The Year of Three Summers

On Monday my youngest daughter left for her gap year in New Zealand. I'm a great believer in people taking a break between school and university. One year is the minimum. I took several years and found university much easier as a result. Having a break is all the more important in her case. After she comes back next summer she will be starting a course of study that will take at least seven years to complete.

Some of her friends who are doing the same kind of course are going straight from school to university. I think that will turn out to be a mistake. Two of them are also living at home while they're studying. That really is a mistake. The essence of university is that you leave mummy and live on your own. I read recently that 22% of UK university students live at home, but in this part of Scotland living at home is more the norm than the exception, with over 70% of university students still living with their parents. This means that they commute into the university each morning, and commute home at five o'clock at night. You should not do university as a commuter.

My daughter flew out with Emirates via Dubai, Singapore and Brisbane. The traditional way for the UK gap student to visit Australia and New Zealand is for them to a hitchhike across Europe and Asia, and then swim the last lap to the antipodes. In her case it was a little easier. I bought the airline ticket, and since I had a lot of air miles accumulated with Emirates, I booked her into business class for the leg from Glasgow to Dubai. That meant that Emirates sent a chauffeur driven car to pick her up from home and take her to the airport. I know that's not exactly roughing it, but what the hell. When I mentioned that I had bought the tickets and part of the journey was going to be in business class it didn't go down very well with her siblings. They had to pay for their own tickets. At one time I used to try and treat them all the same, but it's just not possible. So now I just do what I feel like doing. If I feel rich I'm generous, if I feel poor I'm not.

At the moment she's looking around Auckland. It's a nice city, though I prefer Christchurch. Then she'll go down to stay with her sister on the west coast of the North Island. They've not see one another for three years. It will be interesting to see how they get on. When my eldest daughter left for New Zealand the youngest was only 15. Now she's 18 and a good deal more formidable. I give it a week before the first knife fight.

The current plan is her to spend some time with her sister, and then move around both the North and South Island doing various jobs. Summer is just beginning over there. When it starts to get a bit cold in New Zealand she will be coming back to Scotland for the third summer in a row. Kids have it pretty tough now, you know.

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