This summer, the University of York offered me the opportunity to take part in a summer school, with four global destinations to choose from. Cape Town, one of the capitals of South Africa, immediately caught my eye, and I was determined that I was going to be on the flight there – no matter what happened.
Choosing to head off on an adventure with my university was the best decision I could have made. Doing it with York gave me opportunities and insights that I simply would not have had if I had chosen to travel independently, and taking the chance to travel with their university is something I would recommend everyone to do.
So here are ten reasons to go abroad with your university. Who knows – you might be like me, and it might just be the best thing you ever decide to do.
1. The whole world is more accessible
The world is a big place, and some of those places seem a little daunting and scary to venture to alone; others are simply too far away and expensive to get to. Your university is perfect for offering the help needed to get to out into the big, wide world in a way that wouldn’t be possible when traveling alone.
Organized trips by your university could also help you get into communities that would usually be closed off from tourists. Whether that be heading into remove villages when volunteering in Fiji or staying with a local family on an exchange in Germany, you’re guaranteed to be immersed in the country.
2. Make friends for life
One of the biggest pieces of advice that you can be given about going abroad with your university is to make friends wherever you go. Not only do you head off on your adventure with a group of people who are all as passionate about travel and culture as you are, sharing rooms and experiences in a way that bonds you together, but you also have the chance to make friends from all over the globe. One quick “hello” to a person met on your travels leaves you with a network of friends throughout your university and across the world. The bonus: your university is the perfect location to meet up and reminisce about memories of travels with new- found friends.
3. Learn more about the country itself
Going abroad with your university gives you access to lectures which offer a different insight into the country than any tour guide could. The university gives you access to experts, and these experts can inform you about the history, culture and people of the country. On my trip to Cape Town, I received a lecture from Sindiwe Magona. A woman who grew up in the heart of apartheid, she has used her experiences as a black woman to encourage other women to embrace their futures in a changing South Africa. These experiences are unique to going abroad with your university, and they’re something which will enrich your understanding of the country beyond comparison.
4. University life is all around you
This was one of the best things about my trip to the University of Cape Town with my university. It’s easy to see university as limited to your own experience and your own university setup, but the truth is that every one is different. The best thing you can do when you go abroad with your university is sit in the food courts and soak up the chatter of students, dive head-first into your lectures, and ask as many questions as possible. Going abroad with your university gives you a special status as a student of another institution for a few weeks or months, perhaps fulfilling that dream of studying abroad.
5. Money management is easier with the help of university
Traveling on a student budget is always a struggle, and for many budding adventurers, their bank account keeps them firmly planted at home. Going abroad with university can ease this worry a little while still helping to tick some places off your bucket list. Universities frequently offer bursaries or financial aid for those going abroad, with sponsors donating money to the department to help those who could use a little support. You could even work out a payment plan, so that the burden of expensive flights and pricey tickets is a little lighter.
6. Immerse yourself in the history of the country
University life means education, and going abroad with your university means that you get an insight into the education of the place and can learn about the history from expert lecturers. The organization of your trip allows you to intersect the history that you learn in university libraries and lecture rooms with the reality of visiting historical sites and monuments. History really comes to life, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the history of the place, still woven into the life of the country.
7. There’s someone to turn to
Traveling can be daunting when alone, and if traveling is still relatively new to you, university can be a good safety net before jetting off on your own adventures. Usually, going abroad goes without a hitch, but things can go wrong, and if something happens, there’s someone to turn to. Whether you’ve had your phone stolen, you get lost on your way home from the bar, or you feel uncomfortable in a situation, university employees have seen it all before and can help you find a way to solve your problem. Going abroad with university means there’s someone there who can make sure you have the best trip possible.
8. Expand your cultural horizons
While I was in Cape Town, I was invited, along with my fellow students, to have dinner with a local family from BoKaap. We were fed samosas, rotis, curry and koesisters (a Cape Malay dessert which I would encourage everyone who enjoys sugar, donuts and delicious spices to try) and were immersed in the traditional foods of the neighborhood. Going abroad with your university gives you connections with the real-life people and lifestyle of the country, and you should embrace it with everything you have, because the opportunity may not come around again.
9. Enrich your own university experience
Your university years are brief, and taking the chance to go abroad makes sure that you make the most of every opportunity you have in those years. To look back at your time at university and remember the adventures had abroad is invaluable. An opportunity that gives you such life experience – and, above anything else, fun – might not come around again, and it’s something you wouldn’t want to miss.
10. Practice traveling before going it alone
Going abroad with your university allows you to begin to go abroad without your parents and family as you learn how to handle yourself in a foreign country. You can make sure you feel comfortable in traveling before you head into the world on your own. Your university is there to give you the best platform from which to launch yourself into the big wide world, so make the most of it and take advantage of every global opportunity which comes your way. Take the plunge early, and see the world before you throw your graduation cap in the air.