Travel vs. University – it’s a debate that every second Kiwi, and more and more nationalities are starting to have. It has been a part of New Zealand culture for a long time now to go overseas for the “Big O.E” (overseas experience) after high school. Some teenagers get part-time jobs after school to start the savings, where as others may work for several months after high school and fund their trip. For most New Zealanders, we head to the U.K where we can get a 2 year Working Holiday visa or Australia where we can work without a visa. Or some more adventurous types may head to South East Asia, and travel for months on end with minimal expenses.
While I was working in Canada at Whistler Blackcomb, I would have a lot of tourists ask me if I was taking a year of University (or College) to work, or if I had just graduated. When I told them no, I didn’t go to University, they were often really taken aback. For a lot of cultures, especially Americans, not going to University or even “Community College” wasn’t an option for them. They believe a good education is the way to secure yourself a good job, and set you up for life.
Now, I am not saying they are wrong. However, I do not believe University is the only way to secure yourself a well-paying job and a bright future. I left school a year early. The main reason of the last year of high school in New Zealand is to get University Entrance. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I knew I did not want to waste thousands on a degree that I didn’t end up using, or only used for a few years until I realized it wasn’t for me. So I decided to pursue the one thing I was passionate about – travel. After a short course in tourism, a few odd jobs here and there, I landed my first role as a travel agent.
Fast forward 4 years, and I have worked in the travel industry for almost 3 years, traveled to Europe, Asia, Australia, USA and spent a year working abroad in Canada. Now I am back home, and working as an Office Administrator. A lot of people ask me, why haven’t you stuck to being a travel agent? My reason is, I just don’t enjoy it anymore. It isn’t me. I am not a natural salesperson, and I want to be able to share my passion of travel with other people without then trying to convince them to buy something off me.
If I had paid thousands upon thousands of dollars for a Bachelor in Tourism Management, or something equivalent, I would NOT be happy now, paying off a student loan by working in a completely unrelated career.
So, I think the MAIN thing to consider when deciding between Travel and University, is ARE YOU 100% ON WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE? DO YOU STILL SEE YOURSELF IN THAT INDUSTRY IN 20 YEARS?
If you are certain about what you want to do, then I say great! Go to University! The world will still be there to be explored once you have graduated, and when you finish traveling you have a qualification behind you plus added life experience to give you a boost in the job market!
However, if you are like me and are really unsure, then GO TRAVELING! The world itself provides the best education! You may discover during your travels that your heart aches for helping the homeless, and you want to work with in rescue aid, or you fall in love with the architecture of the hip European cities, and you want to be a part of bringing those designs to life in your corner of the world. Once you return home, you will have had a chance to discover yourself, become more cultured, and are more ready to settle down and hit the books.
OR – another amazing option – have the best of both worlds! Go to University and in one of your years, opt to study abroad! There is nothing like getting to know another culture than being right in the midst of it, living there and befriending the locals. You can study on your school breaks, and who knows, maybe fall in love with the place and never return!
I am not in the least bit concerned about not having a University degree behind me – I am happy, successful, and have many plans of future adventures before I settle down! The world is my oyster!
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments about your view on the matter – I would love to hear more opinions on the matter! I would especially like to know how other nationalities feel about this debate – is it socially acceptable to skip university and travel instead? Or is it something everybody would judge you on, thinking you are throwing your chances of a good career away?
University Images via Huffington Post