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Deakin Graduate Daniel Dukes gap year in Kenya

When did you decide to take a gap year and why?

Daniel Duke on a break from his gap year placement in Kenya with The LeapThe decision to take a gap year after completing my undergraduate studies came about half way through the last year of my degree. It was a time when all the major assignments were starting and also the light at the end of the tunnel was starting to shine bright. Where previously university had provided me with routine and a focus for the last two and a half years, it was now dawning on me that I would have to plan out my focus for the next year. It was fairly clear to me at the time that I wanted to continue my studies at a higher level, but after almost three years of study, I was certain that I needed some time away from the grind of endless assignments and exams. Hence the decision to take a gap year came fairly naturally.

Where did you go and why?

The decision to go abroad was an obvious one for me. Being Australian, the instinct to travel was embedded quite early in my childhood by my parents who (it is quite safe to say) have had the travel bug for many years. Australia is rather sectioned off from most of the rest of the world and to visit other countries and cultures, one must certainly travel abroad. Using the UK as a base for my travels was also a rather natural decision; working visas are generally fairly Daniel Duke teaching on his voluntary work gap year program in Keya with The Leapeasy to obtain for Australians and its proximity to both Europe and Africa make it a wonderful destination to base a year (or two) to travel and work, travel and work. But one of my main aims was to tie in an experience in Africa which would enable me to do some good in one of the world's poorest nations and on the continent of my birth. I was highly aware of how valuable this experience could be for me personally as well. Not only would I be subjecting myself to another way of life (one vastly different from my own) and therefore hopefully growing in character and as a person, but I would also be tying in some valuable work and life experience to add to my CV.  So volunteering in Kenya became one of my main aims in my experiences abroad and an experience I will never forget.

Which different options did you consider?

Obviously there are many different options when it comes to taking a gap year and not all of my decisions were made at the same time, or indeed before I became my gap year. Many have come about through experiences and opportunities I have had undertaking a gap year abroad. This I see as one of the many advantages to taking some time away from studies on a gap year. I considered staying in Australia and trying to find some work which would benefit me in my further studies and employment aspirations. I also considered taking only a few months to travel through Asia or Europe before returning to my studies. But at 21 and having already completed an undergraduate degree, I felt time was on my side and that to really immerse myself in travel experiences I would need to give a gap year the time it really deserves. I am now into my third year of my 'Gap Year'.

What was the best thing about the year and the worst thing?

By far the best and most rewarding experience I have had has been my time volunteering in Kenya through 'The Leap' programme from the UK. My six weeks there were some of the best of my life. The experiences and people I met in Kenya have made a large and lasting impression on me and it is a time I miss and constantly reflect on. You can't underestimate the sense of achievement and self worth that comes with an experience like the one I had in Kenya. I really felt like Daniel Duke volunteers in a Kenyan orphanage on his gap year program with The Leapthe work we did there in local villages, schools and even orphanages were directly benefiting the people and communities we were working with. The experiences and the things I saw in Kenya have had an immeasurable affect on me and the way I view my life and the world, they will be with me forever. I also made amazing friends along the way.

The worst thing for me has been the distance and time away from friends and family back home. There can be a certain frustration that comes with travelling abroad or to challenging parts of the world, but what I would say for this is that nothing good comes without a little hard work and weighing up the good and the bad experiences in my time away; the good always shines the brightest.

How did you fund the gap year?

Originally I took a year out to work and save to fund my gap year. However my visa in the UK allows me to work and travel, so I have been working as I travel around to fund my next experience or travels. It is best to start with some money behind you and some goals in front of you so as you know what sort of money will be needed to achieve your gap year goals.

What benefits do you think it has given you in terms of employability?

I believe my experiences abroad have given me a range of benefits in terms of my future employability. My experiences volunteering in Kenya I believe will be looked upon especially favourably by employers as it shows a willingness to commit to people and communities far less fortunate than myself and it also shows employers that I am willing to take on large challenges in an environment which at times can be both challenging and rewarding. World experience cannot be underestimated I believe and when someone sees a wealth of travel experience on your CV, it can only portray you in a favourable light. One of the spin offs from taking some time away from studies that I hadn't expected when I left has been my enthusiasm to return to further my studies at university after a bit of a break. Something which I believe will go a long way in me being successful when I do return to study.

How would you talk about it in an interview with a prospective employer?

There are many aspects of a gap year which employers may be interested in hearing about, but I would try and stay away from long winded anecdotes about my experiences away and focus in on some of the things I believe helped me grow both personally and indeed academically if that has been the case. Being able to combine my degree with some valuable work experience as I was able to do in volunteering for a 'not for profit' organisation in Kenya in my gap year, I would probably focus as much on this as possible and highlight my commitment to gain a wide range of experiences in my gap year which would be looked on favourably by future employers. Indeed, I would focus on those things which showed I have a commitment for my future and furthering myself through life experiences.

Do you think you have made the most of the gap year on your CV?

There is probably more that I could have done to bolster my CV on my gap year, but I had to weigh up all the things I wanted to get achieved personally on my gap year and some of these things were things I wanted to do for myself. But I certainly set out things I wanted to achieve in my gap year that would further me both personally and academically.

What advice would you give to a school leaver thinking of taking a gap year before uni?

There would be nothing worse that wasting a year out by not achieving anything other than a good time. You can do that along the way. It always pays to have one eye on the prize; your prize, whatever that may be! I've found that people have been asking me lately "How can this be your third year of your gap year?" The answer is simple. I'm young! A lot of people I find are caught up with finishing university or school and then hurrying onto the next perceived stage (whatever that may be: uni, work, etc..) But my advice would be not to rush. Set out your goals and aims and then work towards them. If its going to take you an extra year to earn some money to achieve what you want, then get on a do that, you will be all the better for it! If you feel after one year of travelling that maybe another six months or a year would suit you before returning to university or the daily 9-5, then really there is nothing stopping you. You'll probably never have another chance like you do at the end of school or study to get out and experience the world with relatively little responsibilities. Finally, I would say; never loose sight of your future goals and aspirations whilst taking a gap year and most of all set out to enjoy yourself as much as possible.

Daniel Duke graduated from Deakin University, Victoria, Australia where he read International Relations.  His gap year program in Kenya was arranged with The Leap.