Competitions: Plug the gap with a year long walkabout

Win a gap year trip to Australia - and pounds 2,000.

Going walkabout before university not only provides challenge, adventure and a boost to personal development, it also has the long-term benefit of making you more employable.

That was one of the findings of the Royal Mail's Gap Year survey - which also established that Scottish graduates are the most enthusiastic about gap years.

In addition, according to the survey more than half of those graduates who do not take any time out, very much regret it later.

That is one of the reasons why the Royal Mail's international division has joined forces with The Independent and Campus Travel to offer a gap year competition.

The winner will be able to take a fellow gap-year friend to Australia - the first prize being two British Airways London to Sydney tickets (courtesy of Campus Travel), with the option of stopping in Thailand on the way there and back, and pounds 2,000 spending money from Royal Mail International.

Whether or not you win, you will not come away empty-handed: all entrants will be sent the Royal Mail Gap Year Guide - a handy booklet produced in association with Lonely Planet, providing useful advice on how to prepare for a year away - and a pack of six aerogrammes to keep in touch with friends and family overseas, worth pounds 1.99.

To enter, simply tell us in no more than 500 words where you would go and why, if taking your gap year in Australia or the Far East. Be it on Phuket or Port Lincoln, Murwillumbah or Mae Saraing, the essay should be both informative and entertaining - as if you were writing a letter back to friends at home.

To enter, you must be either under 26 years old or a registered student under 32 years old, and you must send your entry by Friday, 21 November to: Royal Mail/Independent Gap Year Competition, 22 Endell Street, London WC2H 9AD. The winner will be announced on these pages on 20 December. He or she must book all travel before the end of March 1998, and complete the trip before the end of March 1999.

Campus Travel is one of the primary suppliers of travel services to the UK's student and youth population. For further information about the company's "one stop shop" travel service, call 0171-730 3402 or consult its website, located at www.campustravel. co.uk/

Usual Newspaper Publishing rules apply, and the decision of the judges at Royal Mail International, The Independent and Campus travel will be final. Happy writing, and happy travels.

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