By Sylvia Kohl
Common advice given to youngsters, especially college students, is to travel when you’re young and explore new places. But of course, that’s easier said than done. College students are trying to stay afloat in their classes, spending dozens of hours a week studying and reading, and attending mandatory classes several times a day. On top of that, they’re loaded with debt—an average of $30,000 per borrower, according to TICAS—and oftentimes, don’t have a steady source of income to provide them with the means to travel.
So is traveling while you’re still in college as important as it sounds?
The Benefits of Traveling in College
These are some of the reasons why “travel while you’re young” has become such popular advice:
- Learning new things. Traveling to new countries is also a good way to learn about other cultures, locations, and people. College is nothing if not a learning opportunity, so stacking a level of multicultural exposure with your class-bound academics is a way to enter adulthood as an even better-rounded individual.
- Going with roommates and friends. When you’re in college, you’re going to build lots of strong connections with the people you live with, study with, and randomly encounter. You’ll never get a chance to build bonds with that number of peers again, so take advantage of it. When your friends and roommates start looking for a hotel room in Florida for spring break, join them—you may never get this chance again.
- Taking advantage of college programs. Of course, college is also an opportune time to travel overseas with a study abroad program. Most universities and hundreds of organizations offer opportunities for young college students to travel to another country and study, often with most of the expenses compensated. It’s an inexpensive way to travel while still maintaining your focus on academics—and also having a strong experience that can open opportunities for your future career.
- Enjoying your freedom. You’ll have lots of responsibilities in college, but not as many as you’ll have once you graduate. Though exceptions exist, most college students don’t have a full-time job and don’t have families to take care of. In a few years, you’ll find it almost impossible to carve time in your schedule for a week-long adventure, so take advantage of this opportunity while you have it.
- Using hostels. Youth hostels exist to provide inexpensive, reasonable housing for young travelers. You won’t be able to use them forever, so consider taking a trip while you can still rely on them for inexpensive accommodations.
The Challenges (and Tips to Beat Them)
Unfortunately, there are also some challenges and drawbacks to traveling as a student:
- Paying for the trip. If you’re struggling with your budget, it may seem impossible to travel the world, but there are strategies you can use to overcome the cost burden. For example, rely on inexpensive accommodations, rather than hotels, and buy your food at local markets rather than going out to eat. You can also travel as part of a group to split most expenses and possibly get discounted rates—and don’t forget to do your research in advance to see if there are any sponsored travel opportunities through your school.
- Maintaining your academic standards. Keeping up your studies can be hard while you’re traveling. However, you can always reserve your travel for off periods, such as between semesters, or plan ahead so you can do your coursework while traveling.
- Staying safe. Being young in an unfamiliar area may make you a vulnerable target. Most youth hostels are reasonably safe, but since you’ll typically be staying with a group of strangers, it can be a bit unpredictable. Keep your wits about you, travel with a companion when you can, and do lots of research on an area before you start exploring on your own.
Is It Worth It?
If you go through your entire college experience without traveling, your life isn’t going to be ruined. However, there are some advantages to traveling before, during, and shortly after college that you can’t get again. The challenges are noteworthy but conquerable, so try to travel at least once during your tenure as a university student. You’ll have more opportunities to travel in the future, but there’s no time like the present.
Sylvia Kohl is an IT teacher with more than 7 years of professional experience. Her main spheres of interest are e-education and beta-testing. This writer chose news about the increasing role of IT usage in colleges and schools as the most common topic for her articles.