“Some days are meant to be counted; others are meant to be weighed,” wrote Elizabeth Gilbert in her best-selling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, about one woman’s quest to find herself in lands her feet barely knew.
For the traveler, a day filled with new experiences may truly be worth its weight in gold. But on the other hand, perhaps the only weight to be concerned about is that of the luggage being checked in at the airline counter.
Whatever your metric, the art of travel is both haphazard and markedly planned — a pastime that is surely not only undertaken by women such as Gilbert, but also by thousands of college students across the country.
According to the 2012 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, 273,996 American students studied abroad during the 2010-2011 academic year, contributing to the tripling of the number of American students traveling abroad over the last two decades.
It is not just academic opportunities that lure American college students abroad — students are finding increasingly unique reasons for packing their bags and setting off for distant lands.
Rice University sophomore Kay Rodriguez recently took a two-week backpacking trip throughout central Europe.
Sophie Bearman, Michi Ferreol and Kay Rodriguez are three students who have ventured beyond university walls to spend a portion of their winter break making waves in foreign places and cultures.
Often, documentation is secondary to your main purpose in traveling. However, sometimes the purpose of travel is documentation itself.
At least that is the case for Sophie Bearman, a senior at Harvard College who is visiting Sri Lanka during her winter break in order to film her documentary thesis. She will be following the story of a Sri Lankan couple that splits their time between the small Italian village of Ginostra and their native land.
And yet, another kind of traveler is one who wanders between two homes — one long known and the other yet to be discovered. Though for Michi Ferreol, an international student from the Philippines who is currently studying at Harvard College, it might be hard to describe her return home as traveling at all.
“The Philippines is a beautiful country and I wanted to make sure that as many people at Harvard knew that as possible,” she wrote in an email, reflecting on her reasons for organizing a service trip to her home country. Ferreol demonstrates a clear love for travel and a passion for community development in her project, which organizes a mobile library and supports education locally.
Although the statistics describing the appeal of study abroad continue to become increasingly favorable, that is not to dismiss the particular attractiveness of leisure travel.
Kay Rodriguez, a sophomore at Rice University, recently took a two-week backpacking trip throughout central Europe. It is clear that adventure is not just an opportunity, but a way of life for this savvy traveler as she describes her stay in hostels throughout Europe and her varied experiences visiting everything from striking street art displays in Slovakia to the beautiful buildings of Prague.
Rodriguez is surprisingly nonchalant about the joys and tribulations of the young traveler who seeks adventure at its doorstep, rather than waiting for it to come knocking. She is thankful for her parents’ support of her passion for travel, but believes that students, despite having an incredible opportunity to travel during their college years, often fail to take advantage of it.
“I think that many travel opportunities available for college students are underutilized,” said Rodriguez, who is careful to note that financial impediments should not be considered an impossible hurdle when students consider travel opportunities. Though varied by school, many universities have travel grants and funding available for students seeking financial support.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s reason for traveling on her well-known journey of self-discovery might not resonate well with every college student, but the stories of these three students are exemplary of the particular appeal of traveling abroad during your college years.
Gilbert’s assertion still applies, but arguably with a slight modification.
Even if the days during which you travel cannot be weighed, the memories that you produce are surely worth counting for many years to come.
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