I don’t know about you, every time I searched for this stuff (AKA Student Travel) articles would generally conclude “Just be rich!” or, alternatively, my school would tell me “Make sure your parents have no money.” I’m here to give some tips on how to actually travel while in school without spending *that* much money.

I’ve traveled abroad three summers in a row and to Philadelphia with the help of my school. This will be for US students as that’s all I have experience with 🙂

Bear in mind all of these options involve “work” abroad, i.e. presenting at conferences or taking classes. Student travel doesn’t come totally free, understandably. 

Background

Now, most of these scholarships are not all expenses paid.  But, you can and should have a job while in school as it just looks good on a resume and it will fund your travel. Entry-level jobsare readily available at most schools.

I worked 10 hours a week in the writing center (minimum wage $7.25), 5 hours a week as a French tutor ($10), and 5 hours a week at the ice skating rink ($10-19). Everyone has a different life experience and of course there are extenuating circumstances. But hopefully the average student should be able to manage on a 20 hour a week job, especially given that there are more jobs paying $15 starting these days. 

Second, if you’re still deciding on a school, I recommend going to a school that will not run you more than $30k in loans for all four years. This is just standard advice but if you have a lot of debt it could put a wrench in future travel plans.

However, it is a good idea to try to search the school website for potential travel scholarships. These can be hard to find, I am currently at a school that does not really advertise for those scholarships. You need to make sure the school has money to send you places.

Where to Look for Scholarships for Student Travel

There are several different sources on college campuses to help alleviate the cost of student travel. Let’s look at some of them now. 

Student Government Funding for Student Travel

This will often involve going to conferences or studying abroad to fulfill graduation requirements. For instance, I got $750 from the SGA fund at my first school to go to South Korea to learn Korean. The school did not offer Korean, so they had a reason to send me.

student travel Daejeon historical park

A more recent example, I got $250 to present at a Philadelphia conference. The conference itself lasted about 2 days, I went for 5 days and thus had 3 full days to explore the city.

Be aware that most SGA folks are really annoying and difficult to work with, be prepared for months of emails so start early. I got paid for my April conference in late July. I’ve been to two different schools and both were frustrating for different reasons, but I got the money – so your mileage may vary! 

In Your Department 

This is probably the most obvious place to look and, in my experience, the scholarships are very specific (for certain types of programs for certain people in certain majors, etc.). However, I did manage to get a $400 scholarship from a general study abroad funding option for writing a short essay.

student travel to Philadelphia main building

I find that unless you are a business or international studies student, student travel is not a funding focus for most departments.

Join a Language Program

If you go beyond the required credit hours of learning a language, you normally start hearing about “insider” scholarships. These funds are not readily advertised, generally. I did not learn about the student travel scholarship that paid for my entire 6-week trip to France in 2017 until after a year of learning French.

Student travel View of Orléans, France, through the flying buttresses of the cathedral

I received these funds in exchange for doing a French minor, which was only 15 credits, 6 of which I got in France. If you’re smart, you should ask your professor as soon as possible about these options in order to prepare. Don’t be shy 😀

Shop around for a language, as well. While I frequently lament choosing French after having gone to Italy, I know my school did not offer scholarships for Italy anyway. Every language is useful, so choose the one that has the most benefits to study. 

Join the Honors Program

Provided your school has one, I recommend joining provided you have the GPA. It really is worth it to spend a little extra time, doing extra credit, taking 1-2 credit “easy” classes, going to the occasional tutoring session, etc., to get reasonably good grades. I’m not talking a 4.0, there’s actually a multitude of reasons why you shouldn’t aim for a 4.0, but something in the range of 3.5-3.7 is going to help your chances with scholarship committees.

It will also get you into the Honors program, where you get access to special Honors funds. I found out about these a little late and I missed out on about $1000 of student travel funding that I could have used to go to a conference, had I known.

As it is, I did manage to snag one scholarship for $4000 to go to Oxford in the UK! You should check out my post on The Oxford Experience.

A tan Hairy Coo cow
The daughter of Hamish, the famous Hairy Coo cow!

Look for Options Within Your Program of Study

For instance, my field is Linguistics. There are summer schools like CoLang which offer funding/bursaries –  and the school you go to might be interested in helping out as well.

Short programs can also offer some of the cheapest accommodation options. I am hoping to someday attend a 2-week program in Crete which would cost, in total, $350 including tuition, accommodation, and 2 meals a day. That’s $25 a day! Of course, there are the flights, but that’s why I’ve got a job! There’s tons of other options, that often offer extreme discounts for students.

Join a Club/Sport/Greek Society

If you’re in a sport you might be able to travel together to compete against other schools and teams. Clubs will also offer funding sometimes for travel to conferences, as will some Greek societies. I know that the English Honors Society at my school offers some funding after paying the $50 admittance fee.

Look at Government Scholarships

These are generally really competitive, however, there are some options here and it doesn’t hurt to apply. I’d say the best option is probably the Critical Language Scholarship program in terms of requirements. CLS funds a month of language study for a language that the US Government feels is critical for more US citizens to know.

Korean is one of these. There is no minimum GPA, although some languages require previous study (Korean does not but Japanese does, etc.).

The other options have not really been open to me as they require my parents to have not made much money or require me to work for the government upon graduation. I know of the Boren and Gilman off the top of my head but there are others.

If Student Travel Doesn’t Work Out, Don’t Despair!

Working and traveling is another great way to see the world beyond student travel. After all of my study abroad experiences, I still couldn’t get enough and moved to South Korea!

Getting a job abroad, or a getting a remote job at home can open many doors to explore.

If you found this guide to Student Travel useful, check out my other posts!

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Incredible Things to See in Osaka, Japan
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2 Crazy Beautiful Weeks in Ireland

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