How to travel the world and get a degree at the same time
While most people do their OE after going to uni I decided I would do things differently. Like riding motorbikes in Vietnam.
OPINION: At my university graduation I didn’t know a single one of the professors sitting on stage staring back at me.
It was a strange feeling considering these were the people responsible for a degree that cost me tens of thousands of dollars. But I guess that’s what you get when you never go to class.
I wasn’t some hooligan who skipped lectures and spent their days getting paralytic on cheap beer. Instead I was living in New York, Edinburgh, and Vancouver, going on trips to a different place in the world pretty much every month.
This saw me freedom camping around Iceland, eating baguettes in Paris, kayaking Portugal’s Algarve coast, visiting berber villages in Morocco, walking through tea fields in India, motorbiking around Vietnam, and driving through the Canadian rockies.
All while completing a Bachelor of Communication.
I gained my Bachelor of Communication while living overseas and travelling the world.
Because rather than getting my degree, then jetting off for the obligatory OE, I ended up doing both at the same time.
I started my degree just like anyone else. I did two years at Massey University’s Albany campus, but when an opportunity arose to live in New York for a year I couldn’t say no.
I thought I’d just go for the year then come back and finish my degree. But as soon as I left I wanted to keep going so found a way to make it work.
The decision to get my degree on the road was made easy by Massey’s distance learning service.
In 2017 I was one of 13,796 Massey students getting their qualification via distance. However I bet they never envisaged the kind of distance I was doing.
I started my degree the same way most people do at Massey in Auckland but soon went overseas and picked it up on the road.
It was created for full-time workers or parents wanting to get a qualification, but let me testify here and now – it works for travellers too.
My evenings were spent searching for a crappy photocopy of a text book I couldn’t afford, doing tests, and watching lectures via livestream.
Assignments were submitted online, lecturers, who had no idea where in the world I was, communicated via email; even sitting exams overseas was accommodated.
Starbucks became my best friend as every weekend I’d walk to my local one, exploring the city I was in on the way, and spend a few hours working. My loyalty card racked up points thick and fast.
Before you say it, no I am not some spoilt brat whose parents paid for her to go through university and travel the world. I paid my own way.
And let me tell you, going overseas with a student loan is no cheap task. Although the fees to study via distance are the same, as soon as I left the country my minimum loan repayments were $3000 a year. Inland Revenue were my enemy.
It was money I would have much rather spent gallivanting around the world.
I also worked full time to support my travel habit and pay the aforementioned $3000. It may seem impossible, and at times it was, but with some determination, time management, and the odd nervous breakdown, I did it. And if you’ve got a good WiFi connection, you can too.
I had to work mind-numbing jobs to support myself, but it meant I got to see all the destinations I had dreamed of like the tea fields in India.
I’d work from 8am to 5pm in whatever job I could get my hands on. Usually mind-numbing admin roles with a painful hierarchy making me wonder what the hell I was doing with my life.
I kept reminding myself that one day, all these painful hours in a job I hate and going home to write essays I thought I would never benefit from, would eventually pay off. And in the meantime I got to go on holidays pretty much every month.
It felt like I would always be stuck in a dead end, boring job rather than in one for which I was putting all these hours of study.
Distance learning meant I could choose my own workload so I could do however many papers I wanted.
I chose to do two a semester and although this ultimately led to the degree taking me six years rather than three, I wouldn’t change the way I did it.
I submitted assignments online, communicated with lecturers via email, and even sat my exams overseas. So I could do everything on the road while in places like the Canadian rockies.
When I came home, graduated, and gained employment, travel was out of my system and I could concentrate on what was in front of me rather than wishing I was elsewhere.
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished high school. The idea of picking a lifelong career at 17 baffled me. So I took a year out and went to university after. But even then I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
I started one thing, switched to another, started the first thing again, switched my major, and by this point my student loan was already making me cry because I had nothing to show for the debt.
Growing up I never had a set career path I wanted to pursue but I always knew I wanted to travel. And funnily enough, when I started travelling, the career path I did want to pursue became clear.
As I began my travels I started a blog, mainly so my mum could keep tabs, but from that I decided writing was the path I wanted to concentrate on.
If I didn’t go travelling I probably would have carried on with my indecisive ways, changing my degree every six months and in massive debt with nothing to show for it.
But now I do have something to show for it. I’ve travelled the world and gained a degree. Not bad for someone who never even went to class.