Returning to Study After Travelling

During our time as students, many of us are hit by the travel bug and feel the urge to see the world, leaving late nights in the library and textbooks behind. Whilst travelling is definitely an amazing life experience, it can sometimes be difficult to start studying again; students often find it hard to re-adapt to routine and dread the thought of seeing the same things everyday.

Despite the worries of taking time out from studying, 5.7% of students deferred their places at university for the 2013/14 year in order to take a gap year, and most likely to travel. The difficulty of doing this is that you arrive at university having not studied for a whole year, facing a workload that is a lot more intense than A-levels. Students reported a more relaxed attitude to life, feeling that there were more exciting things to do than start three years of studying at university. Kat Yearley took a gap year to travel and said that university was the furthest thing from her mind:  “When I got the offer to study Nursing I was in New Zealand. Outside the internet cafe there was a hot tub with a view of a glacier, and in that moment I’m sad to say the hot tub situation seemed a lot more exciting. At the time the whole thing just didn’t seem very… adventurous.”

While readjusting into first year can be a challenge, some students are arguably even braver and take the decision to do a year abroad in the middle of their degree. This can be daunting, as it often means coming back to your final year when all your friends have graduated. There’s the difficulty of arranging housing for the next year while you’re away, and the likelihood that if you’re studying abroad, the courses you take will not be as demanding. This means coming back can be a shock to the system. You have to figure out how you fitted in doing all that reading before, and try to remember how to construct a coherent essay.

Another difficulty students find is that they come back after a year abroad as fourth years, meaning that they are older than the vast majority of the student population. “There’s no denying that coming back sometimes feels like a letdown – the independence you gained seems to have disappeared and you find yourself back where you were two years ago. If you worked abroad, being a student again might take some getting used to. If you spent your year at a foreign university you have to reacquaint yourself with the way we do things here. You might have even come back to find all your friends have casually graduated and left you to it.Georgie Cauthery

Nevertheless, these worries seem to be counterbalanced by the pure fact that students get to see the world, and the experiences they gain from doing so. Travelling gives students a broader perspective on life as a whole, allowing them to experience other cultures and gain knowledge that they may not necessarily pick up from studying in the library. Doing a year abroad or a gap year gives students invaluable confidence and usually means mixing with people from all over the place, learning from them too. Georgie said, “It’s hugely comforting to be back with familiar faces in a place you know. The invaluable skills you learned while away have put you in a strong position to handle final year, and you have some irreplaceable memories to get you through essay deadlines and British weather!”

There’s also the awful worry that once students begin a ‘proper’ career, they will lose their endless holidays and will never really be able to take a break to travel again. It’s arguable that the best time to travel in your life is when you are a student with relatively few responsibilities.

For the most part as well, students who have travelled seem to be able to find positives out of coming back to their studies. Kat also commented, Freshers is a lot like travelling, embodying the travelling spirit of drinking, meeting a million people whose names you forget by the end of the day, and an entire lack of responsibilities.” 

The majority of students found that the benefits of travelling outweighed the difficulties in coming back; with any problems they had being relatively minor. “I completely admit that I am a little rusty, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface of my travel itch, but settling back into a student routine after travelling is undoubtedly the right choice for me. Getting a Masters under my belt is so important- but it doesn’t stop the fact that I’m planning a 9-month trip to Australia next year!” Hannah Jeffery.

Pausing your studies to travel may not be for everyone, but it does seem that most people reap the benefits of their choice: delaying that inevitable grad job, gaining friends from all over the world, and probably making university a whole lot more exciting on their return.

Joanna Hill 

Picture courtesy of Stephen S. via Flickr.

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