Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

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psteinx
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Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by psteinx » Tue May 07, 2019 3:47 pm

Tone warning:
I fully realize that some folks will view the notion that young folks can or should travel to Europe or whatnot as an extravagance at best. "Back in my day, it was quite the treat to travel to the next county!" and all that. I know this is a bit of a first world problem/issue. But anyways...

Preface:
So, this is a time of year when many parents of kids, including me, are thinking about assorted college plans for their kids.

Many kids have an ambition to see the world to varying extents. It's easy to say "see the world when you're young", but the options to actually DO that are a bit tricky - available time windows, options, costs, safety and the like. And if kids wait until they're post-college, life can quickly intrude and limit or eliminate certain options.

I view travel, particularly outside of one's cultural comfort zone, as producing a variety of benefits. Some are pure fun/enjoyment, but travel can also alter one's world view, enlarge one's thinking and vision of the world, and so on. There may be direct benefits (career and the like) to the kid from some of this, or not - hard to really know ahead of time.

====

The meat of it:
Assuming a US-based kid has some degree of interest, and the financial wherewithal is there, what experiences did your (roughly college-aged) kids find good or bad?

Where did they fit things in time-wise? (A few weeks in the summer, a whole summer, a fall/spring semester, or otherwise)?

Did they do an academic program (i.e. study abroad), and if so, did they get much useful credit out of it, for use towards their degree at their home university?

How common is it for kids that age to do the Backpack + Rail Pass + Hostels + Wanderlust approach to travel?

I would imagine Europe is a primary destination, but would be interested in stories or thoughts on experiences elsewhere

What about volunteer/charity type travel? Paid/unpaid internships or working gigs (if that's even legal and possible)?

Safety concerns (and safety differences for boys versus girls)?

Experiences with costs?

Language issues? (Especially with study abroad programs in non-English speaking destinations, or general travel in more off-the-beaten path locales).

livesoft
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by livesoft » Tue May 07, 2019 4:05 pm

I am not sure you will get useful information in that there should be no consensus and lots of people should have unique experiences.

For instance, when I was 14, I took my paper route money and a bus to Acapulco. I was in Mexico for 2 weeks without any members of my family. It cost my parents no money.

Our kids have gone on high school trips to Machu Picchu, trips with us to visit friends in the UK and France, and other places. They are essentially fearless travelers just like their parents.

One might even say any travel dangers are higher in the USA than most overseas countries. For instance, I used to live near NYC and my oldest goes to NYC just to have fun. Sounds dangerous to me. :) Or my son has always been stopped by state troopers on drives from Colorado back into Texas.
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Prahasaurus
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by Prahasaurus » Tue May 07, 2019 5:04 pm

It really depends on the kid. I have a lot of experience with this, as I moved to Europe 3 years out of university, spent a summer backpacking, I've met lots of kids doing this before, during, and after college, I know the director of the Prague branch of a major US university, so I've met many of the students there for a semester, actually allowed some to work as interns with my company, etc., etc. But again, it really depends on the child. Maturity levels, goals, what they want to study, can they travel alone or not, etc.

HawkeyePierce
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by HawkeyePierce » Tue May 07, 2019 5:17 pm

I spent a semester studying in France, which was not really worth it. I wouldn't put someone off it though.

I got a lot more out of the summer I spent backpacking around Southeast Asia after graduation. Didn't cost much.

Isabelle77
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by Isabelle77 » Tue May 07, 2019 5:47 pm

I did a summer program in Nice, France. Time of my life and I would highly recommend it. I didn't have any real interest but my parents pushed it and I'm glad. Was completely safe, stayed in at least pairs while traveling and had a fabulous time. I did a French immersion program and stayed with a local family and my roommate from school, we went to classes in the morning and the beach in the afternoons :D . Traveled on weekends.

alaskantraveler
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by alaskantraveler » Tue May 07, 2019 5:51 pm

I can speak from my own experience. I did not get to travel right out of high school as I did not have the means to do so. I worked summer jobs through college years to help pay it. After college I got a job to pay of student loans, a car, etc... It wasnt until I was 28, that I was sick of my job. My gf (now wife) and I saved up to take a year long travel hiatus. It was some of the best times of my life. What was initially suppose to be one year straight turned into 3.5 years of travel while returning home in the summers to work seasonal jobs. Many of the benefits you talked about I agree with. It can change one's perspective. Give one a broader world view, etc..

As for how a a young person should go about this (aka pay for it) I'm not sure. Seems like just handing a child money to go travel before college could have its downsides.

Shallowpockets
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by Shallowpockets » Tue May 07, 2019 6:00 pm

Backpacking abroad for a summer in Europe. There goes your son/daughter off on their own.
Staying in hostels. Pretty cool. Meeting other people.
First London. Nice hostel, parties on all night long. Lots of drinking. Meeting new (same) people as them, now let loose.
Then Amsterdamn. Another nice hostel, party all night long. Drinking and weed. Learning about the culture. Cafe culture.
Then Berlin. Ok, another party hostel. Clubs, drinking, sex, drugs.
Then Prague, wow, another hostel, same people as London and Berlin. Can't remember the culture, the castle, too much time in beer gardens.
Paris. Great, except Notre Dame burned down. What to do. Let's drink some wine on the Seine. Meet somebody to party with tonight.
On and on. All summer. Met other people backpacking around, same as them. Almost a clone of them.
Good part is that if you arrange it right before you go, maybe you can get credits for all that debauchery.
Best evidence for you is all those selfies sent home showing dear daughter/son in front of....fill in the blank. So it must be true, in the background is the Louvre. She/he so loves art. Pass the wine.

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mhadden1
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by mhadden1 » Tue May 07, 2019 6:33 pm

Shallowpockets wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 6:00 pm
Backpacking abroad for a summer in Europe. There goes your son/daughter off on their own.
Staying in hostels. Pretty cool. Meeting other people.
First London. Nice hostel, parties on all night long. Lots of drinking. Meeting new (same) people as them, now let loose.
Then Amsterdamn. Another nice hostel, party all night long. Drinking and weed. Learning about the culture. Cafe culture.
Then Berlin. Ok, another party hostel. Clubs, drinking, sex, drugs.
Then Prague, wow, another hostel, same people as London and Berlin. Can't remember the culture, the castle, too much time in beer gardens.
Paris. Great, except Notre Dame burned down. What to do. Let's drink some wine on the Seine. Meet somebody to party with tonight.
On and on. All summer. Met other people backpacking around, same as them. Almost a clone of them.
Good part is that if you arrange it right before you go, maybe you can get credits for all that debauchery.
Best evidence for you is all those selfies sent home showing dear daughter/son in front of....fill in the blank. So it must be true, in the background is the Louvre. She/he so loves art. Pass the wine.
I agree, go for it 100%. Cheers! :beer
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by iamlucky13 » Tue May 07, 2019 8:11 pm

My experience at a university that strongly promoted its study abroad program was that study abroad works better for some majors than others.

Engineering is a major with a packed curriculum, and because engineering classes were not offered abroad, I would have basically been able to complete only one of my core classes per semester, so it would have been either a semester-by-semester extension of my degree program, or a very difficult effort to catch up.

I couldn't afford it anyways, and the additional semester(s) of tuition would have significantly increased the cost in addition to the travel.

Many of my friends did go, and off hand, I can't think of any of those who received an engineering degree in less than 4-1/2 years. Those in other majors usually could go and still complete their degrees in 4 years.

Everyone who participated highly endorsed studying abroad. However, I noticed a common theme in their stories that one person eventually stated outright: they did far more partying with university peers than they did exploring, meeting people, and immersing themselves in the culture. In other words, it appeared to me a lot of study abroad students really waste the opportunity.

My wife did the back-packing thing through Germany and eastern Europe one summer with a good friend. She had part time jobs through college to cover her costs (and I think had some assistance from her parents), but since the trip meant that money could not go to tuition, effectively she financed a long vacation on credit. On the other hand, she highly valued the experience, and that debt is now paid off, but conventional wisdom here is generally critical of the risk involved in borrowing money for vacations.

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Watty
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by Watty » Tue May 07, 2019 8:44 pm

The idea of a big trip at that age is nothing new and it actually dates back to the 1600's when the "Grand Tour" was a right of passage for young wealthy men in Europe. A quick Google search found this blog that gives an outline of the Grand Tour including this quote which sounds somewhat like the modern hostel experience in the post above.

https://www.regencyhistory.net/2013/04/ ... -tour.html
An added benefit of sending young gentleman abroad was that they were able to sow their wild oats with as little inconvenience to their families as possible. Typically, the young travellers experienced greater freedom on the continent, and became involved in drinking, gaming and romantic liaisons.
In a more modern example my Dad left college after a semester to head over to Europe. He had is 18th birthday on the boat to Europe and eventually ended up on a beach in France where there was a big event going on.

He ended up getting a purple heart and being sent home in 1944.

It is not for everyone but joining the military would also expand your world view and a lot more people do that than the modern "Grand Tour".

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by flowerpower » Tue May 07, 2019 9:09 pm

psteinx wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 3:47 pm
I would imagine Europe is a primary destination, but would be interested in stories or thoughts on experiences elsewhere
I would recommend a non-European study abroad for a semester, in a direct enroll program where the language of instruction will be the local language (i.e., not English). This assumes your child knows a foreign language well enough... if not, well, he/she will learn to manage within a few weeks! In this day and age, Americans really need to learn at least one other language to be considered well-educated (note: opinions expressed are my own). Some study abroad programs actually make their students sign a pact that they will not speak English with one another, only the foreign language.

Regarding timing, study abroad is usually done in the junior year. I would recommend your student go in the FALL semester, which allows them to be on-campus for the spring on-campus recruiting fairs and interviews for summer internships (between junior and senior years). As you think about college plans, it is imperative you research this and make your child research this - assuming their university has a career center and on-campus recruiting, and they want to work for a top employer, they must follow the schedule of on-campus recruiting (junior year spring semester for internships in summer, hopefully an offers follows the internship; otherwise, senior year fall semester for full-time positions).

Outside of studying abroad, your child should look into WWOOFing. Farms around the world need an extra pair of hands to help with farming, animals, etc. and will cover lodging and food typically. Most employers would actually love hearing about this type of experience.. I have a friend who did that at a vineyard and that was a big conversation starter for her interviewers from her resume.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by McGowan » Wed May 08, 2019 8:20 am

My HS senior son and 3 of his 18 year old buddies are taking a trip for a 2.5 weeks to Europe. They are soon scattering to different colleges in different states and a few of the families are moving away this summer. So, I guess, a last hurrah with the old gang.

My son is also not a real risk taker so from my point of view, this as a relatively safe way to gain some confidence and experiences before heading off to college. Itinerary is hostels, Eurail, Spain, France, Holland and Germany. With little money in their pockets, I'm hoping there's only so much trouble they can get into …….

Kids are paying for some of it thru jobs but parents are paying as well. I'm happy to financially support this for all the reasons stated in prior posts. Study abroad is also a possibility down the road but since he'll be studying comp sci/data science/business, I'm not sure how he's going to fit that in.

His twin sister is also joining a friend for 8 days in Greece this summer. She has homes to stay in with kids she met at a summer program last year and has paid for the ticket herself. Should be a relatively short, safe, inexpensive trip. She is also studying a science and may not get the chance to study abroad in college.

Do it while you can.

renue74
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by renue74 » Wed May 08, 2019 8:36 am

It sorta depends on the kid...right?

I have 2 kids. One is 16 and one is 14. The 16 year old, I wouldn't think would get a lot out of backpacking through Europe. I've seen no spark of interest in worldly things...museums, history, art, food. Nothing. Of course he is only 16.

The other is a 14 year old. He just returned from a school trip to Washington. When I picked him up from the trip, I asked what did he enjoy the most and least. (I always ask). His answers lead me to believe he would actually get something out of a backpacking trip.

Heck...even as adults traveling...do we always get the "most out of our travels?" Some people travel around the world to lay on a beach in Spain and never set foot in a museum, church, or ancient ruins. Yet, they loved their travels.

I think the one thing that backpacking or study abroad does produce is a memory. The child will always remember that long summer or semester they were abroad.

Let's just hope they didn't eat Burger King everyday while they were away learning about other cultures. :sharebeer

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by Carson » Wed May 08, 2019 10:38 am

My kids are 9 and 6 and we have *just* begun travelling internationally with them. However in light of my spouse and my experiences when we were younger, it has renewed my desire to make some things happen for my kids.

My DH took a few summers abroad in HS/College - staying as part of a soccer exchange program, visiting with that kid who he made friends with, actually wanderlust backpacking with friends. He saw a lot of different things and experiences as well as learned *how* to travel.

I went some places with my parents, did a stay in London with a friend, and was part of a college group tour (so we had oversight of our int'l studies professor as backup, but were travelling fairly independently)

I don't know how much DH funded his own adventures. I worked a job and saved for mine. However, I 100% know that both our parents had our backup 100%. Money was a concern in that I was naturally frugal, but I had a safety net for sure.

The biggest thing I see this helping with is with networking - especially in a megacorp setting. Travel experiences really help you relate and interact with other people. I've learned (and will teach my kids) to let the other person 'go first' so they don't come off as bragging.
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by Luke Duke » Wed May 08, 2019 10:48 am

I took two separate one month trips to Europe toward the end of my college years (I turned 22 in Barcelona). It was the time of my life. I wish that I had the foresight to do a semester abroad, but I'm not sure that it would have worked with my major (Engineering). I paid for it all myself via savings and credit cards that were paid off soon after graduation.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by mariezzz » Wed May 08, 2019 11:09 am

I consider my time traveling some of the best experiences of my life. I think it's an important experience for everyone - it changes your view of the world.
However, I also think some of the most valuable experiences occurred because I funded these experiences myself, even while in college; I had to keep a close watch on the money I spent, and I had to make decisions appropriately.
The answer to most of your questions really is: It depends. Let your child make the decisions (and pay for the experience), figuring out the details helps them grow. I think options to work or volunteer in another country can be good. For study away options: if the child is concerned about credit, that needs to be ironed out in advance with the dept/college. Many colleges are effectively co-sponsors of certain programs and they'll guarantee the credits will transfer back. The student will have to work with their major program(s) to determine whether a course will count for their major.

I don't think traveling with family gives a young adult the same experience as doing it alone. There's a lot of value in having to figure out the details on one's own. You also have a lot more freedom when your family isn't around - and you learn from the choices you make.

My family, in fact, was quite apprehensive about my early study-away college experience. I didn't go to a developed Western European country, but it was through the college and quite safe so there really were no risks - it was my family's lack of travel experience and fairly limited experience of the world that made them apprehensive.

But, because I paid my way through college myself (from tuition to living expenses, with at most, a couple hundred dollars annually in groceries from my family along the way), there was no way they were going to stop me. If I had really gotten into trouble with money, I could have gotten a loan from family, but that was the very last option for me. I made sure to never do anything that would lead to that option. My family had taught me to be frugal from an early age; had taught me financial responsibility; and had expected me to bear the consequences of my own decisions from an early age. I benefited greatly from my parents' wisdom in this regard.

All this meant I never got into serious trouble (financial or otherwise) while traveling when young (or ever in life), and I had a lot of great adventures in other countries that I value to this day.

Random Poster
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by Random Poster » Wed May 08, 2019 11:35 am

psteinx wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 3:47 pm
It's easy to say "see the world when you're young", but the options to actually DO that are a bit tricky - available time windows, options, costs, safety and the like. And if kids wait until they're post-college, life can quickly intrude and limit or eliminate certain options.
Well, maybe not.

I am not a fan of the study-abroad-for-a-semester plans offered by colleges. Too limiting and too expensive.

What I did was get through college in 3 years, then went to law school, then worked for a bit under two years, and then quit work and went backbacking for a year around the world. Doing it that way meant that I was more mature when I did it, knew what I wanted to see and do while I was doing it(days on the beach or nights in a bar was not for me), and had the money to do it with.

No career downsides that I can discern, and the trip undoubtedly got me a better (law firm) job than I would been able to land prior to the trip and helped me land an expat position later in life.

For me, no options were really eliminated.

Of course, other people may have different experiences.

As to your specific questions:
Assuming a US-based kid has some degree of interest, and the financial wherewithal is there, what experiences did your (roughly college-aged) kids find good or bad?

Good: Learning about the world and my place in it.

Bad: There was a lot of loneliness and I seemed to get sick a lot towards the end of the trip. It is tiring to be constantly on the move.

Where did they fit things in time-wise? (A few weeks in the summer, a whole summer, a fall/spring semester, or otherwise)?

See comments above.

Did they do an academic program (i.e. study abroad), and if so, did they get much useful credit out of it, for use towards their degree at their home university?

No. But the total trip cost (in 2003-2004 dollars) was around $17K, which was a lot cheaper than what a year of college would have been to do (and I got to see and do much more, on my schedule, and in a much broader geographical area).

How common is it for kids that age to do the Backpack + Rail Pass + Hostels + Wanderlust approach to travel?

For the non-US 18 to 25 year olds, pretty common, as it is called a "gap year". For those who are US-based, probably not so much, aside from what universities offer.

I would imagine Europe is a primary destination, but would be interested in stories or thoughts on experiences elsewhere

Laos and Cambodia, 15 or so years ago, was certainly worthwhile and a bit off the beaten backpacker path. Now, it probably isn't. Working a year in New Zealand could be rewarding. Would never recommend Egypt, outside of the Siwa Oasis, to anyone. Just grab an old National Geographic, read about Cairo, and sit yourself in the middle of busy intersection in your hometown and you are practically there.

What about volunteer/charity type travel? Paid/unpaid internships or working gigs (if that's even legal and possible)?

Look into the working holiday visa in New Zealand.

Safety concerns (and safety differences for boys versus girls)?

In my entire tour, I only had one thing stolen: a plastic Target bag that I was using to stash my dirty clothes in. Stolen in a hostel in Cairns. Likely by an American. He left my clothes, but kept the bag. Took the bag while I was out touring around. He, I am certain, overslept for his flight out of the country and was a bit of a jerk from the moment I met him.

In Egypt, on the night train to Luxor, had a few uneasy feeling moments with an Egyptian national who felt the need to berate me for US's policy towards Israel. I told the guy that I would call W. Bush and pass along his concerns. That seemed to quiet him down for a while. I never called W. That guy is still probably railing against US policy towards Israel.

Experiences with costs?

It can be cheaper to do it yourself than through any tour or study abroad program. But don't be cheap. Some museum or experience may cost more than you think it should, but when else are you going to be there to see it? I did the Great Barrier Reef twice. It meant that I had to eat cheaply for a week, but oh well. It was worth it.

Language issues? (Especially with study abroad programs in non-English speaking destinations, or general travel in more off-the-beaten path locales).

Everyone spoke English, at least a little bit, except for a few places in Spain. I still was able to get a train ticket out of town.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by btenny » Wed May 08, 2019 12:44 pm

I took my wife and my kids on a summer Europe and England vacation for three weeks. The kids were 19 and 14. We visited 8 countries. We all got to see tons of cool old castles and churches and museums and stuff (including the Pope) all over. We had a ball and they got a big insight into how the world works in other places. In our case it was fast and included a ton of learning due to a in depth teaching English tour guide.

I think a study abroad full college semester in Europe is a classic over indulgence for most kids and most degrees. A few years after our summer Europe vacation trip my college daughter was offered a Europe study abroad plan. She would get 3 credit hours in a whole semester and no STEM credit (CS student). It was expensive and in a fixed location with travel to other countries extra. I said no. She was fine with that and told me later she knew more about Europe than the kids who went on the semester trip. She got 14 credits towards graduation that semester staying at school.

However I do think a summer 1-2 month backpack tour of England and Europe is fine. Just watch out how this works with summer jobs and internships. So if a kid and some friends (and maybe one parent) wants to do a Euro Pass travel vacation that is fine. But it needs to be planned out in advance where and what they are going to see and really be a fun travel and learning experience. No drunken 4 week parties in Amsterdam. Kids do enough partying at regular college.

Just my two cents. Good Luck.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by johan_s » Wed May 08, 2019 2:52 pm

I spent my senior year on exchange at a university in England, roughly 11.5 months total. I didn’t want to study with a cohort of American students embedded in a foreign university, and unfortunately I didn’t have the foreign language capability to study in a non-English speaking university.

So, I opted to study in England where I was just another student. Being just another international student (not part of a study abroad group or cohort), I interacted, socialized and traveled with many other foreign students from Europe and Africa, which for me was incredibly eye-opening, as we shared our experience of living and studying abroad. (With the comfort of me being able to speak English.)

Thankfully, it was a straight exchange program, so I paid in-state tuition at a low-cost state school in the Midwest. Rather, my Pell Grant paid for the tuition. I just saved like mad to cover a year of living expenses abroad (dorm, cheap food, travel money, etc) The classes and tutors were outstanding and very challenging. Why wouldn’t you have the experience for a comparable cost?

I am still in touch with some the folks that I met 20 years ago in that year abroad. I wish my German had been good enough to take classes independently in Germany, but it just wasn’t.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by NerdicSkier » Wed May 08, 2019 3:11 pm

I did Rotary exchange for my senior year of high school. It was great for me but it takes a special type to make that level of commitment. Much more economical than a college program, and it didn't put me behind academically at all. And I was so much better prepared for independence in college. So far high school exchange hasn't been in the wheelhouse of any of my children. But, we have hosted a few exchange students and I think that they (and we) are receiving benefit from this exchange "lite" experience.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by curmudgeon » Wed May 08, 2019 3:30 pm

My kids all liked travel, and did so in a variety of ways from middle school onward. I view it as a "luxury good", rather than key character development or anything like that. They generally had "skin in the game" in terms of forward financing at least part of their trips, and I think that was a positive. I've seen various nieces/nephews just pile significant overseas study costs into their student loans, and I'm doubtful that was a good life choice.

One of my kids was a very focused student, and did a term (second semester sophomore year) at Oxford through her college (fees for one term were covered by her full-tuition scholarship, though travel wasn't). She really loved the experience and the Oxford tutorial study model, and considered returning for another term, but ended up staying back at her college in the states for other reasons. In her case (double major finance/philosophy, with a fair bit of AP credits going in), the overseas study didn't interfere with her degree schedule. The other kids traveling were not specifically tied to college studies, but generally had a support group or organization involved for structure.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by mariezzz » Thu May 09, 2019 11:55 am

There is also still the option to work in some countries before age 26 - it's usually service industry, etc., but there are other options if you look. Visas for this are easier to get, although there are limitations on time spent and where you can work; varies by country.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by ohai » Thu May 09, 2019 12:16 pm

Hi, OP. I have an uncle who is worth like $50 - $100 million probably. Anyway, his three kids all had to take a long trip to a poor country as an eye opener. They all are ok people as adults. Going to Paris or something is nice, but seems to end up as a party trip. So, I guess it depends on your objectives.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by Johnfmh » Fri May 10, 2019 4:29 am

I have had quite a few US Army ROTC cadets as interns and one of the things that impresses me about the program is that the Cadet Command pays for many of the cadets, especially top performers, to spend “up to three weeks immersed in foreign cultures, learning more about how others around the world view the U.S. and, in the process, learning more about themselves.”

https://www.cadetcommand.army.mil/culp.aspx

One cadet, a female, spent the summer in an African country living in quarters with no proper bathrooms and no running water. It was hot, miserable, and all her cohorts got food poisoning. But she loved it and has fond memories of some of the African cadets she met. It toughened up an already tough soldier (with airborne wings) and prepared her for life, not just as an Army officer but as a citizen of the world. A volunteer experience in a developing country might offer an equivalent experience for civilian students.

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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by msk » Fri May 10, 2019 6:37 am

I give my kids a stipend per month throughout the year, i.e. 12 months of which 4 cover the summer. What they do is up to their own initiatives and they had to pay their own fares. All went to the same university. All spent Xmas breaks with the family. What the kids actually did for Easter and summers:

1 female: too lazy to do much travel. One summer she drove with friends across Canada. Did MBA in London UK presumably to get foreign exposure.
2 female: used all her Easter vacations on university sponsored trips/courses. Included Brazil, Cuba, Scotland, Barcelona(!) and earned credit hours.
3 male: too lazy to exploit opportunities offered by the university. But made numerous friends from foreign countries and stayed with them on a round the world trip upon graduation. Perked up his travel interest and managed to get travel grants for his physics post grad studies. Took the normal 4 years to graduate. Paid work at the university on research projects during the summers. The others took only 3 years to graduate.
4 female: Used every opportunity offered by the university for volunteer and course related trips and even spent one full summer in the Caribbean (earned 15 credit hours!). Included Ecuador, Barbados, Indonesia (yes, even Bali) and did a 6 week escorted backpacking in depth tour of SE Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand) summer post graduation.

Plenty of college sponsored opportunities but some kids are either too laid back or prefer saving the $ (like my son, a born BH?)

ande8054
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by ande8054 » Fri May 10, 2019 8:08 am

I'm a longtime lurker and had to register just to respond to this question, as I believe strongly in broadening ones cultural perspectives. My experience is only study abroad opportunities. I graduated from college with Engineering and German degrees about a decade ago. I had 2 chances to study abroad and thoroughly enjoyed both experiences.

My first trip was a chemistry class in Poland for 5 weeks in the summer time. Went with others in my program and had a blast. Studied in a Wroclaw, and got to visit Berlin, Prague and Krakow as well. Wonderful time and Europe is an interesting contrast to life in the states. However, I don't remember nearly as much about the chemistry as I do about the people I met and experiences, specifically visiting the church where my great-grandparents were married.

The second was how I managed to get enough credits for a degree in German Studies. I visited Potsdam Germany (outside Berlin) for 4 weeks immediately after my graduation. Due to the nature of the opportunity I remember much more about the education I received. Actually visiting the country and specific locations I heard learned about was a fantastic way to finish my education.

In short, getting credits for studying abroad that are within one's degree is fantastic. Even if the credits wouldn't apply, its probably still a worthwhile trip. Each situation should be carefully considered, of course, but I will be encouraging my own kids to do them when the time comes.

apple44
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by apple44 » Fri May 10, 2019 1:24 pm

My major in college (international political economy) requires proficiency in a non-English language in order to graduate, and in order to achieve that and also because the college strongly encouraged it, almost everyone studied abroad for at least a semester, many studied abroad for an entire year! I studied in Spain for a semester and it's a great experience. I would definitely want my kids to study abroad too!

As to costs, that semester abroad is actually cheaper than the other semesters because room and board was cheaper in Spain than in Wasghinton DC!

During that semester, not only I traveled all over Spain, but also traveled in a lot of countries in Europe. It was fun and eye-opening. I made a lot of good friends while I was there.

Regarding safety issues, I didn't feel particularly unsafe. Sure, you might run into the typical problems, getting robbed, things stolen, stranded in a strange place, etc., but it's not that much more dangerous than in the big cities in the U.S. -- I was once robbed while walking in midtown in Manhattan at 7pm! Also, all those "bad"(I would just call them "unexpected") experiences made me stronger, more flexible and definitely improved my problem-solving skills!

There are also many nice people! Actually, I would say the vast majority of people were so kind! Offering to help me purely out of the goodness of their hearts! I hitchhiked; I didn't have the coins to buy subway/bus tickets (or didn't know how to operate the machines) and strangers just paid for me or waived the fee; I joined a random private tour group for a day because they saw I was alone and willing to take me on for free!

Also I'd like to add: I have never met anybody who regretted studying abroad or thought they could use that time doing something else.

NotWhoYouThink
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Fri May 10, 2019 2:11 pm

However, I noticed a common theme in their stories that one person eventually stated outright: they did far more partying with university peers than they did exploring, meeting people, and immersing themselves in the culture. In other words, it appeared to me a lot of study abroad students really waste the opportunity.
You just contradicted yourself.

As others have mentioned, this is very difficult for engineers to do and still maintain their 4 year graduation schedule. One of my kids got a fellowship through the foreign language department to take a 6 week immersion course in a European country after Freshman year. The other students were from all over the planet, it was a good experience and she got college credit. The other one worked either as an intern in industry or in his department at college during undergraduate, but has had some interesting (funded) travel in his doctorate program.

As with all else concerning college and that time in your life, it depends. Temperament, interests, funding, social life all play into the decision. What works for you and yours might not work for me and mine, and that's ok.

3504PIR
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by 3504PIR » Fri May 10, 2019 7:30 pm

As others have said, it depends. Usually I have seen kids with an itch figure out how to get somewhere, somehow at some cost. Others are comfortable at home. My daughter grew up in Europe, came back to the US with us for her senior year in high school and then embarked on a gap year back in Europe which is a concept she was very familiar with, but is much lees common in the US. In the end, after a few months back in Europe, she decided to start her studies at college sooner rather than later and made it back in time to start the fall semester at the school of her choice. She remains interested in what she calls “study abroad” and I recognize as really an internship overseas somewhere which will come next year after her junior year is complete. She is majoring in hotel management so however she negotiates that internship or her career in general she will have lots of chances to continue to discover the world.

Her closest friends also with similar expat experiences have taken a variety of paths for travel and study abroad. Some went to Uni in Europe, some moved back to where family is and never plan on leaving again, so yeah, it depends.

Traveler
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by Traveler » Sun May 12, 2019 9:28 am

I studied abroad for a semester and loved it. In hindsight, I would have studied abroad the second semester of the year and then stayed for the summer, but the program was the fall semester and because I hadn't been out of the country before, I was afraid to go early and travel on my own. I was a business major and studied with people from all over the world. There were many social activities for the international students (there was a bar in the basement of the school) that provided a good environment to get to know people even though we lived in dorms spread across the city. I would highly recommend studying abroad, but realize that not all majors accommodate such a luxury.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sun May 12, 2019 10:54 am

My kid did a summer study abroad(the summer after freshman year) in Paris for language and in London at a Kings college(I believe) something to do with spy and encryption. When she was in Paris during Tour de France, she travelled around France to see follow them in real life. She’s now more knowledgeable about Paris then I am. In London, she used the bus to get around between studies, that’s if she did any. Wonderful experience if you can’t do the whole year or the whole semester abroad because of your study program. She was in Computer Science/engineering, she couldn’t afford to miss one semester, plus the years after sophomore year are for internships.
After college, she also delayed starting her job for 3 months so she could backpack in Europe, about 2 months, until money ran out, then she came home and spent a month with us. It was good because we got to know her better after college, much calmer kid then she was her last year in high school, she was a pain to deal with, the kick the nest before leaving type of behaviors.

halfnine
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Re: Backpacking/study abroad for young folks

Post by halfnine » Sun May 12, 2019 2:51 pm

psteinx wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 3:47 pm
...I view travel, particularly outside of one's cultural comfort zone, as producing a variety of benefits. Some are pure fun/enjoyment, but travel can also alter one's world view, enlarge one's thinking and vision of the world, and so on. There may be direct benefits (career and the like) to the kid from some of this, or not - hard to really know ahead of time....
I have spent most of my adult life abroad including a few gap years along the way. These benefits you allude to above are unlikely to happen to an individual under 25 who spends their time in Europe, Australia/New Zealand, SE Asia or Central America. If my children chose that route for their time abroad then I won't have any problems with it. I know they will have a fun time but it won't be on my nickel.

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