traveling students

How to Travel In College: Confessions of a Wanderlusting Student

In Blog, Travel Tips by Kay3 Comments

surtshellirHow do you find all these ways to travel in college?, people will often ask me, wide eyed, hoping I can give them some magical answer that will send them on a journey to China or trekking through the Alps. This is by far the most popular question I’m asked by students and parents alike, these days almost on a daily basis. College is definitely the best time of life, inherently, but a lot of students feel that travel is out of reach due to time, budget, and resource constraints. Most students don’t even consider going abroad because of these preconceived fears.

As I sit here in my bedroom in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I chuckle to myself at this thought. I mean, here I am, in a country where I don’t speak the language, in a city where I know no one. And yet, it’s costing me less than a semester at my school (including flights, accommodations, etc.) and it’s an amazing opportunity for me to challenge myself in ways I simply can’t in my home university. In just two weeks here, I’ve become conversational in a language, learned how to navigate Rio’s varied transportation, met dozens of people, and learned a lot about the ways US and Brazilian culture differ. Most importantly, I’ve learned independence through my experiences moving abroad, and how to adjust to my surroundings. It’s been an amazing learning experience so far and one that nothing in the United States could have equally taught me.

Because of college students’ increasing interest in traveling, I created a resource for student travel on this site, one that I hope all of you students out there can use to further your knowledge about different travel programs created for you around the world. There’s also a page just for parents so that parents can learn more about student travel initiatives, hear from students who have traveled in the past, and understand the value of investing in travel programs.

But anyway, how do I actually do it? It’s a multifaceted question, and one that I can’t answer in just one post, but I’ll give you a little bit of an overview on some of the ways that you, my college student friends, can travel for little (or no) money. Based on my experiences, these are some of the things that I have personally experienced.

swimming with whale sharksWork Abroad

Working abroad is something I’ve only had a small taste of (I took photographs for a newspaper in the Philippines once), but many of my friends are currently doing right now! A lot of student internships and programs recruit internationally, so keep your eyes peeled for opportunities for research or work through your home university. Websites like Idealist can also be helpful when looking for work or internships abroad.

Study Abroad

Right now, I’m spending six months in Brazil for a study abroad program. For one month, I’m taking only Portuguese classes, and for the other five, I’ll be taking classes in literature, psychology, and business. Interesting, no? Best of all, it’s costing me ultimately less than a semester at Rice would. Cheaper, more diverse, AND abroad? What could be better?

Win A Contest

In September of 2012, I won a contest through Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site that changed my life – I traveled around Central/Eastern Europe for almost two weeks with most (read: everything except food) paid for. In collaboration with Hostelworld, Vayama, Plus Prague Hostel, Wombats Hostel Vienna, and Aboriginal Hostel, I was able to travel around Europe basically for free. Awesome, no? The best part was that I got to do this solo, teaching me so much about myself and about independence in foreign countries.

Apply for Scholarships

This past spring break, I got a scholarship to go to Buenos Aires for spring break for a program based in political science and urban research. My specific research was on poverty, urban development programs, and cash transfers. I went with a class, so I always had a group of students my age to hang out with, go out at night with, and just talk to throughout the duration of the trip. It was a lot of fun, but keep in mind that traveling with big groups gives you less freedom to explore places on your own, make independent plans, and relax.

volunteering in guatemala

For two summers now, I have volunteered in San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala for a service trip through my school. This year, I led the trip. Our participants only

had to pay $400 of their own money for the trip, which included all transportation, food, accommodations, and cultural activities. The rest, we fundraised throughout the prior school year. Volunteering was an amazing way to learn about social issues and development in a different country, practice speaking a new language, and discuss global events and issues comparatively. Even though I went two summers in a row, I feel that I benefitted arguably more the second time around. Doing good for others while raising awareness and gaining knowledge is what brings change in this world, and by volunteering abroad you can do just that.

Earn or Save Your Money

For me, I realized my strong desire to travel when I was willing to give up my car, my only means of transportation at home, to travel across the Pacific. For you, it may not have to be this extreme, but getting a part-time job in school, selling some of your unwanted items, or just merely finding new ways to save money will ultimately help you budget and save for your trip abroad. If you think of travel always as an investment rather than an expenditure, spending your money and time to do so will be much easier.


  1. Great advice Kay, and a lot of this is applicable even if you’re not in school. I can attest to winning contests, but I find a lot of people don’t enter, because they assume they won’t win. I haven’t heard of Idealist either, I’m going to check that out for my internship.

  2. LOVE this and especially enjoyed watching your video for your entry! Honored to have met you and spent a little time getting to know you and your heart in Toronto during tbex. You are in inspiration for not only young kids, but also this Grandma!

  3. Hi Kay,

    Good post, I really enjoyed it. I’m currently traveling with my family, as I’m not yet seventeen. But as I’m getting closer and closer to my college years, figuring out how to do school and travel at the same time has been on my mind a lot. Thanks for helping me out! I’m going to see how long I can get through school online, which has really worked for me so far. At the moment, I’m a student at Oregon State University, and have been able to participate in classes even though I’m not even on the same continent. That’s been really working out for me so far. Do you ever do online classes? If so, have you run into any difficulties with it yet? Thanks for posting this, you have a really cool blog!


Leave a Reply to Hannah Cancel reply