University Student Travel
University students are usually more independent from their families, but similarly to high school students,travel costs may a limiting factor.
If you feel comfortable, travel independently of a guided experience either on your own or with a few friends. Budget travel is most affordable, in Asia (except Japan), eastern Europe, and parts of Africa. You will likely find many other young people in hostels and at popular tourist sites. Lodging costs are cheap to free (see Tip #4). And, food costs are kept low by shopping at local markets instead of eating at restaurants. Budget travel blogs are prolific, and are full of tips on topics like affordable car rentals.
Seek out travel as part of your curriculum.
Study abroad programs are often prohibitively expensive. Cover costs through grants, scholarships (money that does not require repayment), work study at home, and work/study visas allowing a student to work while abroad.
Seek out research projects with professors.
I asked my academic advisor if there was a professor who I could assist with research on monkeys in South America, since I’d received a lead through the grapevine. I learned that the professor was not traveling to S.A. that summer, but another professor, Ms. Stanton, took students to Africa. By coincidence, I was in her course that term. I screwed up all my courage, and on the last day of the course, I stood in line with all the other students on the patio to speak with Ms. Stanton. I was so nervous, so I let everyone else cut in front of me. Finally, I was the only student remaining, and Ms. Stanton asked with a sigh “How can I help you with your grade?” Taken aback, since in my nervousness I hadn’t realized that requesting a better grade was the topic du jour. I blurted out “I heard you take students to Kenya. I was wondering if I could maybe go, too.”
This time it was Ms. Stanton’s who was surprised. She told me that I should email her requesting an appointment to discuss the position. That was good enough for me– I turned and sped away.
At our appointment, she assigned me a book to read and a report to write, and eventually I received the news that I was going to Kenya for 6 weeks of field research with all expenses paid and a stipend for my work, which included data analysis upon my return home. In all, I conducted research for 6 weeks, and then traveled independently for 2 weeks.
People to talk to
Speak to as many people as possible about your travel goals, and maintain persistence. Travel opportunities are often difficult to find, since universities do not always have an organized method of gathering and distributing information on available resources.
- Professors, including those in the arts, sciences, and soft sciences. Professors often collaborate with others and travel to conferences, meetings, and symposiums around the world.
- Academic advisors. Even if they don’t know of a lead when you speak to them, if they hear of something later they may reach out to you since you’ve made them aware of your interest.
- Friends. They may have a tip that will lead you in the right direction.
- Clubs. Those around your major, such as a geology or theater group
- Volunteer organizations you are a member of. Often a school chapter is part of a national or international organization, such as Rotaract.
Who else at your school or in your community should you network with when seeking out travel opportunities?