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What do I do at eighteen years old?

At eighteen years old the prospect of turning nineteen is daunting enough. The end of ‘teen’ years and the prospect of being an adult, forever. Bye bye teenage years. At this young, tender age we are forced to make decisions that supposedly shape our future forever. Colleges, parents and friends are uttering the words university, travelling or full-time employment continuously. Is it possible at eighteen years old to know what path to choose? Even after making a decision the anxieties and worries soon follow. Fear not, I meet with Student to be this September, Bronwen Rees, nineteen years old, who went against the grain much to everyone’s surprise.

Overlooking Worthing’s seafront I await to be greeted by Bronwen Rees. Grinning madly and dressed casually in jeans and a blue t-shirt I meet this eager young girl described by close friends as “a straight A student destined for University after college”. A care free attitude and freedom surrounds her. “After three weeks at Bristol UWE I left. The course, the accommodation and the people were not for me. And when you know, you know. So without looking back, I left Bristol. I needed a break from education having spent the past two years in college with people who couldn’t wait to go to University or the opposite; Van Wilders’.” She grimaces. “My parents were shocked at first along with my friends. I remember phoning one of my closest girlfriends, Rebecca, and she was speechless. From starting high school I had always been destined, and almost pressured to go to University.” The waitress brings over two omelettes with chips and salad. A classic light summer meal.

“I decided to research jobs that would interest me and within a week I found the perfect job and applied. I flew out on the 14th December to Austria to work for four months as a chalet girl.” Bronwen’s eyes glistens as she reminisces. “Austria was amazing. To wake up each morning with the mountains greeting you was beyond breathtaking. It snowed a total of four times and the quantity of snow was unreal, like nothing I had ever seen before!” She sips her drink eagerly. “The work itself was repetitive. The same chores each day; preparing and cleaning rooms, working with food and so on. The chalet itself was always fully booked but it was not overwhelming. I mean, at first, I struggled. I missed my boyfriend and home but this feeling soon went. In the four months there I met some incredible people and frankly, some people I never want to see again.” She sniggers to herself.

“The experience taught me a lot about myself and made me more responsible. Although I was alone at University and ultimately depressed, the feeling of being alone in Austria was quite the opposite; it was exhilarating. I had jobs and duties that had to be completed on my own or otherwise I would not be paid and could result in losing my job. After finishing my jobs I was rewarded. The reward was the fact that I got to ski every bloody day and yet customers at the chalet were paying thousands to ski for a week!”

It almost sounds too good to be true as I sit observing this young blonde who starts tucking into her meal. Bronwen laughs ludicrously, “No, no. There were downsides. One male customer was outrageous. He would click to call me over and boy did I have to bite my tongue! However most of the customers were pleasant and we would eat and drink with them. I did meet two guys from the band Fightstar who were lovely and an Aston Martin racing driver.”

I sit and absorb all of the information of her travels I feel a tiny twinge in my stomach; resentment. Students often want to travel but in this day and age, a career is deemed the ‘correct’ path. I ask Bronwen about her thoughts. “I am the perfect example. Everyone had told me to go to university and in a way I had just become used to the idea. However, life doesn’t always work out the way others want it to and so I decided my own future. To students out there unsure of University, I say use a year of your life to travel and along the way decide. Go abroad and work and gain that experience, whether it is purely to earn money and travel, or to pursue a hobby. I am ‘crap’ with languages but I survived. As long as you’re willing to learn a country’s language and culture then you will be just fine.”

I lean forward and ask quietly what her plans for the future are. “Ha-ha. Don’t worry I know I have talked a lot about travelling but I do want a degree. I am going to Winchester University in September to study graphics, but before then, I am going to New Zealand for three months.” As I pay the bill and we depart I feel inspired, and I have only travelled to Worthing!

For those students who have reached university and who feel unsure or unsettled. Finding a different path is not failure. In Bronwen’s case it has been very beneficial. Not only has she earned money along the way, but she has chosen a university that has the course she wants to do and the gap year allowed for rational thinking.

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