The Idea of ‘The Big European OE’ For Those Down Under

Whenever a gap year is mentioned in Australasia, it is usually stated as ‘The Big OE’. Emphasis on the word ‘Big’ here. Seeing as most countries in the Southern Hemisphere are surrounded by sea, any venture away is considered pretty far away, therefore proving it difficult to travel to a destination for just a few weeks.

With practically every third person in the Southern Hemisphere doing some sort of OE during their lives, a gap year is almost considered a rite of passage today. You might find patterns in OE objectives depending on which continent a young Australasian traveller is focusing on. This article will primarily focus on the European Overseas Experience. One of the first and most popular OE’s for those Down Under seeing as an English visa is easy to come by.

With the growth of globalisation, overseas experiences are a lot more easier to do compared to a generation ago. In most cases, the objective is to broaden the mind and come back with some ‘life experience’ by interacting with cultures and seeing famous sights with your own eyes. For linguists it means putting those three years of Spanish classes to practice, or for Art History graduates, analysing renaissance paintings at famous galleries. Well, this is the tale 20-somethings from Down Under would tell their parents. What they don’t mention (especially on those notorious Contiki tours) are the continuous nights out ‘test tasting’ local beverages till the early hours of the morning. It will usually have them interacting with different nationalities so there is some truth in the white lie there.

For those who take the plunge into travelling around Europe, it will mean scrimping and saving for the trip and then scrimping and saving during the trip. This will all count for life experience and money management skills at the end of the day, as travellers are made to think like MacGyver during meal times and tackling the issue of fitting their life for six months into a backpack. In saying that, the lives of gap year travellers are slowly getting easier with the global phenomenon of social media increasingly influencing the way we interact.

Even in the travel realm the idea of ‘Social Travel’ has been coined, with many younger travellers using the internet to their advantage, whether it be asking for travel advice on forums, to finding ways to meet new people. Websites like Craigslist or The Local have proved helpful for finding all kinds of things temporary employment or tandem partners.

Sites like couchsurfing and Wimdu have made a mark on the internet by offering accommodation alternatives from private accommodation to having the chance to stay with locals, which would definitely enhance an overseas experience for sure. So although it might sound frugal to penny count your way through Europe, tech savvy youngsters have used the internet to their advantage, with smart ideas to connect travellers and help them save money.

So all in all, the Big OE is a pretty big deal in Australasian society. With the majority skipping around Europe before settling down in England (London) to make a few quid, there is always a sense of accomplishment and feeling of a life lived when they return to their home town busting out wise tales or sidesplittingly hilarious tales of their experiences away for many years ahead.

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