Challenges of A Traveling College Student

With the heart of a traveler but the mind of a college student, I took a giant leap from exploring the world to corporate America this summer. Of course, this meant dressing in fancy clothes each day and learning about big business in the United States, but more importantly it meant that I was working full time, 5 days a week and therefore did not have many opportunities to travel for longer than a few days at a time. Some of you may think – how can you be a travel blogger without traveling? Well, the sad reality is that this summer has been extremely difficult for me, as a travel blogger, staying put in one place for months instead of being out in the world. When I was putting together my summer plans, I had to choose between having a stable job and doing what I absolutely love.

At the end of the day, I realized that though I am in one place for now, the savings, friendships, and network I will come away with from this summer will enable me to travel as much as I want after graduation. I will always be a traveler, first and foremost, but as a student struggling with loans, career options, and entering the “real world,” I have quickly realized that I also need to focus on building a future that can sustain me going forward.

College students have an extremely tough predicament a lot of the time because travel often conflicts with the things we need to construct the rest of our lives. We are in an interesting situation because we haven’t yet had the opportunity to establish ourselves within the working world. In today’s post, I want to address some of the issues common with college students and how I’ve managed to balance my college life, my future, and my travels.

College Is Expensive

Let’s face it – college isn’t cheap. The sticker price of Rice, my school, comes at almost $30,000 per semester…a steep price to pay eight times over four years. Without financial aid, scholarships, and savings, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford going to school at all. Mine is just one example of many that college is becoming increasingly more expensive, and as a result, college students all over the country have to take out loans while juggling a side job in order to pay for school alone.

So where in those finances does travel fit in? Surprisingly, there are a lot of options. Studying abroad is an opportunity that enables students to take advantage of scholarships and financial aid in order to live abroad for a semester or a year. There are also hundreds of contests, fellowships and service opportunities that students can apply to in order to get grant money or funding for international travel. Whatever motivates you or inspires you, whether that’s creative writing or aeronautics, there are opportunities available if you dig for them. All it takes is a quick Google search or a trip to your school’s international programs office to start your search.

“There Isn’t Enough Time” or “I Need to Focus on Serious Things”

Between classes, internships, extracurricular activities, and sleep, college students often have challenged with time management and finding balance. As I mentioned, I had to choose between spending my summer traveling, or spending my summer saving money and working. I chose work because I knew that it would afford me countless travel opportunities in the near future.

Travel is like any extracurricular activity – you need to find time to fit it into your busy schedule. As students, it can be difficult to find breaks long enough to justify the costs of going abroad, but school breaks can be an excellent start. Three months during the summer is an extensive amount of time to dedicate to travel and personal development, and if you combine that time with a scholarship or some money you’ve saved over the semester, you can learn a ton over that summer that classes or work cannot provide. Don’t discount travel as pure fun – it’s also a rewarding learning experience as well. (Plus, it looks GREAT on a resume!)

“I Have to Choose Between My Future and My Travels”

I’ve addressed this one last because it’s something I still struggle with from time to time. As a student entering my last year of college, I have the real world, the future, and employment to think about, and they are thoughts that plague my mind each and every day. Most students go to college in order to get a job directly afterward, and with the increasing difficulty of entering the job market, it’s easy to think that we are at a huge disadvantage when competing against other students and experienced hires.

For me, the best way I tackle this concern is to find activities that combine the two. Studying abroad was one way I was able to combine my studies and my passion for travel. Now that I am looking for jobs, I am only applying to global positions where travel is a distinct possibility within the job descriptions. I have also made the decision to save up as much money as I can this year, sacrificing a few opportunities to travel internationally, in order to travel long-term once I graduate. I know that being able to travel for months on end will help me learn more and better myself for the future, so I am willing to sacrifice a summer to make that happen.

What this summer has really instilled in me is trying to find opportunities to travel that are closer to home. I recently took a weekend and had a “staycation,” where I explored areas of the massive surroundings of Houston that I have never visited before. In many cases, I felt like a tourist…in my own city! Other weekends, I have had the opportunity to take short road trips to nearby cities (Austin, San Antonio, and Kemah are good examples) and even flew out to Chicago on a few occasions. Just because you’re working towards a future goal or career doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all travel, it just means that you have to find different ways to incorporate it into your life. For me, my traveler’s heart will always be eager to get out and explore new areas and try new things, no matter how near or far my destination is.

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13 thoughts on “Challenges of A Traveling College Student”

  1. $30,000 a semester?! I can’t say I blame you for seeking out high paying work to start paying back that enormous debt … but keep building web connections, properties and biz opps on the side …. the internet is where it’s at in the 21st century!

  2. Oh my god! You speak right to my heart. I can totally relate to this article. I’m still in community college just to make sure I save a buck or two. But traveling really isn’t that easy when you’re in college. Thankfully I have family in Germany so in my breaks I usually go back home and explore Europe some more. Although I always feel guilty for not taking on an internship or a summer job.

    Greetings from LA

  3. Good for you Kay, you are far more focused and driven than I ever was as a senior in college. You seem to know what your priorities are and there is no shame in making the tough choices. Travel will always be there for you as long as you follow your heart and do what makes you happy, the rest will come.

  4. This is a good topic. I’m still in school myself, but I taught in Taiwan a couple years ago and blogged from there. I still consider myself a “travel blogger,” even though I won’t be anywhere for another year. I think travelers remain the same at heart even when they can’t move around.

    My question is, are you a traveler if you live in one place, but that one place is so removed from your home? (E.g. my year in Taiwan, living in Korea for the rest of my life) Is that merely expat life, or a travel life? What if you travel infrequently; once a year or so? Where does the line cross from travel to not-so-travel?

    Anyway, awesome post, and very thoughtful.

  5. This was a very interesting read. I say this because I am also in college (university) and I decided to take this coming semester off from my studies to travel. Funnily enough my most recent blog post was about a similar predicament I was faced with. I had really only been able to travel during the summers I had off from school, but I decided that I needed something a little more long-term. Now, obviously this isn’t the best idea for my university studies, but I feel like this was something I am (was) compelled to do. I do plan to finish my university education, but right now I felt like I was in a tough spot, considering where my heart was at and with what I was “supposed” to be doing.

  6. This resonates with me a lot 🙂 I really hit my wanderlust in college, too, and after studying abroad for a semester committed to a career in international education. Now I’ve had a wonderful mix of jobs abroad working with college students, and working in the US watching undergrads change their lives through study abroad. I can’t imagine doing anything else!

  7. I’m not in college anymore (sob), but I’m having the same problems as you with the time and money thing. I’m waiting to start a new job in about a month, but I’m completely broke. So I have loads of time and all these places I want to go, but no money to do it. And when I’ll have money in future, I’ll have little time to travel. It’s the eternal dilemma and sadly doesn’t stop after graduation!

    It really sounds like you’re getting a chance to see places nearer home that you hadn’t thought about before, which is a great thing! Especially since when you do eventually have time and money for travel, it can be tempting to just consider long-haul, more ‘exotic’ destinations. It’s how I feel about Europe, being so close. If I have a month or more to travel, I don’t want to “waste” it on places I could do in a weekend or short holiday in future. Yet I can easily see myself spending my whole life taking that attitude, and never seeing the nearby places at all.

    Maybe I’ll hop on Ryanair now and book a trip to Barcelona…

  8. I am a college student, and I have managed some big trips every year during my studies. I was lucky enough to study for my whole degree abroad (I’m from Norway, I studied in London), and at my university we had a 3 week Easter holiday every year. So I saved as much as I could through each autumn term, and ended up visiting Australia, Malaysia, the US West Coast, Egypt, Wales, Greece, Montenegro, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Paris and New York during my years as a student 🙂

    I have just started my Masters degree and have no intention to stop travelling! 🙂

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