My journey so far has taught me a lot, and there is still quite some way to go. Every business is different and no two career paths can ever be the same, but there are some lessons that I know I would have benefited from when I was starting out.
Picking on backpackers is a little harsh, you might think. The bangle wearing youth is an easy target. Fresh from the Home Counties, and swaddled in tie-dye, these youngsters can hardly be blamed for being overawed by the experience.
After the experience of travelling solo to Thailand, my confidence has grown enormously. If one culture can accept me as a "normal" person, I have to make every other person treat me in the same way. I feel as though my confidence now shows people that my burns do not bother me, and therefore they shouldn't bother them.
I sound annoyed, and I am. I worked incredibly hard for my degree, and I'm very willing to work. Problem is, going to University doesn't seem to be providing the happy ending I was looking for.
So the policy is not fault-free and will affect the poorest students the most. But it is better than some of the alternatives, such as cutting the number of higher education places, which would directly reduce the opportunity to study at a higher level, and the Government was elected on a mandate of reducing the deficit further.
If there's one thing I can guarantee about next year's baby-fresh intake, it's their enthusiasm. I'll arrive onto campus next year, a jaded third-year, to be met with long lines first-years on their guided tours of campus, hurrying along like over-excited ducklings on their first outing.
Looking back, what I remember vividly is the dedication and enthusiasm of those who taught me. The practical skills I learnt from this vocational training have stayed with me for life and provided a solid foundation for my career as a garden designer. I have extremely happy, fond memories of this time - much better memories than those in the classroom not really interested in what I was being taught.
The Open University is D.I.Y for the mind. With the tools they provide, you'll be able to build something useful, sustainable and concrete. If you want it, you can have it, all you have to do is apply yourself and keep going, regardless of how hard it gets. You can do it, and you won't regret trying.
Mum probably won't still be here when I graduate. She will probably die whilst I'm still at uni. I have to cram twenty or thirty years of visits into twenty or thirty days/weeks/months. I have to ask all my questions now; predict what I might want to know in years to come. Each birthday might be Mum's last, so rather than forget it I want to make it special.
I would often hear stories from people that have attended events like this in the past - but experiencing it first-hand made it clearer to me more than ever that the 'black students' movement' is broken. It does not stand for equality and it certainly does not stand for the greater good. It is a drastically misinformed and hypocritical movement, stuck in the past and fuelled with unnecessary anger.
Basic education in the UK is a right, higher education is not. Nevertheless, the days when university education was only available to those from privileged backgrounds, with only a few genuinely gifted others, is very much over.
Anxiety is a state of being distracted and worried, but it goes further than that. It starts as unease, and in fact it ticks away as that unsettling feeling in the background when you suffer for long enough, but it grows like mould. It spreads slowly but surely over time with the right conditions.
When entering the world of employment, a degree in your chosen field is fairly essential. A university level of education will be a minimum requirement when looking for a job or graduate scheme after university. But is your degree the most important part of your CV? Perhaps not.
Great leaders know how to listen. They are humble enough to learn from failures of their own and champion the lighthouse success of others. They act because their moral compass knows only that direction. And they build impact by igniting action.
So you've decided the university, the course, packed your bags, bought the bus or plane ticket and ready to get going on what should be a year of intense study, self-exploration and to ultimately get the degree you need to do what you really want to do...
I have therefore come to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter which one you pick. Both guarantee a great and eye-opening experience. You can always go travelling after university, just like you can always go to university after travelling. If you want to do both, you merely have to decide on the order in which you wish to do it.