How to make your tuition fee worth it! Travel

Jess, Fine Art BA

Hi, I’m Jess and I’m a finalist studying for a BA in Fine Art at Loughborough. In today’s competitive marketplace it is no longer just about brains and a degree; employers are looking for experience. But how do you get that experience when you have just spent 16 years behind a desk, in education? Make the most of your extra-curricular opportunities. Experience does not have to be academic. (It could be learning about your fight or flight reaction when a gorilla is charging towards you… What? Keep reading, it will make sense!).

Jess and a gorilla in the wild.

Grab Loughborough with both hands

University for me was never going to be just about studying, I am the first in my family to get to university, from a very working-class background – let’s make this tuition fee worth it! I wanted to live that student life. I threw myself at every opportunity Loughborough gave me. And since then, I have found myself travelling the world in the name of charity. How!?

LSU Rag is the fundraising side of the university experience, whether that’s bucket collecting in tube stations, running a marathon or doing an event on campus – Loughborough students have raised over £1 million each year for charities, for the last 10 years! But it was the international charity challenges that caught my eye. Cheap travel, absolutely! I wanted to push my bodies boundaries whilst viewing and learning culture and convention of different societies – something a book can never teach you.

First year found me climbing the National Three Peaks for Make a Wish Foundation. Second year took me to Uganda for a month, volunteering to build playgrounds and exploring the jungles of the Gorillas – hence the fight or flight lesson! Third year, I discovered dog sledding in the Arctic Circle, travelling 260km across snowy Norway, Finland, and Sweden with my own pack of dogs – the team raising £80,000 for The National Autistic Society.

Dogs pulling a sled in the snow with mountains covered in snow in the background.

Where to next?

As my adventures have come to a temporary holt (due to a certain global pandemic!) it is not stopping my 2021 plans. Raising over £1,500 for Mind, I will be climbing the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. And come July, I will be jetting off to Thailand to volunteer in the hilltribes to educate girls and young women on safe sex, contraception, and opportunities available to them other than sex work. Not only that, but I will be volunteering in Chiang Mai’s elephant sanctuary, protecting animals from tourism and abuse.

Jess and other university students standing in front of a Uganda sign.

But why bother?

Whilst it makes everyone feel warm and fluffy inside to give to charity, that was not the only motive behind these trips. I was a shy, full of anxiety 18-year-old when I came to Loughborough, but my attitude was ‘make the most of this opportunity’, I manged to find friends that have become my family. You create a special bond with people when you are chucking a bucket of water over each other to ‘shower’ in the middle of Uganda!

The life skills I have learnt in these incredible countries could never be taught in a classroom; they are right when they say, ‘these experiences broaden your horizon’. When applying for a placement job, I was able to example the resilience, determination and leadership skills it took, answering their questions with the most unusual but memorable answers (and therefore got me the job!). My CV and LinkedIn profile has benefited hugely from my involvement, I am now a much more attractive and well-rounded applicant to most employers. I have now got the experience they all bang on about, just not in the tradition 9-5 job manner.

Jess with other university students on the dog sledding expedition standing in front of a tepee.

I am not the only one

It is fair to say I have caught the travel bug, but to do it whilst raising money for so many amazing charities is the best feeling. In my four years of Loughborough, I have raised over £12,000. But I am not an exception, hundreds of students get involved in the Rag trips the Union have on offer. To name a few more available; climb to Everest Base Camp or Kilimanjaro, trek to Machu Picchu or Cycle from London to Paris. 

This time next year, where will you end up?

Jess hiking on an expedition. She is standing at the top of a mountain with a view of another mountain and a lake in the background.