Long summer holidays and exciting new friendships make university a great time to travel – but can you afford it? Lauren Razavi outlines 10 ways students can globe-trot for free.
You've got months off for summer, exciting new friends from across the country or further afield, and less responsibility than you're ever going to have in your adult life. When could be a better time for travelling than your university years?
If only it were that simple. Sadly, when the university break arrives the student loan tend to have been diminished by rent, food and nights out, meaning travel can fast become a distant dream.
But get creative, and it doesn’t have to be like that. There are a variety of ways to see the world – often without spending anything. Now's the time to start planning your summer travels, and here are 10 handy tips to get you started on your journey:
1. Cultural exchange and study schemes
Each year, government departments fund a limited number of undergraduates to go on three-week cultural exchange programmes such as Study China and Study India. All accommodation, transport within the country and subsistence costs are covered by the schemes, and home universities will often fund flights, visas and vaccinations. A great way to fully immerse yourself in another culture – from food and drink to language and daily customs.
2. Teach English abroad at a camp or school
Teaching offers the opportunity to go almost anywhere in the world, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most rewarding options for student travellers. As well as getting to know a culture from the inside and meeting plenty of like-minded folk, most of your expenses are covered and many schools will pay you on top of this. Some notable companies include The English Experience, LEOlingo and Camp America.
3. Seek out travel grants
Believe it or not, some organisations exist with the sole purpose of funding travel. To cash in on this generosity, you’ll need to present a clear, considered plan and persuade a board of people that your trip is worthwhile. Many organisations value trips that will enhance personal or cultural development, but each has its own specifications and criteria. The SPRET educational trust caters specifically for students based in certain areas, whereas UNESCO and the UN both offer more general funding to travellers.
4. Enter competitions
While this certainly isn’t a guaranteed means of financing your adventures, competitions can offer some very appealing prizes. Here at The Telegraph, our travel section runs a weekly writing competition and offers a generous £200 prize in the winner’s chosen currency. Other useful websites to keep an eye on are gapyear.com and World Nomads; both run regular competitions for writers, bloggers, photographers and documentary-filmmakers.
5. Study abroad
Some degree courses automatically include a term or year away, but there are opportunities for any undergraduate to spend time abroad as part of their studies. Almost all UK institutions take part in the ERASMUS exchange scheme with other European universities. If accepted, grants, scholarships and other forms of financial assistance are all available – often in addition to your regular grant or loan. Individual universities often have partnerships with certain institutions overseas too.
6. Become a tour guide
If you’re looking to spend time in one place, consider getting to know your location and applying to become a tour guide. Tourism offices, hostels and specialist tour companies such as Sandemans New Europe recruit English-speakers with local knowledge to become guides. You’ll need to be charming and confident to be successful, but it’s certainly possible to cover the costs of longer-term trips this way.
7. Hitchhike and Couchsurf
If you’ve read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, chances are you’ll already have been inspired by this Beat tale of hitchhiking across America. Hitchhiking can be perfectly safe, but be sensible, take precautions and stay alert. Combine this with Couchsurfing – staying at a local person’s home for free – and it’s possible to travel far and wide without spending anything on hotels or transport.
8. Work on a farm
If you don't mind getting your hands dirty, WWOOF offers farming work in a range of different countries, often providing food, accommodation and modest stipends in exchange for labour. You pay a small upfront fee for membership which gives you access to their wide-reaching network to find both short-term and long-term work. The appeal of beautiful skies and living the simple life has been enough to sway many travellers into earning their keep this way.
9. Do it for charity
Many students take on the challenge of a trip known as a ‘Jailbreak’ to raise money for charity through their university or a campus society. These adventures are usually organised annually and the general idea is to travel as far as possible over the course of a weekend (or longer) without spending any money. Friends and family sponsor you, often per mile, with a bonus for the winning team who end up furthest away. People and companies are relatively forthcoming with freebies if you’re raising money for a good cause, and your whole travelling experience will certainly be a unique one.
10. Utilise your friends
The cliché that you'll meet people from all walks of life at university is usually an accurate one – and many will come from places you didn't even know existed as well. Whether your friends are from another UK city or Australia, take advantage of the travelling opportunities provided by knowing such a mix of people. Stay with new acquaintances and you’ll come out of it with new perspectives, language skills and, often, a full stomach. You’ll have to pay to get there, but the accommodation and the personal tour guide are free.