Exploring Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois.
I truly believe that some of my best memories over the last three years I’ve been in college have been formed while I was traveling. This past weekend I had a study abroad reunion with the friends I made in Greece. Even over a year later we make it a point to get together and reminisce over our time spent abroad.
Too often students stay bunkered down on campus and don’t get out. Whether it’s exploring the city your campus is located in, or the state, surrounding states, and even international travel, it’s important to get out of your comfort zone.
So why don’t more college students make traveling a priority?
Misconceptions of Student Travelers
There are two huge misconceptions when it comes to college students and traveling:
- Traveling is too expensive.
- All college students do is party when they travel.
I’m here to tell you both of these misconceptions are simply that – misconceptions. Of course, there are always exceptions, but a majority of traveling is both affordable and sober.
These ideas exist for a few reasons. In regards to traveling, most college students are worrying about student loans, housing, groceries, and other first-time expenses. Covering this with a minimum wage job can be intimidating and challenging.
People also often confuse traveling with vacationing. Growing up, you may have gone on vacation with your family. This involves many plane tickets, staying in a hotel, renting a car, and paying for group activities and large dinners. Anyone who thinks of vacationing would agree that it’s expensive, and that college students probably can’t afford all of those luxuries.
As for partying, there are plenty of stories to go around about American students visiting countries with lower drinking ages abusing this opportunity. However, many of the stories friends tell may be exaggerated, and it definitely didn’t happen every night.
Looking back at the Greek island, Naxos, from the ancient Portara.
How College Students Can Afford to Travel
If studying abroad is something you’re passionate about, then go for it! I am a huge advocate for study abroad, as it was one of the best experiences in my life. While the initial price may be expensive, there are many, many resources to help cover the costs.
Students can apply for scholarships, grants and loans. Asking for all the resources possible in your school’s study abroad office, as well as reaching out to the professors leading the trip is the best way to find financial assistance. You can also apply for scholarships through the study abroad programs you travel with, and research private and government scholarships.
Tip: Compare prices of the group flight to discounted websites like Student Universe. Sometimes you can book a seat on the same exact flight for a lower cost! Don’t automatically assume the group flight will be the most cost-effective option.
Aside from choosing to study abroad, students can simply travel on a budget. There are so many affordable traveling options available to students, as well as discounts! Using websites like Student Universe to find cheap plane tickets can drastically cut the cost of airfare.
As well, opting to stay in hostels can be the most effective way to save money! Instead of spending $100 per night on a hotel room, a hostel can cost as little at $8 per night.
Walking places instead of renting a car or taking a taxi is another way students save money. They are already used to walking all across campus and its no different than walking the streets of a city!
And don’t forget to take advantage of being a student. Bringing your ID with you is vital to getting discounts in museums, amusement parks, and other activities you want to do while traveling.
Taking pictures under the Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park in Utah.
There’s More to Study Abroad than Partying
Enjoying a Mai Tai while sitting on the rooftop bar of my hotel in Athens was one of the best memories from my trip. I was only 20 when I went to Greece, so it felt fun and a bit scandalous to be able to drink alcohol when I had always been told I was too young.
I even support those students who want to go to a bar or a club while they are abroad. You will meet some really fun people, and it’s one way to get to know your study abroad travel mates outside of organized group activities. However, this doesn’t happen all throughout the trip.
When studying abroad students will spend a few hours a day at class, even though it’s an unconventional setting. It’s usually early in the morning to make sure every class gets a chance to meet before embarking on group excursions. Most days the itinerary will be packed with mandatory activities, and students won’t have the time or energy to party every night. As well, they have to be coherent and energetic the next day to make it through another long day of class and traveling.
As well, this is an opportunity to explore an entirely new culture. Many students will take advantage of this and use free time to shop, go to the beach, try new foods, and even take naps after long days in the sun. There is so much more to do than party, which they can easily do at home.
My first time seeing a cactus in San Diego, California.
Why College Students Need to Travel More
There are so many huge changes that happen to young adults in their early twenties. They are on their own for the first time. They are being exposed to new people who have completely different outlooks on life. Ideas they have never heard of are opening their minds. It is in these four years that students start to shape themselves into their best version of themselves. They form their own opinions, discover new passions, and their values and beliefs are tested constantly.
For this reason, traveling only enhances all of these experiences. College students can be exposed to even more new things by exploring foreign cities and meeting people whose way of life has been completely different from their own. In a time so essential to becoming who you are, being tossed out of your comfort zone and into new challenges says a lot about your character.
Traveling will put you in problematic situations that you have to be creative about solving. How you react to setbacks will tell you a lot about yourself. When I traveled to Washington D.C. this summer, I went to the wrong airport when I was trying to fly home. Instead of letting this ruin the end of my trip, my friend and I called and Uber and rushed to Raegan International Airport. We made the flight, and learned to double check what airport initials stand for. Plenty of these situations will arise when traveling, especially internationally. Being able to think on your toes and problem solve will be very valuable to you in the future.
At the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
Something that is unique to students and young adults is that they have the time and the freedom to travel. Students are independent. Usually they aren’t tied down to a family, so they have the freedom to travel wherever they want, whenever they want.
After graduation, most people will continue on to work 40 hours a week and earn two weeks of vacation in the summer. However, in school you get regular breaks that should be taken advantage of. Use fall, winter and spring breaks to take cool trips around the country, and then use summer vacation to explore even farther.
While dedicating entire summer breaks to internships can be extremely valuable, don’t forget that traveling is valuable too. Employers like to see candidates who are well traveled because it shows an appreciation for other cultures, problem-solving skills, adaptability, and buckets of other resume-building strengths. Never assume that it wouldn’t be beneficial in the long run to travel often.
And finally, remember those friends I mentioned earlier? You’ll meet some great people through study abroad. They’ll be friends long after you return home, and you’ll have memories that will last a lifetime.
KIIS Greece reunion, August 2017
And that, my friends, is why college students should travel more. Until next time, happy exploring!