I could write pages and pages on the pros and cons of prioritising either your university degree or travel and I would still not have a definitive answer; this is because I strongly support finding a balance between the two pursuits. We are often lead to believe that attaining both of these things simultaneously is impossible but over the past two years of my degree I have found that this is not the case!
1. Utilize University Holidays
“But my uni holidays are not long enough, and it is difficult for me to take leave from my job!”
Yep. This is undoubtedly a huge obstacle to overcome, but with careful planning and organization it can be done. This is how I have traveled during university holidays in the past:
Step 1: Realistically decide how long you will be able to go away for.
- Check how much annual leave you have accrued.
- Ask workmates about their experience with getting leave.
- Check your academic calender for your university holidays.
Step 2: Decide on a destination you will be able to fully appreciate in the time you have allocated.
There is nothing worse than leaving a holiday feeling like you missed out on a lot of important attractions that drew you to choosing the destination in the first place. Consequently, I have always worked out how much time I could get off work/how many days of uni break I had before I even started thinking about where I wanted to go. As someone who is open to traveling anywhere in the world, I had a very broad spectrum to work with when finding an appropriate place for the time constraints. If you have a specific country in mind, try and reduce the number of places you visit and rather, spend a longer time in each place to ensure you leave feeling like you properly experienced the destination.
Step 3: Ask for the time off well in advance
For example, in preparation for my 11 day break at the end of 2013, I requested leave a year in advance. For my 4 week break in 2012 I requested leave a year and a half in advance. This takes a lot of forethought and cannot always be done but once you depart you will realise it was all worth the planning!
2. Overseas Study Exchange
Lets say a short break isn’t long enough for you, the destination you have in mind will take well over a month to fully explore and taking time off work for that long isn’t an option. A study exchange is your answer. This means you will not be behind in your degree and be able to see more of the world.
*”But if I am gone for 6 months to a year, I will lose my job?”*
Personally, by the time I leave for exchange I will have worked for my employer for 3 years. This means I can apply for a ‘career break’ where I will be guaranteed a position when I return due to my loyalty to the company so far. So do not just assume you will lose your job! Talking to your employer may be daunting, but often they can be just as enthusiastic at the prospect of you embarking on such an amazing opportunity. Talking to them well in advance is also a sign of organization and thoughtfulness which will reflect well (instead of telling them with no warning that they will be an employee short!).
If this fails, then try and stay optimistic about the prospects of getting a new job when you return. I would even start applying before you leave so that when you return you either already have a position, or at least have the wheels in motion.
*2016 Edit* During my 1 year on exchange I ended up travelling to 5 continents, 38 countries and over 70 cities and towns – it can be done!
3. Defer for 6 months then make up the units in a Summer Semester
So you’ve gotten to the latter end of this guide and you’re still thinking “none of these options are for me. I will not get the experience I want over a short break or with study being a large aspect of the trip, I need a real holiday.” Cue option 3: Deferring your course months is something many people do throughout their time at university. You stay enrolled in your degree, 6 months goes past in no time and if you make up the uni in a summer semester you are not behind the rest of your cohort.
Overall, during my 2.5 years of university so far I have gone to New Zealand, Malaysia, The United States of America and embarked on a 11 day cruise to New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji whilst studying full time and maintaining a part time job. If you had told me at the end of high school that all this was possible I would have been skeptical, but I encourage you to try and find the balance because travel and university are both invaluable experiences!
What are your experiences with university or travel? Feel free to comment below!