Epic Solo Travel-Studying Abroad-Teenagers to Seniors
Being a student abroad at any age is one of the best kept secrets how to see the world. While I was still in elementary school, I was intrigued to learn that several neighbors were heading off to Paris for a “Junior Year Abroad”. In short order, my friends and I began greeting each other in imperfect French with “Comment allez-vous?”
At that time, multiple colleges in the United States had well-established language programs abroad with France being the most popular. A smaller number of high schools offered a range from short-term summers away to semester or full-year programs. I tried several of these exchange programs both in the US and Europe. For the latter, I found myself with one other young American girl attending a German Gymnasium (High School). As the only foreign students in a town of three hundred, we were thrilled to watch Hans and Sissy (two wild boars) frolicking through the moat surrounding the local castle. Within two weeks’ arrival, we parlayed a trip for a weekend away with a family friend in France. Unfortunately, with our youthful exuberance, we had unknowingly violated our program’s prohibition of no outside foreign travel during the term. So at the end of only two weeks, we just missed being sent home. The lesson learned? Be sure to know what the rules are!
Two great features of studying abroad combined with travel:
- Age is not a factor. Programs currently range from high school to seniors to somewhere in between. Even while working full-time, what better way is there to have a summer vacation abroad than joining a class, work-related or not!
- “Study” programs are not limited to formal academic, degree programs. Other options can include a wide range of interests from learning to be a cordon bleu chef to exploring history through local art and architecture.
Five practical benefits of combining solo travel with study programs:
Number 1: Cheap(er) Travel:
- Other than airfare, long-term lodging is the biggest expense for travel. While dorm rooms are not typically large or luxurious, they are the best budget-friendly way to save on long-term stays.
- Many international programs offer partial or complete scholarships.
- Reduced student-priced tickets are offered in most countries from trains to museums, events and performances.
Number 2: Ready-made group:
For new solo travelers one of the biggest concerns is “going it alone” or feeling completely isolated. While social media has made it possible to connect around the world, there is an easier way. By joining an individual class or broader study program, you have immediate access to a new circle of friends and acquaintances.
Number 3: Living like a local:
In creating the ultimate bucket list, increasingly the question arises: How to have a more authentic experience beyond the well-worn tourist paths? Student housing is not typically in high-rent resorts. As a result, it will provide a more realistic view of what it means to be a local resident from neighborhood cafes to grocery shops and public transportation.
Number 4: Acquiring insiders’ travel knowledge:
Being a “local” means getting to know how things work.
Better yet, by being a student in a new area, you will have access to all the unpublicized top deals that circulate by word of mouth.
Number 5: “Reunions” with fellow students:
This is an ideal way to see the world while catching up with friends from school days. As a college student, I had the opportunity to participate in a semester program in Washington, DC. While a domestic program may not have the glamour of going abroad, domestic trips were even easier to arrange for a solo traveler. With program participants from all across the US, that summer I decided it was the perfect time for a self-guided solo tour to “see America”. Armed with only an open bus ticket from Washington, DC to Southern California, I spent five weeks visiting fellow students from a dairy farm in Racine, Wisconsin to San Bernardino, California. So when leaving home, never overlook the network you already have.
The bottom line? To get started or re-started on 2021 solo travel, join a study program to save and savor your next trip at home or abroad.
For ways to combine study with travel, check out MastersDegree programs in France and select other top destinations.