Travel enriches you in many ways. Here are a few ways to make that trip — during or right after college — more attainable.
Quotes about the benefits of the well-traveled life are a dime a dozen, but Aesop was right: “Adventure is worthwhile.” Travel teaches you more about yourself and the rest of the world than any other experience can. And don’t let finances get in your way. Here are a few ways to make that trip — during or right after college — more attainable.
Start a saving plan and make travel a priority
Travel doesn’t have to be a luxury — it just sometimes takes some extra work to find the bargains. While scanning airfares recently, I came across a $400 nonstop, round-trip fare between New York and Copenhagen. I also discovered a $561 round-trip fare between Hartford, Conn., and Beijing. It’s all about priorities: I recently asked my college-age cousin to join me on a trip to Florida and she balked at the cost. Scarcely a sentence later, she let me know that she’d spent $250 on a pair of sunglasses.
The college study-abroad program is the first international experience for many young people — it provides a controlled environment, typically with a group of one’s peers, to enjoy and explore a new country.
More often than not, students will apply to programs through their college or university and should enlist the help of their academic adviser. The City University of New York system, for example, has a list of programs in over 50 countries. Some are open only to students of that institution; others are open to all students. Begin planning a year in advance and keep an eye on application deadlines.
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Paying for some of these trips can be tricky. A semester in France through the American Institute for Foreign Study will run $15,000 — and that doesn’t include the flight. Fortunately, there are many scholarships available to help defray the costs. Scholarship Portal (scholarshipportal.com), Fastweb (fastweb.com) and the College Board (collegeboard.org) all have searchable scholarship databases with awards in varying amounts — many students will be able to piece together an award that makes some of the more expensive programs feasible.
Barring that, there are a couple of other options. Federal financial aid will actually cover eligible study-abroad programs. Another option is to simply pick a cheaper and shorter program. That semester in France might cost $15,000, but shorter programs will cost much, much less.
Volunteer work is a way to travel cheaply while doing some good. While some volunteer through their churches or local community organizations, others search for opportunities through clearinghouses such as Go Overseas (gooverseas.com), which lists different programs based on area of interest and destination. AmeriCorps and Teach for America are service-oriented ways to work within the United States. (Teach for America educators, it should be noted, are salaried full-time employees.) Both programs offer potential student-loan forgiveness.
Peace Corps, the government-run volunteer program, focuses on social and economic development in over 60 countries across the world (peacecorps.gov). I went to El Salvador with the Peace Corps in 2002, and would advise potential candidates to think seriously about the type of work they would like to do before they join. Those in my agroforestry cohort who had some background in agriculture or geology generally fared better than those with no experience, like me. While fumbling my way through many of the training activities, I was all thumbs — and not the green kind, either.