Grace hadn’t always planned on taking a Gap Year in the UK. During the pandemic and Australia’s lockdown, she then realised when she couldn’t go overseas just how much she wanted to.
She tells us all about the experiences of her amazing Gap Year journey. From the friends she made (who quickly became family) to some amazing travel adventures, and all that’s in between.
Why did you choose take a Gap Year?
Being a student in the class of 2020, it was around the time all of us were applying for university that the COVID-19 pandemic sent Australia into lockdown. I had grown up my entire life in Perth and always thought I’d go to uni straight after school. I didn’t realise how much I wanted to do something different and see more of the world, until it was no longer a possibility.
My friend was applying for Letz Live and I thought why not?! I was still very unsure if I’d actually be able to go, especially with the concern of the pandemic. However, it seemed like the most unique and wonderful opportunity. I would be able to become more independent, get outside of my hometown bubble, and meet new people . I stayed positive and hoped for the best. Even with 3 months of lockdown at the start, I am so glad I took the risk and came. Taking a Gap Year in the UK was everything I’d hoped for and more.
What’s been the best part of your Gap Year so far?
Looking back, I find it impossible to choose a particular moment of my Gap Year that has been the best. I am so grateful for every second of this year. From the mind-blowing moments (jet skiing with 6 of my friends around Hvar in Croatia) to the not-so-great moments (freezing afternoons at work teaching in the rain). At the end of the day, all your experiences, good and bad, will blur together. You will then be left with the most amazing stories that even people 5 times your age may not have.
Every time I met a new friend, saw a new city or even had a train cancel on me, I learnt so much and grew as a person from it all. Once it’s over you will just wish you could go back and do it all again from the beginning. However, if you had asked me at the time I’d probably say nothing in the world beats a European summer. You can’t get much better than two months off work, swimming, tanning and partying. Visiting Greece, Italy, Croatia, Germany and Austria with a whole group of 18 year olds!
Tell us about the friends you’ve made
I don’t think I could ever articulate how much the friends I have made on this Gap Year mean to me. At times you feel tired, homesick and out of your depth halfway across the world. It’s the friends here going through the same experience, that will make you feel better and remind you how lucky you are. I was fortunate to be placed with Jack and Isaac (one from Sydney and the other from Toowoomba) for my placement. At first it was a bit difficult being the only girl with 2 boys. However, over the year we became so close that the two of them are like my brothers now.
The three of us used our various connections to meet so many amazing friends while travelling the UK. And especially while in Europe over the summer. I became so close with people of various backgrounds that I would never have met back in Perth. I’m so lucky to have made memories with them I’ll never forget. You learn so much through each new friendship and I will keep in contact with them all (it’s great knowing I now have excuses to travel all over Australia to visit everyone once we’re back home). Trust me, it is so easy to make friends when taking a Gap Year in the UK. You may be dealing with very different individuals, but you all share a mutual love for travel and growing outside your comfort zone.
Share some secret spots or travel adventures from your time so far
Honestly there are so many I could go on forever. Part of what makes the places you go so special is finding them yourself and any activity/spot can truely become your favourite if you just make the most of it and enjoy the people you are with. Some of my highlights have been:
1. Hiring a moped with my friend Jack in Thira and riding it all the way to Oia to go swimming in Ammoudi Bay and watch the breathtaking Santorini sunset.
2. A 7-day Sail Croatia trip with 23 of my fellow Gap friends. We partied at the famous club Carpe Diem, jet skied in Hvar jumped 25m off a cliff off the Dubrovnik Wall.
3. Seeing Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael artwork at the Ufuzi Gallery and walking around the Duomo/Ponte Vecchio/Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence
4. Dancing to live music at Wayne’s Bar in Nice, France. Then paying $5 for a train ticket to Monaco for the day!
6. Renting hire bikes and riding around Vienna. Discovering all the beautiful buildings with 7 of my friends for a whole day
7. Seeing the Berlin Wall and visiting Topographie des Terrors in Germany. Having studied modern history at school it was educational and confronting for me to see the places I’d studied in real life.
Tell us what a standard day of work is like as a Gap Assistant
My official title was Sports and Boarding Assistant. Primarily I was a part of the sports department, involved in assisting PE lessons for all year groups, coaching games, umpiring matches, cleaning out sports sheds and supervising the change rooms. My favourite part of the job was the boarding house though. Two evenings a week and then one day on the weekend, I would help out until 9pm. Boarding allows you to properly bond with the kids and I absolutely loved it, it’s like a family. We even went on excursions once the UK opened up. Some of my highlights being Thorpe park, Jump Street (trampolining) and seeing a production on the West End!
What are some of the biggest differences Australia and The United Kingdom?
The UK and Australia are obviously very similar in terms of pop culture and language but one of the things that surprised me the most was the difference in food. I found in the UK they eat much larger serving sizes than I was used to in Australia and their fruit/veg is not as good as ours. I missed Tim Tams too. Also their weather… not the biggest fan! However, they have a MUCH better transport system. It was crazy how easy it was for me to travel all the way around the UK in such little time. On my weekends off I went to Wales, or did day trips to London and Oxford which was amazing.
On top of that, my favourite thing about the UK is how close they are to every other country in Europe. It makes trips so much easier and more affordable, something that is very different from Australia given how large and secluded we are.
What’s surprised you most about living in a new country?
I was surprised at how conflicted I was about loving it. That seems like a dumb answer but being away from home is so difficult, you miss the easy things you don’t even think about when you ARE at home. Hugs from mum, an endless supply of food, toothpaste/toiletries already being in your bathroom. The second you move away you realise you have to sort it all out yourself.
Once you’ve gotten in the rhythm of things and built up a great community of friends, you will absolutely love it. I still missed family and friends at home but as I came to the end of this year, I was so upset about leaving and realised once I go back home, it will be the friends I’ve made in the UK that I’ll be homesick for! I didn’t realise how strong the connections I had made over here were and how sad it would be to say goodbye.
Thinking about embarking on your UK adventure just like Grace? Take a look at our UK Gap Year programmes and apply today.