More school leavers heading offshore to celebrate
Posted Tue 12 Nov 2013, 5:13pm AEDT
While thousands of teenagers prepare to descend on Queensland’s Gold Coast for the annual Schoolies Week pilgrimage, a growing number are choosing a different destination.
Many students and parents believe overseas travel is a safer option, although doctors warn that some young people are ignorant of the health risks they face.
Travel medicine expert Dr Deb Mills is encouraging high school graduates to ensure they are vaccinated before leaving Australia, to avoid diseases such as rabies, hepatitis A and dengue fever.
“They just don’t realise that these things exist,” she said.
“They go to countries like Bali and they get bitten by an animal and they ring me, very distressed, because they’ve been bitten by a monkey or a dog.
“If they get bitten by an animal overseas and they’re not properly treated they can die.”
Companies organising overseas events
School leaver Helen Driscoll chose to head overseas after finishing school last year, travelling to an organised schoolies event in Fiji.
“My parents were a lot happier for me to go overseas to Fiji,” she said.
“They saw it as a safer alternative than the Gold Coast.”
Victorian high school graduate Karen Keiser wanted something more substantial from her schoolies week experience.
She worked as a volunteer at an orphanage in Argentina.
“Personally I gained a whole bunch of independence, I gained confidence,” she said.
“I gained a sense of just knowing who I am and what I want to do out of this world.”
An increasing number of companies are organising programs and events overseas targeted at school leavers.
Unleashed Travel took 3,000 students to Fiji alone last year.
‘Look out for each other’
Schoolies Week has had tragic consequences both on the Gold Coast and abroad.
During last year’s Gold Coast celebrations, Isabelle Colman died in a fall from a high-rise balcony.
Brisbane teenager Harrison Kadell drowned in a swimming pool at a Fijian resort during a Schoolies Week event last year.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade smart traveller website urges school leavers to look out for each other and provides advice on staying safe during schoolies celebrations.