Next Steps: The Graduate Traveller


At this point in fourth year I sometimes feel like I’m coming to the end of a marathon (a laughable comparison for anyone even remotely familiar with my running abilities). It’s about mile 23 or 24; I’m fatigued (mostly from my own whining about how many assignments I have left to do before the end of the semester), slightly bored and lacking motivation to undertake that final push to cross the finish line. My auntie once actually did run a marathon, and had an apparently transformative experience when someone gifted her a banana for an energy boost about halfway through – I would argue that many fourth years are desperately in need of a metaphorical banana (absolutely not a euphemism) at this point in the year in order to keep trudging along until we reach the end and are finally able to don our graduation gown with a huge sigh of relief. Whilst having a graduate job or a place on a Master’s course lined up may serve as great motivation to maintain the dragging library sessions – and you know, succeed at life – sometimes it’s nice to plan something a little more spontaneous. So, how about some post-graduation travel adventures?

It has to be said that February in the Glaswegian calendar, allegedly about to be battered by the ‘worst storm of the winter’, is a fairly obvious time to be desperately craving some good, strong sunlight.. Luckily for us fourth years, the post-graduation period serves as the perfect cliché time to jump on a plane and go and do some exploring. We’re young, yet to be shackled by such life responsibilities as mortgages and (God forbid) children, and not yet settled into a job where taking a sizeable break may affect career progression.

So what are the options? Having provisionally accepted a place to study for my Master’s in Japan, I’m somewhat cheating here as I will be potentially embarking upon a very structured experience abroad. However, an integral part of my personal decision making process concerning further study was that I definitely wanted to venture outside the UK, so regardless I will happily wax lyrical about why travel, whatever the purpose, is an awesome option for what to do after finishing university.

The university environment is a fairly surreal one that can be, depending on your individual experience, a little removed from the realities of everyday life. Whilst studying is a greatly enriching and worthwhile endeavour, there is a stark difference between learning a bunch of facts and theories in a lecture hall, and actually seeing what you learn play out in a real life context. Of course it is dependent on subject area, but taking some time after finishing your degree to travel can help consolidate what you’ve learned about the world around you through forcing you to engage with new and challenging experiences.

The biggest factor concerning travel is cost – we are a bunch of debt-saddled students, after all. However, as a graduate there are a variety of opportunities that allow for you to travel to distant places without totally breaking the bank. If it’s something that you really want to do, you’ll be able to make it work, even if it means working for a period of time beforehand to save up some cash.

Longer term options are great if you fancy a proper break from the grind of university and aren’t quite sure what your real next step should be. There are numerous programs to teach English as a foreign language abroad, which are paid and will often provide you with accommodation and a good level of in-country assistance. If you haven’t been abroad much and are somewhere you don’t speak the native language, this can be an invaluable safety net whilst settling into unfamiliar and confusing territory. Equally, certain countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand offer year long working visas; although flights and preliminary costs may be expensive, this means that once in-country you can find a job to support yourself and travel accordingly, as opposed to being forced to live off a tight and finite budget.

There are more unorthodox options when trying to save money, too. WWOOFF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) provide travellers with the opportunity to work on farms across the world to develop a varied skillset in return for free lodging and board, depending on the farm in question. Working at hostels to cut down on living expenses is also a valid possibility, though may depend on your visa type.
These are only a few examples of the many options out there; if you get creative, travelling doesn’t have to be as financially crippling as it is sometimes perceived to be. Disregarding all the generic (but true) drivel about how travel will change your life and allow you to find yourself and let you grow as a person, I have only one really solid piece of advice: just do it.

[Annie Milburn] 

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