Hey, the name’s Lucy and I am a student. There is a lot that is normal about me. I live in the suburbs, am going to university, drink way too much coffee, and love binge watching TV series. The thing that probably isn’t normal is how passionate I am about travel. You’re probably thinking to yourself: loads of people are passionate about travel, how is this weird? Well, it is unusual because I’m studying full-time.
Currently I’m in my third year of medical school. When I first stepped into the lecture theatre it was apparent that medical degrees aren’t the most compatible with travel. Long hours with extended semesters, gruelling study schedules, and your spare time is (supposed to be) dedicated to improving your CV for that elusive internship. But rather than be daunted by this (okay, it was freakin’ daunting), it emerged as a challenge.
Could I get away with seeing the world and still manage to be a good student?
Travel (and travel blogging) often mean sacrificing the highest grades and building my CV. I’m not there yet but I am unsure how this will affect my job prospects, nobody ever really tells you. But I am okay with that. I think travel has been worth it for reasons more far reaching than academics. And it is these reasons which have led me to advocate for student travel on Travel Textbook.
There are the obvious benefits. When you’re on the move you learn to deal with a myriad of difficult circumstances and challenges, this problem-solving attitude can be well-applied in most fields. Immersing yourself in different cultures and surrounding yourself with different people provides an open-mindedness and learning opportunity not afforded in tutorial rooms and textbooks. The list really could go on and on.
However, the most important reason why travel and studying a difficult degree should mix is mental health. In school, it is not encouraged to take time off. It is a stigma. There is an immense pressure to not fall behind and have a gap on your transcript. In medical school, as an example, 27% of students are clinically depressed. It is a worldwide problem and it is thought to span through many degrees.
And that, that is the sole reason why I so passionately advocate for student travel. Taking time off and having a breather puts it all into perspective. Immersing yourself in a new culture and adventures gives your mind the space to grow, explore, and reconnect with life. Burn out is a serious issue in universities and it is starting to be talked about more. But taking time off is still not encouraged. The stigma remains.
It does not, and should not, have to be that way.
My challenge is to push the envelope and continue to see the world despite how it may look on my transcript. I strongly believe that travel will make me a better student (and doctor) in the long term. It will equip me to mentally cope with the demands of the career.
Travel and school don’t mix for many reasons. Money, academic demands, and getting time off. But they can; and I am happy to be pushing for that change. My experiences with medicine is just one example in a sea of students struggling to balance school, passion, and mental health. Together, if we take that risk, one day it can be normalised for university experience to better accommodate unconventional passions and taking time off.