While at school, the 18-year-old from Perthshire said she had “been sure” she wanted to go to university, but was put off by rising costs and a lack of savings to finance her studies.
Instead, she is relishing her time in Thailand, where she has helped young students to learn English in order to pay her way.
“I think I want to study nursing when I get back, but I don’t see the rush to go straight to university from school. I had a part-time job back home, but it wasn’t much money and I wanted to have fun,” she said.
“I hope that when I do end up applying for a job it will count in my favour, as it shows I’ve gone out and done something different by myself.
“I’m not doing any nursing work, it’s been teaching English, but I suppose that’s a skill too. I’ve been meeting new people and helping them, so even though it’s not nursing, I think it’s been good for me.”
As well as working with local youths, Ms McLean said she had befriended people from all over the world, and spent a memorable weekend on Koh Phangan, a tropical island popular with backpackers.
She said: “It’s been amazing to see places I never thought I would and meet new people.
“I’d read a lot online about Thailand before I came, so I knew what I was going to be doing and I’ve always felt safe, I’ve been travelling with friends.
“I came out in October and I’m hoping to maybe travel about a bit. I don’t know if I’ll go to other places. Some people I’ve met have been to Vietnam and said I have to go there, but I’ll see.
“I think I’m more social now even though I’ve only been here a few months, and I feel I have a lot more confidence. You have to arrange a lot yourself and budget and plan your travelling, but I’ve enjoyed all that.”
While her father helped to pay for part of her trip, the teenager said she was hoping to pay him back in full on her return to Scotland.
“I couldn’t have done it without the help of my parents,” she added. “I’m trying to keep a bit of money by every month to help save, so I hope I’ll be able to pay my dad back, even though he’s probably not expecting me to do that.”