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10 Top Places for Student Travel
Enjoy enlightening experiences outside the classroom on a break or gap-year trip.
Whether you want a hands-on volunteer trip or a budget-friendly winter break locale, there are plenty of enticing educational programs and small-group tours geared toward students.iStockphoto
Students may be clinging to the last precious days of summer, but it's not too early to start thinking about where to plan a future trip. Teens about to graduate may even be considering taking a gap year. A recent Booking.com survey found that a third of polled American students ages 16 to 18 are considering taking a year off before college. So, where should students travel during a gap year or break from school? A recent study conducted by the Student & Youth Travel found U.S. student groups are particularly interested in attending educational programs across Europe that include music, history, arts, culture, science and natural history. The study also found teacher-organized trips to Latin America are in top demand among students, followed by trips to Canada. So, if you're ready to jump-start your travel search, check out these enriching, immersive and adrenaline-pumping spots for inspiration.
This small island municipality of the Netherlands gives students pursuing STEM disciplines the ideal laboratory for exploring tropical marine ecology. Thanks to the Council on International Educational Exchange's diverse study abroad programs, students traveling to Bonaire can take part in specialized dive training, learn field research methods and explore the area's rich history and culture – including huts from the African slave trade – during their visit.
If you're eager to master a new language, Taiwan is a perfect place to learn Mandarin and absorb an exciting culture. It's also a budget-friendly place to visit, with free or cost-effective admission to many attractions, such as the Taipei 101 building and the National Palace Museum, along with affordable hostels and bed-and-breakfast accommodations. Plus, meals at high-end restaurants cost around $20 and the convenient metro offers a cheap and convenient way to get around. Even better, working holidays are common in Taiwan and many hotels offer international students part-time jobs. Apart from saving money, students can broaden their perspective of the local culture and community by working with residents.
For a once-in-a-lifetime trip, head to Cuba. Find out what life is really like far from the tourist traps in an agricultural community and work directly with students and farmers on projects improving Cuba's economic and social capacity. A variety of educational programs allow you to help locals practice English conversational skills, make crafts at a sewing cooperative, distribute drinking water, paint and deliver municipal pottery fixtures and participate in community-driven projects. Breaks from lending a hand might include checking out the museums, music venues and historical sites across Havana and partner communities.
Reputable small-group travel outfitter G Adventures offers a variety of tours targeted to the 18- to 39-year-old crowd. You can visit iconic European cities such as Rome and Budapest for around $1,400 on a 10-day trip. During your visit, you can sample the regional specialties and delicious wines of Italy, get in touch with the continent's rich culture in famed museums and galleries and compare dance floors in the nightclubs of Europe's party capitals. And if you have extra time to spare before or after your trip, you can easily tack on a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or spend extra time in must-see hot spots, such as Florence, Venice and Vienna, Austria.
History buffs, culture vultures and outdoor enthusiasts will feel at home in Miami. The grand Mediterranean Revival architecture in Coral Gables alone is worth the trip, not to mention the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and the Miracle Mile. For a convenient place to unwind, stay at the Westin Colonnade, adjacent to the famed Miracle Mile shopping district and its boutiques and art galleries. Other must-sees in the area include a short drive to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the Venetian Pool, which was built out of a coral rock quarry in 1923 that boasts cool spring water, waterfalls, coral caves and grottos.
If you want to learn Spanish, why not brush up on your skills in Costa Rica at the relaxing Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort? Cushioned between the Pacific Ocean and a 1,100-acre tropical rainforest, the resort offers complimentary, hour-long Spanish lessons with a native language instructor. Apart from mastering your speaking and comprehension skills, you can soak up the great outdoors and hike and kayak through lush rain forests or lend a hand and learn about the area's unique biodiversity with a community service trip.
Blackfeet Reservation, Montana
For a taste of true reservation life, you can enjoy working with adults and children in the Blackfeet tribe with a recreational program, a child protection and nurturing program or an elder engagement, classroom or building improvement program. Participate in a garden or nutrition project before attending a smudge ceremony (a cleansing smoke bath that purifies the body, aura and energy). Afterward, learn about beading or enjoy fishing, hiking and other pastimes. On the reservation, you can secure dormitory-style lodging and enjoy meals prepared by local cooks.
The volcano complex at Lassen Volcanic National Park features four types of volcanoes in one complex. There are 60 active individual volcanoes in the park, including the world's largest plug dome volcano. Plus, there are night programs that focus on learning about the stars. Students can travel from one side to the other and experience the area's unique microclimates before camping or finding lodging on the Plumas County side of the park. Plus, students can join ranger-led programs and enjoy curriculum-based field trips for educational learning on- and off-site.
The Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands are home to some of the most unique species in the world, from sea lions to giant tortoises. Reputable expedition cruise outfitter Ecoventure offers eco-friendly cruises filled with ample wildlife-viewing opportunities on naturalist-led excursions through the archipelago's diverse islands. Want to swim alongside sea lions and pups? No problem. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, where you can get a good look at tortoises and iguanas. In addition to learning about the area's environment, students can embrace other educational opportunities, such as brushing up on wildlife conservation or volunteering with the non-profit organization Pack for a Purpose to bring supplies to local communities.
[See: 10 Bucket-List Destinations That Don't Cost a Fortune.]
For students looking for an off-the-grid destination, Malawi in southeast Africa offers a safe, welcoming environment and plenty of educational opportunities. Lake Malawi has more fish species than any other lake in the world, and the area's wildlife reserves and national parks – including Lake Malawi National Park – offer up-close animal encounters. The area's vegetation may be of particular interest to agriculture students and those passionate about food processing. What's more, the area offers plenty of reputable hostel accommodation options – a great choice for students looking to mix and mingle with other visitors and scale back costs.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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