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A global education

Janelle Vreeland

See the world by studying abroad

College-sponsored trips are a great way to explore foreign countries with people you know and with seasoned travelers who can give you peace of mind. In addition, college-sponsored trips are often less expensive than going through a travel agency, and allow you to spend more time in your destination. What’s more, there seems to be no limit to the destinations offered.

Nichols College in Massachusetts, for example recently gave students the chance to tour the green hills of Ireland, while the University of Iowa will allow students to do volunteer work in Romania in 2011. Michigan’s Adrian College sent students on a cruise of the Mediterranean that included stops in Greece and Italy, and Rhode Island’s Bryant University has sent students to Peru and even China. Some of the aforementioned trips included credit hours that students could earn, but even those that don’t still provide incredible experiences and fond memories.

I spoke to Nicholas Lewis, who went on a college-sponsored trip to Russia in 2002. The trip, organized by Weber College, gave Lewis and his fellow travelers the opportunity to visit a part of Europe that, at one time, was completely cut off from the rest of the world. He told me that it was a great experience and that it was incredible to find himself standing in cities and buildings that had once seemed only mythical.

“One of our Russian guides was perplexed when, after we entered the Kremlin, I said ‘I’m standing in the Kremlin,’ with true amazement. Being a child of the Cold War, I was giddy at the chance to see the places that had seemed so unattainable not long before.”

Although the trip was not without its share of travel difficulties (and what trip isn’t?), the students were able, thanks to the college’s involvement, to enlist the help of experienced travelers and Russian guides if they ran into trouble; that’s something that Lewis simply couldn’t see himself doing alone.

“I would not know how to approach a trip like this otherwise. Places like the former Soviet Bloc are still rather intimidating for Westerners, and a group venture through a college is possibly the best way to experience far-flung parts of the world without being left completely to your own devices. None of my friends or family had an interest in going there, but Weber State’s annual trip made possible my life-long dream of seeing the former Soviet Union.”

For Weber, the trip to Russia was an annual expedition, and though many colleges do have annual, traditional trips, new trips are planned all the time. And companies like EF College Study Tours even allow faculty, provided there is enough interest, to organize and plan their own unique trips. Do you want to take a trip, but aren’t interested in what your school is offering? Take the initiative to suggest your own trip! It’s not as intimidating as you might think.

First, if you want to have a trip that the college will approve of picking the right destination is essential. If you pick a party hotspot you’ll never get any faculty support. But if you pick a destination of cultural or educational importance, then you’ll get the faculty in your corner.

Second, drum up some interest in the trip. The key to any trip is having enough interested travelers to join you. EF College Study Tours helps groups organize trips, as long as there are at least 20 individuals in the group and members of the faculty are involved. Even if you go to a small college, it shouldn’t be difficult to find 20 cohorts! If you’re interested in going to Spain, get the Spanish majors and minors involved, and consider asking the Spanish professors to mention the trip in class. Post flyers and host meetings. Going to Spain would allow some first-hand experience with the language, but with so many culturally and historically important sites, you’re bound to attract interest from history majors, literature majors and art majors.  And, the more interest you gain, the easier it will be to see the trip through.

Third, get the faculty interested. After you’ve found a willing group you can focus on finding faculty chaperones. Chances are, there are probably professors who have either hosted trips or at least visited your destination before. Approach them and get their advice on how to approach the powers that be about the trip. Their authority and experience will make the trip even more attainable.

Fourth, do your homework. Visit sites like EF College Study Tours and research how much a trip might cost, how long it might last and other valuable information. The more prepared you are, the more responsible you’ll seem and the more willing the college will be to consider your suggestion.

So what are you waiting for? Explore the trips your college sponsors and get ready to see the world with your classmates by your side!

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