Last year, I packed up twice and headed on planes to far off places. My first cross-Atlantic trip, a reading week (Canadian version of spring break) trip to London, England to visit a friend on exchange, and my second, a three-month internship with Journalists for Human Rights in Ghana (West Africa, for the geographically-challenged). I’m a big advocate for travelling while in university, and for most in North America, going to Europe is both the closest, the least expensive (for flights at least), and the place where you’ll experience the least culture shock.
Traveling is expensive, and while students faced with unemployment and rising student debt are probably hesitant to book an airline ticket, visiting somewhere while in a university is an invaluable life experience. So why do I think that if you can, you should pinch pennies, skip the extra drink at the bar, and find a way to get across the Atlantic Ocean?
- When you’re in college there is less holding you back then when you’re a “grown-up.” No mortgage, no kids, no full-tim job.
- In my opinion it’s easier to travel cheaply when you’re younger. Some hostels only allow youth to stay there, and it’s the cheapest way to travel. Having started full-time work myself, I really feel it when I don’t get a full night sleep, but I know if I picked up and took off again, it would be easier for me to sleep on an overnight train or stay awake all night if need be.
- Book education is great, but some things you can’t learn in a classroom. One of my friends who did an exchange in Ireland said that she learned to stay calm and rational in situations after getting lost in a foreign city. It’s something she’s come to value in the workforce. Another said that studying history didn’t mean a whole lot until she actually saw major historical sites. Learning about the Holocaust becomes much more real when you’ve visited Auschwitz.
- If you chose to do an exchange elsewhere or stay in hostels, you’ll meet a lot of similarly aged people and make new friends. If you chose to travel when you’re older, you’ll know people all over the place who might let you crash with them! One of my friends recently moved to Europe, and through friends of ours she was able to find a few initial places to stay.
- Travelling broadens your mind. It’s easy to think that in North America everything is superior, but learning about other cultures makes you more openminded about the world.
- If you lack work experience, having travel experience can help you out in a job interview. Being able to explain a situation that was difficult – say getting lost in a city where you don’t speak the local language – and how you figured things out can be a good anecdote to share.
While I would never advocate putting yourself into more debt to see the world, there are ways to do so that are less expensive. There are always opportunities to do exchanges at other universities, do volunteer work projects during the summer, or even get a paid position in another country.
Have you travelled to Europe (or elsewhere far away) during college? What did you get out of the experience?
Leah graduated from Ryerson University with her Bachelor of Journalism. She’s currently interning at a design magazine in Toronto and spending her spare time baking tasty cupcakes. You can follow her @ElleandBee.
[lead image via l i g h t p o e t/shutterstock.com]