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Topdeck to top student

by Jessica Borten, Bond University journalism student

Some students take a gap year. Carolyn Anderson took a gap decade.

But the years living out of a suitcase and travelling Europe as a Topdeck trip manager were well spent, helping her define her career ambitions.

In 2010, Ms Anderson enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts degree but deferred her studies to move overseas and gain real-world experience before pursuing her tertiary education.

“I started university but really wanted to travel first so I went overseas,” she said.

“I was living in Ireland and worked for a photography business for a few years but decided photography wasn’t really my passion.

“I got into tour guiding because I really love history.”

In 2016, Ms Anderson scored a job with Topdeck and has spent the past four years on bus tours through Europe.

“Being a trip manager was a super challenging job because they do everything,” Ms Anderson said.

“Essentially, you have to be a psychologist for the people on tour, and do all the bookings, and help people when they’re homesick, and handle emergency situations. You have to be really grounded and calm.

“People always ask me, ‘What’s the craziest thing that ever happened?’ But there were so many random little things like having to visit the hospital or the police station in the morning.

“Showing people stuff for the first time was an incredible thing to do.”

This year, the pandemic caused the cancellation of tours around the world, forcing employees of the travel industry out of work.

After the summer season in Europe was cancelled, Ms Anderson decided to enrol in a Bachelor of International Relations at Bond University.

“After being a tour guide and learning about the history and politics of different countries I decided to study International Relations,” Ms Anderson said.

“I always wanted to come back and study. I started off really wanting to go into history; when I was studying to become a tour guide in 2016, I literally had to read the history of every single country.

“But looking through different courses, I realised that I couldn’t make the difference I wanted to studying history, so I chose International Relations instead.”

This is the first year in a decade that Ms Anderson hasn’t travelled overseas.

She misses travel but is glad to have a taste of stability in her life.

“I’ve hung my clothes up in a cupboard for the first time in a long time,” she said.

“I literally lived out of a suitcase for a decade. Things like having a routine, joining a gym, those are the kinds of things you miss when you’re travelling a lot.

“I do miss travel though, and think I’ll be at Brisbane airport the minute the borders open.

“I’ve been doing little trips around South-East Queensland so it’s nice to be able to see Australia as well.

“Next year I would really like to do a semester abroad if that’s possible.”

The Sunshine Coast Grammar School 2009 alumna said returning to her education after 10 years had been challenging but the resources at Bond University had helped her excel.

“It was definitely an adjustment having to train myself to come back and study but I’ve taken advantage of the Academic Skills Centre at Bond,” Ms Anderson said.

“I’m so happy I took time off before coming to University because it means I’ve literally taken 10 years to decide what I really want to do.

“Now that I’m back, I’m really loving it and I’m enjoying doing the readings whereas when I studied last time, they felt like a chore.

“I’ve always envied those people who graduate high school and know exactly what they want to do.

“When I graduated from high school I had no idea and it took me a long time to build up passions and realise what I wanted.

“There’s no way that 17-year-old me would have wanted to do something that involves history and politics.”

Ms Anderson said a degree will provide her with opportunities inaccessible without a university education.

“Whilst I’ve had a really cool career without an undergraduate degree, I can’t progress any further without one for what I want to do.

“It’s about the networking as well. I’ve already made connections whilst being at Bond that will help me in the future.”

Ms Anderson said her experience working with people and having an appreciation for different cultures will benefit her future career.

“The reason I started travelling was because I wanted to see and do as much as I could. I think that’s a really important aspect going into something like diplomacy,” she said.

“I want to teach people about the world. It’s important for us to learn about different countries and cultures. I think it’s quite easy over here in Australia to not quite understand what’s going on overseas.

“I started off wanting to be in diplomacy, mostly so I could still live overseas and still travel, but now I’m thinking of pursuing a career at the United Nations.”

Ms Anderson will graduate from Bond University in April 2022.

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