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  • Hannah Moloney

Why taking a study-cation was the best thing for my career & how you can do it too

Updated: May 10



It’s easy to get burnt out in an industry fuelled by passion, emotions & the vast unknown. Marine biology/conservation/eco-tourism is an industry filled mostly by internships, volunteers and low-paying salaries. 


Even as ocean-loving individuals, there’s only a certain amount of “give” we have in us before our fuel-tanks run dry. And when you feel the tanks running near empty, it is important to attend to this asap! This is so you don’t risk forgetting the reasons why you ended up in this situation in the first place - for the love of the oceans!


After working 5 years in the industry, I felt like my career had slammed on its breaks.


I was doing the same thing, day in day out. I was dealing with too many tourists than my introverted personality could handle and I wasn’t getting paid enough for the amount of responsibility I had. I was working on the incredible Ningaloo Reef as a guide and deckhand for whale shark and manta ray snorkel tours (don’t get me wrong, I lurvvved it!). But it still wasn’t marine biology.. After a conversation with an industry professional, I realised that I couldn’t progress in my field without up-skilling or going back to university; even though I had years of experience in the field. 



The following week I started my search through the vast resource that we call the Internet. I found a Dive Master program in Indonesia that was also a research internship and I found a Coxswain course (entry-level commercial boat captain) that didn’t cost the entirety of my savings. 


I then started to plan my life (movements, travel, houses, counting my funds, part-time work) around the newly-committed deadlines of these courses. 


I was warned against up skilling in two different fields without getting work-placement experience first (these friends are the managers of a dive centre who hire staff as DM’s & Coxswains). And this was for good reason. Too many qualifications, not enough skills or experience. But something deep down inside my tummy felt like it was the right thing to do for this time in my life. Another friend who is just like me; he is also known for making reckless life decisions (by the way this reckless friend recently sailed to Indo on a mega yacht which had a private submarine, cool right?) told me “do it, you’ve figured it out before, you’ll figure it out again”.


With this feeling inside me, tunnel vision towards my goals and support from friends/fam; I left everything behind and I quit my job.


My brother and I moved out of our seaside shack and headed south where we both went back to school. It was my first time returning to school since finishing Uni 5 years prior. I stood out like a sore thumb; a hippy gal who rode her bicycle to the industrial marine port of Fremantle to EMC Training. I opted out of the accomodation recommended to me by the institute - a strippers bar & bottelo’ across the street from school. Instead I chose a share-house that I found on Gumtree with an incredible lady who lived within bicycle distance of the Institute.


Doing my Coxswain G1NC course was something I had wanted to do since before I'd ever worked on boats. It was a big challenge for me to do something so focused on practical learning, but completing the training after 2 months of classroom, field and exams (practical & verbal) was one of the most joyous achievements to date.




I returned home for the summer for some much needed time with my family, closest friends and I met my now-boyfriend. Summer on the Great Ocean Road is something I will always treasure.


Beginning of the year, I traveled to Indonesia with my friend to start our Dive Master Training with Indo Ocean Project. This DM program is focused on research diving and marine conservation and it was exactly what I needed to get my head back in the science game. An incredible 2 months of diving around the coral gardens of Nusa Pendia, trading fear of the hectic currents to finally loving them and learning from an inspirational team.




Here is my 10 step guide on how to take a study-cation


1. Write down your goals: Short-term & Long-term. Career & Personal


2. Create a list of the activities, hobbies, moments and people who make you feel most alive

3. What does your future dream job look like? What are the baby-steps you could take to get you closer and closer to making this a reality?


4. Open up a vortex of internet research: search for courses, places you could call home, internships, organisations that interest you, online forums


5. Create a resume and cover letter. Use an online resume builder for inspiration and don’t sell yourself short. Get someone to proof-read


6. Make phone calls, send emails, network with people, attend events, ask questions, research..research...research. If you put your intentions out to the universe, you never know in what way the answers might return to you


7. Once you get some responses; compare prices, date availability, program suitability


8. Once you find something that rings true to you, "lock it in Eddy!" Commit!


9. Plan your next steps: consider finances, time scheduling and travel options


10. Stick to your plans and don’t back-out once things start to get a little more difficult. Again, commit!




Taking a study-cation and having a break from my career was one if the hardest things I’d ever chosen to do.


But generally speaking when something is extra difficult, it usually has the most rewarding outcome.


Taking a break from my career to study, earn a normal salary and move back home; gave me the chance to see things more clearly. I had the time to re-analyse my worth, process my goals and deconstruct the ideals I had created in my mind. Taking a study-cation was the best thing I could have done in that time of my life!



Pics: @naomirosephoto @lil_pam @sealife_differently @oceanwildly

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