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Competition: Share your Gap Year travel story, win £100 of STA Travel vouchers

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    Have you lived the life of a gap year student? Have you travelled the world? Experienced things no human should ever experience? Or did you simply miss your flight?

    Share your funny, weird, wonderful or unbelievable travel story with the rest of The Student Room below for a chance to win £100 of travel vouchers generously given to us by STA Travel. And of course to ensure your story goes down as the stuff of The Student Room legend.

    The winner will be picked by other members of The Student Room using the rep system (the thumbs up system at the bottom of the post). So, if you like a story added to this thread, show your appreciation by giving some rep!

    The prize
    • £100 of STA Travel vouchers to spend as you please.
    The rules
    • The story with the most rep wins (green thumbs up, red thumbs down not counted).
    • Please keep it clean... following usual The Student Room site rules.
    • Closing date Monday 14th May at 3pm.
    • That's it.
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    I spent my gap year working in a well known high street children's shoe shop, being sick on, having to clear up sausage roll debris from the carpet, having to clear up the occasional puddle left by a child who had been waiting for the toilet too long and having my life made difficult by nightmarish managers. Although this was character building, and fantastic work experience (for when I find myself unemployed after my arts degree and have to go back into retail) I worked near enough every day of my gap year, and still couldn't afford to take myself on holiday somewhere nice. I think, therefore, because I actually missed out on doing anything fun/interesting/worthwhile on my year out, that I deserve those holiday vouchers, over someone that's already had their fair share of swanning about!!
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    I took a gap year after finishing my A-Levels in September 2010. I planned on going to Australia however I first needed to find a job. After looking for a job consistently since August 2010, I finally found one in November, working in Red5 over the Christmas period. This job was very enjoyable as I was in HMV looking after the display we had there. I also had to demonstrate several products whilst I was there, the most notable of these being a small radio-controlled helicopter.

    After this, I then left for 4 months in Australia in January 2011. I arrived in Brisbane with my cousin shortly after the floods had hit Queensland. Indeed, after arriving in Brisbane, the stench of mud and flood water hit our noses while we were being driving to our relatives who lived there. We stayed there for about 2 weeks while we looked for work.

    Having found some seasonal farm work in Bundaburg (Made famous by Bundy Rum) we travelled up there. I initially found the work hard going as it was very hot there, around 30 degrees Celsius and I was not used to the amount of physical work we had to do. I eventually got settled into the hostel life though, despite in a one month period, only getting 10 actual days of work due to the wet conditions.

    After another month of making very little money due to the lack of work, I managed to find a position on a Greenhouse Farm that grew cucumbers. This involved being at work at 5am and working through till 13:30 with a 15 and 30 minute break at particular times. I was in the 'clean up crew' which involved chopping down then removing the dead cucumber vines before cleaning out the greenhouse and placing fresh seed bags back into the greenhouse. As you might expect the greenhouse got very hot, which was part of the reason we started so early, and on several days, the temperature got above 43 degrees Celsius. The pay for working here, and in general in Australia was a respectable $16 an hour, which worked out then at about £10 an hour. So over the two months I was working, I made nearly $4000 of which I had just over $2000 to support me for the next two months of travelling.

    After finishing work for the last time, I headed up with 4 Germans that I had met in the hostel to a place called the Town of 1770, where we went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. We then travelled up to Airlie Beach and embarked on a 2 day, one night cruise around the Whitsunday Islands which, in my opinion, was the closest place you could get to paradise.

    I parted company with my travel companions at this point and continued solo up to Cairns. At this point, I passed by a town that had been devastated by Cyclone Yasi. I stayed in Cairns for several days and went on a day trip up to the Daintree Rainforest. I then flew to Melbourne where I stayed for 5 days and saw an Australian Football game and went to the Easter Sunday service there.

    Another flight took me up to Alice Springs where I set off on a 3 day 2 night expedition to see Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. This was one of the best experiences of my life and I had my first taste of Kangaroo and Camel (surprisingly nice). After this had come to an end, I made my way to Perth where I stayed with some relatives there and in Margaret River. My time in Australia was nearly at an end so I just had time to spend a few days in Sydney before flying back to Brisbane and then back to the UK.

    My last few months of my Gap Year were, much like the first months, spent looking for a job. I managed to find one in August and worked for the whole of that month until it was time to get ready for University.

    I hope you've enjoyed this story of my Gap Year travels. And no, I did not 'chunder everywharrr'
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    After spending the majority of my gap year working in retail, I was glad to get away for three weeks to Thailand.

    I'd never been travelling alone before, and throughout the whole trip I spent my time experiencing a strange combination of excitement and fear. I distinctly remember being in the taxi from the airport in Bangkok to the hotel where I was staying for a couple of nights, and despite the fact that it was 3am, the city was still full of hustle and bustle, and everyone seemed to be eating something. The foodstalls looked delicious, piled with strange looking foodstuffs which I couldn't identify...It looked completely alien, but yummy nevertheless.

    The taxi driver must've noticed my hungry staring, as he turned around, took his eyes off the road for a good ten seconds, and with wide eyes said, "the food here is delicious, very, very spicy...BUT NOT FOR YOU. IF YOU EAT THIS FOOD - POOF - YOUR STOMACH EXPLODE!"

    He then turned around and carried on driving. Needless to say, I avoided buying food off the stalls for most of my trip for fear of an exploding stomach.

    There was also another humorous occasion involving me being chased down an isolated road in a dark forest by a pack of wild dogs which were (literally) foaming at the mouth, causing me to cry out, "AAAAH I DIDN'T HAVE MY RABIES JAB AAAH!" and losing my flipflops before I managed to get to the internet cafe which I'd been heading to.

    The big issue arose when I wanted to return back to my camp from the internet cafe...So I spoke to a little Thai lady, presumably one of the owners of the cafe, and she seemed to get the gist of what I was saying from my wild gesticulations and barking noises. She motioned for me to follow her round the corner of the outside of the building, where she had a motorbike with a broom strapped to the front of it, and beckoned me to sit on it with her.

    And away we went, zooming through the pack of rabid dogs and back to camp! I got off the motorbike feeling shaken but very thankful that she'd been able to help.

    All in all, it was a pretty amazing three weeks in Thailand. One of the things I learned from my travels, especially from someone who has suffered from anxiety for a while now, is that nothing can stop you doing what you want to do if you're determined enough. A few weeks before I was due to go, I literally got to the point of ringing up my travel agency to cancel the whole thing because I was panicking about going...Looking back on it now, I don't regret a single thing, and I genuinely believe that going on the trip has helped with my problems. Not to say I don't suffer from anxiety anymore, but whenever I worry about travelling or doing something out of my comfort zone, I just think, "hey, I went to Thailand for three weeks! By myself! I'M THE DOG'S BALLS" or something to that effect. (Though, of course, not the rabid dogs' balls...I wouldn't want to be those balls...)

    Moral of the story: almost everything turns out better than expected.
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    I spent the majority of my gap year working to fund a trip to South America. After months of shelf stacking, I had saved up enough for a plane ticket and Lonely Planet's "South America on a Shoestring." Although I lost the guidebook on the first day of my trip, it didn't matter, I'd already memorised the entire thing! I don't think I'll ever forget the first time I read about San Pedro prison, and although I never planned on going there, I did end up in a Bolivian prison during my gap year.

    By the time I reached Bolivia, I had given up on sticking to a plan. Instead I checked into Wild Rovers hostel, famed for it's parties and late night club crawls, and just a few minutes walk from San Pedro. A few years ago it was easy to get in to the prison without much hassle, but recently the Bolivian government have made it much harder for visitors to enter the prison walls (mainly due to concerns of drug smuggling, and safety of tourists). However, it is still possible, and after speaking to several long term travellers, locals and even a police officer I was able to get a private tour from an American drug smuggler who'd been in for 3 years.

    I met up with Andrew's Bolivian girlfriend in the park outside San Pedro. For a relatively small price I was allowed past the guards and onto the other side of the prison walls. Surrounded by a witches' market, a woman's wrestling arena and a string of lively tourist bars and restaurants, it's not the average prison. Inmates rent or buy their cells, and depending on their financial situation they can range from tiny boxes in the basement, to apartments away from the main prison walls. Families are free to live with their criminal relatives, children are allowed to play in the prison's nursery and inmates support their families through jobs in the prison store, hospital or hotel. Yes, there's a hotel in the prison! San Pedro remains a tourist attraction, and although the numbers of visitors are declining, the largest source of income for inmates is selling cocaine to gringos. Many people might have read the recent Guardian article about Bolivia's cocaine bar, well, the original cocaine 'bar' is San Pedro. Some of the more seasoned inmates recounted stories of travellers that had spent days or weeks in the prison! It's still possible to stay the night, and I was offered a bed in one of the smaller 'cells' but respectfully declined. I don't think I could have experienced any more culture shock that day.
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    君不见黄河之水天上来 奔流到海不复回。
    君不见高堂明镜悲白发 朝如青丝暮成雪。
    人生得意须尽欢,莫使 樽空对月。
    天生我材必有用,千金 尽还复来。
    烹羊宰牛且为乐,会须 饮三百杯。
    岑夫子,丹丘生,将进 ,君莫停。
    与君歌一曲,请君为我 耳听。
    钟鼓馔玉不足贵,但愿 醉不愿醒。
    古来圣贤皆寂寞,惟有 者留其名。
    陈王昔时宴平乐,斗酒 千恣欢谑。
    主人何为言少钱,径须 取对君酌。
    五花马,千金裘,
    呼儿将出换美酒,与尔 销万古愁。

    你难道没有看见,汹涌 腾的黄河之水,有如从 上倾泻而来?它滚滚东 去,奔向东海,永远不 回还。你难道没有看见 在高堂上面对明镜,深 沉悲叹那一头白发?早 还是满头青丝,傍晚却 得如雪一般。因此,人 生在世每逢得意之时, 应尽情欢乐,切莫让金 空对皎洁的明月。既然 老天造就了我这栋梁之 ,就一定会有用武之地 即使散尽了千两黄金, 也会重新得到。烹羊宰 姑且尽情享乐,今日相 ,我们真要干杯三百。 岑夫子,丹丘生,请快 不要停,我为你唱一首 ,请你们侧耳为我细细 听。在钟鼓齐鸣中享受 美食物的豪华生活并不 得珍贵,但愿永远沉醉 不愿清醒。自古以来那 圣贤无不感到孤独寂寞 唯有寄情美酒的人才能 留下美名。陈王曹植过 曾在平乐观大摆酒宴, 使一斗酒价值十千也在 所不惜,恣意畅饮。主 啊,你为什么说钱已经 多,快快去买酒来让我 们一起喝个够。牵来名 的五花马,取出价钱昂 的千金裘,统统用来换 美酒,让我们共同来消 这无穷无尽的万古长愁
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    My gap year experience :

    1) Went for an internship in a trading company for 1 month and learned all sorts of financial terms and basic trading skills. Also get to play with the trading softwares, photocopy machines etc.
    2) Went for an internship in an electronic company for 1 month and learned basic administrative skills. Besides, I got to know how hard is it to do documentations when you have to dig out those details and scrap of papers left unorganized by the staffs. Tedious process to clean up the mess...
    3) Worked as a teacher for 4 months, teaching science. Amazing experience as I got to polish my public speaking skills, but nevertheless get to play along with the students and experience the hardship and joy in teaching others. I had also joined activities with my students such as day trips and sports, once again feel energetic as if I was 5 years younger.
    4) Currently I am taking up foreign language courses and computer courses to polish my skills, by the same time regaining my momentum in studies.

    For people out there, gap year is an amazing experience for me to learn new stuffs and also to get to know myself more. Although there are some regrets through out the process, definitely it is a memorable experience in my life.
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    Did anyone get the vouchers?
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    (Original post by miml)
    Did anyone get the vouchers?
    i think i technically won, but i havent heard anything.
    i might complain.
    oh well
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    Hi everyone,

    Sorry for the delay in confirming but... drum roll please... nosbornais did indeed win the competition for receiving the most positive rep at the date of closing. Thank you for all of your gap year stories - there's definitely some interesting tales there! It's making me want to go travelling

    Congratulations nosbornais, I have PM'd you and your vouchers will be winging their way to you soon.

    Jack

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Updated: May 22, 2012
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