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How to Travel as a College Student

Being a college student usually entails being stressed, broke, and overwhelmed. If you’re a travel bug, though, you can use your college years to see more of the world! Some may be surprised by how easy it is to travel as a college student, but there are so many different options to choose from. So, if you’re itching to break free of your dorm room walls, I’ve got you covered!

School programs

Major-specific requirements and programs

As a college student, you have more resources at your fingertips than you even realize. Let’s start with the obvious: the major you’ve chosen.

Whether it’s microbiology, film, or anything in between, this is your passion and what you want to spend the rest of your life doing. While travel can be woven into any discipline (yes, even accounting), some majors come with an extra requirement. Fields such as international relations, political science, and international business all have one thing in common at some universities: they require you to study abroad. This makes a lot of sense — your school’s administration wants you to graduate with international experience (to, you know, go with the “international” part of your major). So you’re basically required to travel at least once before graduation! When travel is included in your studies, you have a chance to go abroad while gaining valuable skills in your field. It’s the best of both school and play!


Study abroad

Even if your major doesn’t require international experience, many students want to have the quintessential study abroad semester. Living in a foreign country, taking unique classes, and traveling on weekends sounds like a dream! You will definitely have friends who leave for a semester to study in France, Switzerland, Spain, China, and more.

While a semester abroad can be a priceless experience, sometimes it is not financially feasible. That said, there are many different ways to study abroad. Visit your campus’s international programs office to ask about alternatives. From full semesters and years abroad, to summer courses, winter sessions, and international volunteer trips, many different experiences are available at various price points.


Research opportunities

Another way to incorporate travel into your college experience is through research. Many undergraduates believe that research opportunities are only available to students pursuing a graduate degree. While this is sometimes the case, at many mid-sized and small universities, the curriculum and opportunities are focused towards undergrads, so this means that your professors need help with their research! Some campuses have research offices with each research project listed, while at others, a student may have to approach a professor directly. Any discipline has research potential, from chemistry to linguistics.

So how does this involve travel? Well, you may need to leave your campus to distribute surveys or collect specimens. Or, once you’ve finished your research, many students want to present at various conferences in their field. My friends and I have collectively traveled to London, Boca Raton, and the Dominican Republic on research grants. I love how endless the possibilities are when it comes to research, and I think that more college students should take advantage of those opportunities.

Volunteer work

If you don’t want to (or can’t) study abroad and aren’t interested in doing research, look no further than volunteer trips! So many schools are focused on community service and siphoning their students’ passion into helping others. Universities usually have service offices that advertise each meeting and trip that’s being held every semester. You could discover a different part of town by helping at a community garden, or visit a different city to encourage housing initiatives.

At my university, there are weekend, spring break, and May term volunteer trips that give students a chance to explore various social issues in different parts of the country. Every year, they go on one international trip as well, and have taken students to Morocco, Peru, and Costa Rica. Most college-sponsored service trips have an emphasis on education instead of infiltration, so you’ll leave having learned amazing things from the community you served in. Also, these trips may be partially subsidized by the service office to encourage participation! Through these programs, I’ve been to Oregon, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami — all at half the cost — and have walked away a more educated individual.

Leadership events

Most universities want to build their students to be leaders in their field. One way to do this is by hosting or sending students to leadership retreats. You can find these through your college’s student-led organizations, volunteer offices, freshman outreach programs, or career services center.

Leadership retreats take you out of your daily routine and to a new place, while simultaneously fostering personal growth and helping you create your own leadership style. A trip like this looks great on a resume, encourages inner reflection, and allows you to travel with like-minded people at your school!


Job opportunities

As a college student, you’ll almost certainly have at least one internship or job before you graduate. Why not get one with some travel perks? It seems out of reach, seeing as most students don’t have a lot of experience and can’t work full time during school, but if you search in the right places, you can gain experience in your field, make some extra dough, and have the opportunity to travel!

My first college job was as a tour guide in my school’s admissions office. I was hired to show prospective students around the campus, assist the admissions counselors, and be an ambassador for my program. Little did I know that it would lead to me traveling around the nation advocating for my university! Remember those college fairs you attended in high school? Or the admitted student receptions in hotels that answered your last-minute questions? I’m one of those people! This has allowed me to travel to Washington, D.C.; New York City; Denver; and many other cities while also getting paid! Although it was unexpected, this is now my favorite part of my job. Every school has an admissions office, and if you’re personable and want to advocate for your experience, you could be the perfect fit!

Secondly, each and every business needs someone to run their social media. College students are the perfect employees for this position, as we are the most up-to-date on social channels and trends. Even if marketing, PR, journalism, or digital media aren’t related to your major, everyone needs networking and communication experience. You can find these positions on job sites, through word of mouth, or right on Instagram! Make sure you’re compensated for your work, and if it is not paid, ask for travel perks. I’m an ambassador for Acanela, which means that each year I’m eligible for the ambassador retreat! If you’re interested in this program, here is all of the important information. Find a company that you love on Instagram and ask if they need an intern — you never know unless you try!

Finally, the most intimidating: internships. The most important factor of internships is that they apply to your future career. Once you know what career you’d like to ‘try out’ by participating in an internship, look for keywords in the postings. Terms like ‘international internship,’ ‘travel required,’ ‘remote,’ and ‘varied location’ can give you a hint as to which internships may give you a chance to travel. Try to find an internship in another city (or country), one that will ask you to participate in conferences, or one that gives you the chance to network with people overseas. While it may seem like these postings are rare, as the world continues to globalize, so do the jobs. 


Traveling with friends

After your part-time jobs, internships, research opportunities, and retreats, you may have a little money saved up! Not all college travel has to be done through your university. At the same time, I’d advise you not to blow all of your savings on one trip. That’s one of the reasons that you should travel with your college friends. By taking a few besties with you, food and accommodation can both be cheaper. You can stay in nicer places for less and split big portions. And with all of the breaks that a college schedule gives you (spring break/winter break/Thanksgiving/long weekends), you have ample time to get out and see the world!

Traveling with your new friends can also solidify your bond — I don’t think there’s a better way to get to know someone than experiencing a new place together. Need to book a trip for one of these breaks? Start here.


Traveling solo

Haven’t found the perfect travel buddy? College is an amazing time to begin to explore the world on your own and discover who you are. Budget backpacking can allow you to see parts of the world that none of your friends are interested in, and traveling alone allows you to meet people you never would have if you had your friends with you!

Also, when traveling alone, it’s easier to stick to a tighter budget, and you have the ultimate decision making power. Want to stay in a $5 hostel this week? No one is there to tell you they’d rather book an all-inclusive. You want to book a hiking excursion? You don’t have to convince your friend who would rather have a drink by the pool. Your trip is your trip, and nothing says “college student” like wanting the ultimate amount of independence.

Interested in finding some cool places that you might want to explore? Check out Acanela’s destinations page to find your dream trip!

Written by Grace Poulos