I have loved traveling since I boarded my first plane at the age of five. More than twenty years later, I still feel a rush of excitement when the wheels leave the tarmac, whether I’m headed across Texas or the Pacific. I have met some of my best friends while abroad and attribute my adaptability, independence, and confidence to the many miles I’ve logged. Besides making friends and building character, there are a number of other reasons to go abroad:
- Take a step back from your day-to-day tasks and gain a different, broader perspective on your life
- Meet new people who share your love for adventure and discovery
- Learn how others view the world
- Put those foreign language credits to good use
- Experience a different culture in its native country
- Impress college admissions officers
- Provide inspiration for unique college essays
Now, where to go? To help you decide, I’ve put together a list of programs that almost make me wish I was back in high school:
National Geographic Student Expeditions: If you, like me, have spent hours drooling over National Geographic’s glossy pages and wishing you had been the one to capture pictures like the one of Jared Alden highlining in Phuket, then this is for you. Open to aspiring adventurers, writers, scientists, and photographers, National Geographic expeditions offer students incredible experiences in community service, photography, and cultural exploration.
Global Works: A company that has its heart in the right place, Global Works’ primary focus is on service trips and in working with local communities on projects that will make a positive impact. If you would like to practice your Spanish while sipping a batido in Panama City or try hanging ten in Fiji while volunteering, check out their immersion and adventure programs.
Go Abroad: If you want to search for programs by country, type, duration, or even region of the world, Go Abroad is the site for you. In addition, it has a great blog that offers tips on planning the perfect weekend excursion while abroad , advice on proper traveling etiquette, notifications of upcoming trips, and a travel blog-of-the week feature.
Bold Earth: As its name implies, Bold Earth is for students looking for excitement: biking 250 miles from Amsterdam to Paris, kayaking and climbing in Colorado, or completing a diving certification in the Great Barrier Reef. Most of their trips include multiple destinations and different types of activities, so you never get bored.
Walking Tree: Started by three childhood friends who share an appreciation for travel, Walking Tree offers immersion and service projects through homestays in countries around the world. Their goal: to create global citizens by integrating students into local communities and pushing them to take an active interest in the world around them.
Abbey Road: If you want to rub shoulders with alumni from Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Duke, La Sorbonne, and Cambridge, check out Abbey Road, founded by Dr. Kian, a Stanford graduate in international relations. This academically oriented travel company offers a variety of language and immersion programs in cities across Europe and in major U.S. cities.
Putney Student Travel: This small, family-run organization has been in operation for 61 years and takes students to unique destinations such as Vietnam, India, Senegal, Turkey, and Cambodia. Because of their extensive experience, they have also partnered with National Geographic to lead some of their student expeditions.
Looking for a way to fund your trip? Check out these grants and scholarship opportunities:
- The Council on International Educational Exchange
- Rotary International
- Student Youth Travel Association Foundation
Once you’ve picked your destination, pack your suitcase, grab your passport, and hit the road!