it seemed fantastic. I always enjoyed sport at school and university. I really enjoy netball and have played throughout my life. Madventurer wants to get everyone involved and takes on people of a variety of standards.
How did you fund the year?
I took a year off and worked for six months to save before I went away.
What are you doing now?
Postgraduate study in city development and planning at Sheffield University.
What did you gain from the gap year?
Independence. I did about two weeks’ travelling by myself. Also the placement and sport were an unbelievable experience. The programmes can be for anyone. In Fiji the ages of the people on the project ranged from 18 to 36. There was an ex-international rugby player from Holland, and someone who used to swim for Scotland. Others just enjoyed playing the sport. It was great to have a variety of ages and mix of characters.
What was the best bit?
It allows you to develop skills that you’ve already got an interest in. It was great to see other coaches in action. We were all very well looked after and the programme was really well run.
What was the worst bit?
We had in-house crew members to look after us, so there weren’t many major problems. I did get ill because I had not been able to adapt to the local food, so crew members got better food in. If the crew members hadn’t been there, we would have had more problems.