Picture this: You’re awoken to the sounds of your alarm while in complete darkness at 1:00 AM. There’s a tingle in your stomach and an excitement that’s been building for months. You make your way out of your cabin and meet up with your fellow travelers as they wipe the sleep from their eyes to reveal the same excitement you’re feeling.
You’ve already had a lesson on how to conduct the nightly sea turtle census, but tonight, you’ll put that knowledge to work. That’s when it happens. The researcher points 100 feet away and you finally identify what you’ve been looking for all along: the leatherback.
You watch this magnificent animal make its way across the sand. This animal is HUGE, and not quite as graceful as you imagined. The turtle grunts, groans, burps, farts, and takes massive, prehistoric breaths as it makes its way on to land. You can tell it is clearly out of its element, but you can see the dedication in its eyes as it finally begins using its floppy black flippers as perfect little shovels to dig its nest.
It’s at this moment that you and your newfound friends move in. Two people measure the carapace, two people count eggs, and the others record the data. As you lay on the ground, face-to-rear with a 6-foot long leatherback sea turtle, you count egg after egg dropping into the nest. The turtle finishes its duty and the instructor advises you to stay clear. You watch in amazement as the animal sends sand flying all around to cover up its nest before it begins to move back to the crashing ocean.
You can experience this without breaking the bank.
Most of us have at one point or another met someone who has talked alllllll about their experiences studying abroad. They talk about the new perspectives they’ve gained from being immersed in a new culture, the amazing scenery they witnessed in their off-time, the incredible people they met, and then they proceed to tell you about the 5-figure price tag that went along with that experience. For most of us, it’s unrealistic to believe we can study abroad in another country while paying tens of thousands of dollars to do so.
But, what if there was another way? More organizations across the globe are offering more affordable and short-term study abroad experiences for all teens and young adults, regardless of being enrolled in college.
There’s a perception that in order to study abroad, you have to be enrolled in a university. Thankfully, that’s not the case any longer. Organizations like Ecology Project International, Travel for Teens, and Putney Student Travel offer a wide range of options for people who want to experience travelling abroad without a hefty price tag and a semester-long commitment. Better yet? You might gain some new skills, find a new passion, make some new friends, and make a difference in another country.
Websites such as Go Abroad and Go Overseas are travel abroad search engines that can help you discover a ton of different options for you. This website provides reviews for different organizations, which can be a helpful window into what one of their programs looks like in practice. But choosing the right program is often the hardest part, so here are some things to consider as you look for a suitable program.
Keep an eye out for scholarships and financial aid.
Don’t get us wrong—international travel still carries a hefty cost especially if you want a quality experience. But, many of these organizations offer scholarships and financial aid to help cover the cost of your course. EPI offers need-based financial aid for international courses to help lessen the financial burden of travelling as a teen. In most cases you will need to fill out an application and provide tax forms to give a picture of your financial situation. Try to be as detailed as possible to give the reviewers a full picture of your financial need.
The kind of experience you want to receive will guide you in choosing the right fit.
Every organization is different in their values and what they offer in terms of international travel. Some organizations put a strong focus on cultural immersion and community service, others seek to fine tuning your foreign language skills, and some provide a hands-on way to better the environment. It is important to narrow in on your own personal desires and goals before signing up for a program.
But what if I have no idea what I want to do?
This is a common question and we often suggest that you ask the opposite of that and decide on what you don’t want to do. Not a fan of children and teaching? Perhaps a trip oriented on teaching language or working at a school isn’t the right fit for you. Do you absolutely loathe being in the ocean? Then a marine conservation course might not be your best option. Above all, your best bet is to stay open-minded and look for a tour that offers activities you know you want to participate in as well as some activities that you are on the fence about.
Take the leap—you won’t regret it!
Once you’ve read reviews, done basic research on different organizations, considered how you will pay for the course, and pondered how your wants match up with what an organization can offer you, it’s time to take the leap and enroll in a course! We know it can be intimidating, but just imagine the sights you will see, people you will meet, and culture you will experience once you embark on your journey.