Alum Series: A 30-something reflection on her gap year with Jenni Berg
Updated: May 27
If you want to take a gap year at home or abroad, this is your sign to do it. In this episode, Jenni shares her gap year experience in Australia and how it shaped her and defined her career.
Jenni grew up in a small town in Northern Ontario where everyone knew each other. From an early age, she knew she wanted to travel outside of her town.
She went to school for travel and tourism and landed a job right after university. She got promoted quickly after, which made her realize that on this trajectory she might not have an opportunity to take time off to travel, especially at a young age when she had little responsibility.
Her two Australian coworkers who were in Canada for the year influenced her to do the same in Australia. Everything came to a head during the summer when her lease was coming up and she realized this was the perfect opportunity to move to Australia for a year.
Her employer supported her decision and connected her with their office in Australia where she worked for part of the year.
There’s a misconception that people need to choose work over travel. In reality, you can do both. Some companies will support your travels- you just need to ask.
She was more scared to tell her mom than her employer, but her mom also encouraged her and said she wished she had the opportunity to do the same.
How Her Gap Year Impacted Her Life
Growing up in a small town, she wasn’t exposed to different cultures. In Australia, she lived in a share-house with other travellers from France, Ireland, Germany, Sweden and Brazil. Spending so much time with each other, she learned about their cultures. Coming home, she said she appreciated some aspects of Canadian culture more, but also adapted the lessons she learned from her roommates to her own life.
Travelling also helped her develop more confidence, which helped her in her career. She didn’t know a soul as she travelled across Australia, so she had to approach people and make friends on her own. Now she can easily approach people at networking events and create connections.
After leaving her share-house in Sydney, she was in tears worried she wouldn’t meet anyone on her Contiki tour across Australia, but she quickly made friends.
An organized trip like a Contiki tour is a great way to start for people who are hesitant about travelling alone. Having pre-paid for it before she left Canada she didn’t have to worry about running out of money and an organized trip meant she was able to see more of the country.
Every experience she had shaped who she came home as. After her trip, she was ready to start her life; she was motivated to excel in her career and find a serious relationship.
“Add travel to your resume”
Well into her career she says resumes with travel experience stand out, especially if you went on a solo trip because it shows you have confidence and can learn from different people.
Living or touring with people from different cultures is similar to a work environment because you’ll be in a team of people with different backgrounds and opinions.
Now Jenni is a business development executive at Contiki Canada and has her own house with her husband. Looking back, she’s glad she took the opportunity to travel for a year before she got into her career.