Phoebe Robinson graduated from Queensland Academies Creative Industries (QACI) in 2016 after achieving her International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma and developing a signature creative identity in Visual Arts and Theatre. After graduating Phoebe chose to incorporate travel and work into her gap year experience and has recently returned from the West Sussex region in England. Here’s her story…
2017 – A Different Way to Start!!
On New Year’s Eve 2016 I left Australia to embark on a 12 month journey near the coast of West Sussex in England. In less than a week’s time I would’ve already moved into the boys boarding accommodation at Windlesham House school (along with four other gap students), had two induction days and started two whole days of first aid and pool safety training. Already thrown straight into the deep end and terrified of the decision I’d made, I learnt the majority of blanks and wonderful ways of the preparatory school I was to call home in simply a matter of weeks. Looking back on the chaotic blur of 2017, I couldn’t have made a better choice!!
The whole process began almost two years earlier when I discovered the whole concept of taking a ‘gap year’ once completing senior school. In my head I thought I had the whole ‘after school’ plan sorted: start University, obtain job, start living!! With hindsight I think I had the plan slightly in the wrong order... It turns out that ‘start living’ is always a priority. Not in the literal sense of course as we hope that’s already been underway for some time now, but not being afraid to think of certain opportunities outside the box that might not first occur as being ‘the right thing to do’!!
The ‘obtain job’ became my way of taking a gap year. After discovering the school I sent through my application for the available junior teacher position and took part in an interview several weeks later. In a matter of days, in November 2015 I discovered I’d be packing my bags the following year to go back to primary school!
There were three terms in the whole year: winter/spring term, summer term, and Autumn term. The longest term was the Autumn that went from September 1st to December 14th. The shortest, and in my opinion the most fun and beautiful term, was summer that went from the end of April to the start of July. Smack bang in the middle of both terms was a whole two months of summer holidays.
So despite all the half-terms, extended Easter holidays and endless summer evenings, I actually did work, and a lot of it during the term time. I worked full-time six days a week plus added boarding duty hours in the evenings. Four times a term gap students were expected to work four weekends, and so more than not we’d all work two weeks straight with one half day sleep in to break it up. I was fortunate enough that the South Downs Way was more or less part of the schools backyard, so on Sunday when I was free, I walked and walked and walked.
The work itself was enjoyable and a great experience to have, it just happened to last a lot longer than an average day would. In the mornings I’d assist in the classroom, commonly with Reception (prep students) and the French Department (ironic after three years with Monica in Spanish). Six afternoons a week I’d umpire and train with the girls (aged 9 – 14 years) in the sport of the season.
Netball was first in Winter, followed by Rounders in the summer and Hockey and Netball in the Autumn. Sport turned out to be the thing I enjoyed most at the School. From being a full time Theatre HL and Visual Art HL student it came as a shock to do more than stair runs twice a week and stretching to hang paintings. It was something I hadn’t taken the time to do more of whilst I studied however I now have regular game play in my line of sight!
When school was out, I had the fantastic opportunity to travel around Europe. From a mixture of travelling with friends and tour groups to simply by myself, I reached many cities and covered a lot of countries including: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Stuttgart (Germany), Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, France, Italy, Poland, and Prague.
After graduating QACI I was worried that my artistic practice would fall behind if I wasn’t going to study immediately after finishing. However nothing about it ‘fell’ in any sense. It just happened that the arts weren’t for the first time in a long time my main focus. I had a whole year to explore and meet as many people as possible. It didn’t mean I couldn’t take my sketchbook with me everywhere I went, book theatre shows and watch live performances. I have become more inspired than ever, my views on different societies and cultures expanding and creating discussions inside my mind that I wouldn’t have been engaged with before travelling. I would take paint from the art room cupboard after work on a Thursday and paint until three in the morning because I knew that I wouldn’t have to start work until 1pm the next day. Every city I travelled to I collected ‘Love Letters’ graffiti’d and marked onto walls and trees. I gave myself little goals and ideas that I then built upon and now have gathered to create something entirely new. I haven’t stopped learning. The method in which it is being delivered and I receiving it is just different to the content I was learning beforehand.
I’m glad I pushed myself to begin with ‘start living’. Now I will simply continue. In February I will study a double BA degree in Fine Art and Business at Griffith University between the Gold Coast and South Bank campuses, along with completing my Associateship Trinity College London in teaching and applied drama. So for now I have a four year outline squeezed into the new plan. Maybe it’s best not having a ‘plan’ per say, more so a desire and constant need to do what you do best and inexplicably enjoy!