Adventure is out there!

Posted on March 31, 2012 by


Name: Han Shu May
Gap: Dec 2009 – Dec 2010
Interests: Music, hiking, outdoor activities, flea markets, food, meeting new people, random facts, tv, reddit, manga, ATLA/LOK(if you know this, you’re awesome).
Education: Canadian Pre-U ’11 @ Taylors CSJ, University of Adelaide ‘15

Believe it or not but my parents actually encouraged me to take a gap year (yes, parents like mine actually exist in Malaysia, have faith in your parents too!). This idea had been floating around since Form 3 for me, but it was during Form 4 that my mum showed me this brochure she got from someone and I checked it out and everything pretty much fell into place after that.

I worked out my gap year around the Raleigh expedition. I was bound for the autumn expedition in October 2010, so that left me with 8 months on the calendar to do whatever I wanted. At that time, I was sure I would go into hospitality so I started working towards preparing my resume/gaining experience in that area.

Top priority on my list: Get working experience i.e: a part-time job in customer service. I worked weekday shifts at Old Town White Coffee, and during weekends, I’d worked with a catering company as an on-call part-timer (basically, they called me whenever they needed staff for functions). Working as a waitress at OTWC was fairly normal, but it was my time spent with the catering company that I experienced first-hand the meaning of ‘being thrown into the deep end to learn how to swim’. It was pretty intimidating as there was no ‘guide book’ to follow. I had to learn how to watch others work, and pick up fast or else face embarrassing myself, or worse, upsetting a customer. Working part-time, especially in the customer service sect really gives you new perspective of things. Ever wondered how the food ended up on your plate during a dinner party? Or how clean your plates and cutlery really are? The pay was low, and the hours were long but in the end of the day, you really can’t put a price on experience gained.

Next was: pick up a new language (this seems to be a very popular option for gap yearers) Hospitality was big Europe, so I choose do learn French. I did my course at Allaince Francais and I would recommend this for students who want to sit for DELF. It is mostly academic based as the course material is based on DELF exams. I did get to learn a lot about French culture at the same time, because she would explain to us about French culture, how there are different customs in different parts of France, the university systems, public transport, etc.

Back to the expedition storyline: To my pleasant surprise, I found out that there was a support group run by alumni of the Malaysian venturers. So I went for their Monthly Meetings (MM) to find out more about Raleigh in general, and that was the beginning of some of the best times I’ve had in my life. The monthly meetings are usually themed around one of the Raleigh phases – community, environment and adventure. During 2010, some of the highlights of their Monthly Meets were the Mud-hut building events, learning about composting then actually doing it, trek to Sungai Pisang, rock-climbing at Camp5 just to name a few. Then there was the Introduction Weekend (IW), a 3-day, 2-night camp. Till today, no weekend has ever topped that one yet.

After 8 months of the above mentioned and 6 immunity jabs later, I was finally off for my expedition! If I were to tell anything more than a short summary I’m afraid this post would expand to the length of an academic paper, so I’ll spare you the details (but if you’re interested there’s links at the end of this post). Brief overview of my expedition: I spent 10 weeks in Sabah working on various projects such as, building a kindergarten at Kg. Rumantai (the locals there are lovely people!), work at Imbak Valley on building a new campsite for scientific expeditions, and trekked through the jungles of Long Pasia carrying a 15kg rucksack the whole way. I learnt how to use a parang, set up a basha/tarp in under 10 minutes, how to make a meal in the jungle and so much more. I got to meet people from all around the world – mostly people from Britain, but there were people from the Netherlands and Australia – and I still keep in touch with some of them. It’s not a ‘package holiday’ or a life-changing, guarantee satisfaction back sort of thing, but you get as good as (and often more than) you give.

I would have stayed and travelled Sabah for a while more, but I came back to enrol for college because it was about time I get back on track with my education. I joined the amazing CPU student body and enjoy college life as much as I enjoyed my gap year (shoutout to my physics class and Mr. Singh. You guys ROCK!). I also continued volunteering with Raleigh through the KL support group and that, is a whole other story by itself. But in short, I came back, got voted into the 2011/2012 Committee, learned more than I ever expected to while in office, made life-long friends, met some amazing people, did things I never thought I would (try: sneaking into a privately owned hot springs at 1am).

There will be times during your gap year when you are wondering what the hell you were thinking taking a whole year off. Or maybe you feel like you didn’t plan it well enough. It’s completely normal. My experiences have shown me again and again that everything happens for a reason. So don’t be deterred by setbacks or your own mistakes, work around or over it because it will work out for the best. My gap year gave me the time to learn, be not afraid of making mistakes, appreciate the simple things and take chances.

No regrets.


(trying to) Swim at Imbak Falls


Beginning of the trek through Long Pasia.


PADI license, check.


The amazing Raleigh Comm.

For you who are interested in this ‘Raleigh’ thing I keep going on about here are some useful links:

Raleigh KL Facebook page:

Raleigh Borneo (Sabah) blogspot:

Posted in: Profile, Skills, Sports, Travel