Alumni Spotlight: Lauren Bithell

I am 19 and I went to Australia with the Gapforce programme. This was my first one and first trip ‘alone’.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this programme because of the main attraction of sailing in Whitsundays. This is a chance to see so many amazing places and also meet some new people. I’m so glad that I did, as I have definitely got friends I shall keep in contact from around the world. I have memories that I shall treasure and a list of places I would happily travel back to see again.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Gapforce helped with a lot of the paperwork and were very good at contacting me about what I needed to fill in. I had to apply for a visa on my own, only because I applied for a working visa to stay on in Australia to work for a few months after. They guided me through all my medical forms and checks and provided me with a thorough kit list also.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The advice I would give someone is to book it! If you read about the description of the trip and people's reviews who have been on it, it explains everything you will be doing and your leader will help you all stick to the schedule of when you do what. I was very hesitant about this trip because being half way across the world terrified me, but I’m so glad that I did this trip and now I feel like I’m able to travel anywhere on my own where as before I wouldn’t have been.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Depending upon where you are and the activities planned, the days can vary. Some days have a lot of action-packed activities which are included in the program. These tend to be early mornings and days you need to listen to your leader for information, but you still have your evenings free. Other days there is a lot of free time to do whatever you want to do. This is where you can do additional activities such as skydiving or another day on the reef!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was getting to and from the airport to our hostel. However, there was a really organized system provided by Gapforce. When I met my leader at the airport, he told me exactly what I was doing and stood with me at the shuttle bus stop until it arrived. This transferred me to our hostel, and the bus driver made sure you knew where you were getting off. The same when we went to the airport. I was scared that I wouldn’t get to the right terminal; however, my leader and Gapforce had already insured that it was all arranged for me so all I had to do was check in.

What did you like the most in the program?

Throughout this trip, just getting to know everyone you were with was brilliant. You build such a strong bond with people very quickly, which makes the trip fly by. There are times where you won’t all get along or agree, but that’s inevitable when you spend so much time together for 7 weeks. I have made some amazing memories with people I never imagined meeting. It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever done.