As some HSC students banally weigh up the merits of studying at Sydney or Macquarie in the new year, some like Barker College student Marcus Hawley are choosing a wilder unknown way.
"It was with some trepidation that I committed to a GAP year in such a foreign environment. But when I learnt that it is a strong rugby school, with 20 teams fielded each weekend, and that the school boasts its own golf course, I felt that much more comfortable".
Hawley, two weeks shy of 18, will be placed in charge of two middle school rugby teams. He will live alongside the boys in the boarding house, just as he has in Sydney for the last two years. Among his other duties, he will accompany the boys to compulsory evensong four nights per week.
Boarding life will come as no shock for Hawley. Though his family lives at Warrawee, only a handful of suburbs away from Barker, he boarded at the Hornsby school for his final years so he could concentrate on his studies and many extra-curricular activities, chief among them rugby and golf.
There will be some changes, though. For a start, boys are grouped into "socials" rather than "houses" as they are in Australia. He will have to get used to referring to prefects as "pups" and new boys as "stigs". And Hawley is still scratching his head about one aspect of the school: it enjoys its own beagle pack.
"Don’t get me wrong, I know it won’t be easy. But I think I will grow through the experience. Broaden my horizons. Start to think in new and challenging ways. And experience a new way of life. For example, there will be snow in winter."
"I think I’ll mature a lot over the year. And that will make it so much easier for me to make the hard decision I have to make when I get back: should I study commerce or business?"
There will be one concession to the comforts of home, however. Hawley’s older brother, Quentin, is already living in England, having embarked on a zany adventure of his own. The third year solicitor, who captained Barker in 1998, is working for a year at Freshfields in London, having grown restless of the monotony of life at a major Sydney law firm.
"Quentin has promised to show me a bit of London, which will be great because he’s great fun and really on the pulse."
Before boarding that plane in early January, Hawley will have a final taste of an Australian summer and a first taste of adult independence, with a "Schoolies Week" trip planned for next week.
"Luke, Sarah, Andrew, and I, and a bunch of girls from Abottsleigh who we met through HMS Pinafore, are going to spend some time at Luke’s parent’s holiday place at Hawks Nest. We’ve been going there every Christmas for the last four years."
It will be a short idyl, before Hawley is plunged for the first time, into the shock of an English winter.