Travel not just through study abroad anymore
Students have more options than just study abroad to expand their perspective.
International travel is alluring – seductive, even. Aside from the requisite bragging rights that go along with journeying to an exotic locale most people only experience via “National Geographic,” one breathes, sleeps and eats a life wholly different from what he or she intrinsically knows.
For most teenaged and 20-something Americans, there’s no time like the present – one without spouses, babies and “real” jobs – to temporarily shun the encroaching future and explore a foreign land.
Hand-in-hand with the looming financial barrier, though, is how to go about this travel thing: passports, lodging, local transportation, food and sightseeing expenditures and logistics have the potential to give a novice traveler a hard reality check. Fortunately, there exist myriad means for one to broach a new region with confidence and excitement instead of fear and anxiety.
French instructor Tammy Christensen champions the benefits of UVU’s international programs as having the potential to “be something that has major implications on a life.” Christensen, who has directed the French Language Study Abroad the past three years and traveled other parts of Europe, believes the most effectual way to travel abroad is through a university program where students live with host families.
“You really need an ‘in’ into the people; living with host families and having a link like that gets you into the culture in a way that, as someone who’s backpacking around, you can’t easily get,” Christensen said of her experiences in France.
In addition to language-specific study abroad programs, UVU offers international university exchanges and internships, ranging from Nursing and Peace and Justice studies in Haiti to dance programs in Italy. Although students have the opportunity to earn over two semesters’ worth of credits in as little as two months, the various program costs can be daunting for the typical cash-strapped student, even with available scholarships. Study abroad programs, for example, can set students back anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, not including round-trip airfare, tuition and some meals.
Those students for whom university-sponsored travel is unappealing or too expensive needn’t be daunted. History Professor JaNae Haas explained that the peculiarities that make a study abroad unappetizing to some make it attractive to others.
“Study abroad has a place, especially if you’re doing something quite specific,” Haas said.
Recalling the “Europe fund” she began with babysitting money at the age of 9, Haas espoused a more autonomous brand of travel. She detailed the relatively easy time European students have when they undertake the common junior year sabbatical to other countries. Accustomed to the influx of young people seeking to soak up new cultures and customs, most European and Asian countries accept the International Student Identity Card as a way for students to access cheaper living arrangements, transportation, food and attractions such as museums, theatre events and excursions.
“It’s just so much cheaper to go alone,” Haas said. “When I see a study abroad costing $7,000 to $10,000, I could live in Europe off that. For a year. They’re pricey.”
The economical explorer can even take care of living and eating arrangements with a few clicks of the mouse if he or she is willing to barter. Websites such as couchsurfing.org, helpx.net and workaway.info match travelers who are willing to babysit, do manual labor or help around the house with locals who are in need of such tasks.
Not only do these globetrotters gain new perspectives on the common way of life in a new place, they’re able to step outside the tourist trap that ensnares so many foreigners. One of the biggest caveats to this and other forms of autonomous travel, though, is the risk one undertakes when meandering solo.
Regardless of the means by which one chooses to travel, both Haas and Christensen endorse travel as not only beneficial, but necessary, as Haas thinks “humans are born to travel.”
“Going outside of what’s comfortable and our own environments, we make discoveries about who we are that we can’t normally make when we’re in a comfortable situation,” Christensen said.
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By Deven Leigh Ellis
Asst. Life Editor