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Coming to terms with the concept of “Annual Leave”

              As a recent graduate who’s soon to start a full-time job I’ve been the savouring the summer holidays. Up until now I’ve enjoyed 23 years of academic holidays: a month at Christmas, another month at Easter and between 2-4 months off in the summer. Half-term holidays at school and reading weeks at university have provided a welcome break from the hard slog of continuous studying.

          Of course there have been exceptions: some summers I’ve held down internships and part-time jobs simultaneously, other summers I’ve voluntarily taken extra courses in subjects or activities that interest me, many an Easter break has been occupied by frantic revision for upcoming exams and most of the jobs I’ve had abroad have been 6-day-weeks and very intense, on very little pay. I have on no accounts lazily wasted my up till now plentiful amount of academic holidays.

            And I’ve always known, up until now, that there was time ahead of me to take this or that course, or to travel without strict time limits. One of my favourite hobbies is planning future holidays and trips, and I’m quickly realising that I’m going to see the number of holidays per year drop steeply… In the past 12 months I’ve taken 21 flights and had 10 separate holidays abroad, although I have only actually visited four different countries in that time.

            I’m thrilled to be starting work in two weeks’ time and it’s the next “stage”, as it were, of my life. I’m hoping my career will lead me to discover a lot more about the world and using my languages throughout my career is one of my key aims.

            Aside from my Gap Year back in 2007-8 (which was a 15-month break from academia), this past academic year tops the list of most-time-off, with a total of 6 months off. In contrast, over the next 12 months this will drop to just 25 days, excluding bank holidays.

            This will be something of an adjustment for me. As a graduation present to myself after 19 years of studying, always working towards the next qualification, I gave myself summer 2012 off, and I deliberately didn’t search for a summer job or internship. Being usually a very proactive person who’s always trying to seek out new opportunities and work experiences, this wasn’t my original plan. But then in March, at a careers talk with ex-alumni at university, one of them advised us to take the summer following graduation off and to savour long summer holidays before they become “a thing of the past”.

            So here I am, two weeks away from starting a graduate scheme, pondering my holiday entitlement for the coming year. I’ve realised I’m going to have to be a lot pickier about where and when I travel – I probably won’t be able to accept invitations on a whim, nor take long-haul holidays for several weeks at a time, nor book mid-week flights to save money… Every holiday will have to be planned in minute detail to make the most of the precious days off and to cram in as much as possible.

            I have, in my mind at least, already got a good idea of how I’ll spend my five weeks of annual leave. I’ll also try to squeeze in a few long weekends here or there.

            All I need is a simple change of mentality. But it’s not as easy as simply flicking a switch, and it’s something that’s been on my mind for about three weeks, ever since my flight touched down in London Heathrow after my last trip abroad.

            It’s not all bad news however, as I’m hoping my job will involve some travel and after all, having a salary for once will allow me to leave my backpack in the cupboard and travel in a little more style (ie. farewell Ryanair/Easyjet!) and to plusher destinations.

            In a way, starting a new job is like an adventure in itself, and as long as I treat it like that, perhaps I won’t even notice the change.


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