Travel VS Education: The Eternal Debate
To travel or to study? It’s a decision that many young aspiring travellers feel like they have to make as soon as they finish high school. I clearly remember being 18 and feeling like I had to choose: Either going to university in my home country and have more chances to secure a job in the future, or go traveling, explore the world and eventually work my way up (choice that only few people make, because let’s face it, it’s fucking scary). If you are older, the choice can be even harder if you traveled for a few years already and you don’t feel like you going to university back home after you tasted the amazing lifestyle of adventure and travel. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be that way. In 2016, it is definitely possible to study whilst traveling around the globe.
During my 5 years study period, I managed to do a mix of both as I spent 6 months studying in Miami and almost 2 years in Spain before I graduated with a Master in Economics and all that for about the same cost as studying at home! I didn’t explore all the options available to study whilst traveling and yet I was able to spend almost 50% of my study time in a foreign country!
So let’s end this common belief that study and travel are exclusive because they are simply NOT. The truth is that there are more and more ways that allow you to study whilst traveling full-time. And no…student exchange programs aren’t the only option available. Now, pay attention whilst you read this article but most importantly – share it with a friend who hesitates between both.
1. Study online
Distance learning is becoming more and more popular for students who desire to satisfy their travel desire whilst studying. Through online studies it is possible to reach different level of qualification, from a simple certificate to a MBA. Even though I didn’t explore this option, Hayley did. She studied Event Management online just before setting off on her travels and since then, has scored many managerial positions all over the globe (way more than me!). The big advantage in this study model in my opinion is that it gives the student the opportunity to get a recognised degree whilst gaining professional experience abroad.
But it doesn’t stop there, it also shows a high level of determination and organisational skills to your future potential employer. Not everyone is able to travel, study a bachelor or master degree, work part-time and all of this in a different country and culture. Distance programs are definitely tailored for independent students and require a certain level of self-motivation – but the rewards are absolutely worth it.
Now what about the cost? The cost of an online degree is not as expensive as you may think. For example, an online Bachelor in Business and Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science would cost you 4868€ for the FULL 3 YEAR PROGRAM – online,…bloody online! In 2016, this university was ranked 35th overall in the QS World University Rankings. It is a really good option for those already traveling yet desiring to study a specific skill to boost their resume. If you want more information about distance learning, I highly recommend you look at this website:
2. Student Exchange Program/Erasmus
A student exchange program is a program in which a student from a university studies abroad at one of their institution’s partner institutions. I experienced an Erasmus exchange myself and I personally chose Granada (Spain) as a destination. To this date, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was able to truly submerge myself into the culture of this country and got to learn Spanish fluently all in the space of 5 months!
In order to travel whilst studying, the student exchange is by far the most popular choice and it will probably stay this way for many, many years to come.
Depending on your university, this program will last somewhere between 6 months to 1 year. In Belgium (and most of Europe I believe), we have the chance to do a 1 year-long Erasmus exchange during our Bachelor degree and another student exchange of one more year during your Master degree. Add a 6 months internship abroad to those 2 years of an exchange program, and you’ve already spent 50% of your study time living ABROAD!
So if your university or school offers this option, I sincerely beg you to take part in this program as for many people, it is the best experience they encounter in their lives.
But it doesn’t end there, a recent study (read here) showed that students who travel abroad gain management competencies and often also improve their cross-cultural skills, especially those who worked in multicultural teams. They also become more independent, flexible and self-aware.
A growing number of students have travelled abroad not only for their studies, but also for their internships and short-term programs over the past decades. As a logical result, employers now look not only for international study but also for international work experience. In fact, the very same study revealed that going abroad makes you more employable.
Internships are part of the graduate program of universities so take advantage of that to do an internship abroad. There are plenty of platforms that are available to help you find a tailored internships overseas such as:
In some cases, you might have to pay a fee towards the said agency that helps you to get a placement, so I believe that applying independently is a better option to test the grounds. I personally landed an internship in Shanghai right after my studies, simply by applying spontaneously upon mine and Hayley’s arrival. These internships often lead to an actual job abroad. If you like to travel, it is definitely a golden opportunity, so consider it seriously.
4. Study in a foreign university
After my Erasmus exchange during my last year of Bachelor degree, I decided to do a 6 months break before starting my Master degree with the main purpose being to improve my English. Well, let’s say that things got a little bit out of hand, and I ended up traveling for 2 consecutive years… and it was the best thing I EVER DID!
During my first year of travel, I was lucky enough to have met Hayley in Australia and most of you know the rest of the story! (If you don’t, read about it here!) Since 2012 we’ve traveled together around the likes of Myanmar, Portugal, China, Thailand, Spain and many more countries.
After our first 2 years of travel together, I wanted to complete my Master degree but I most definitely didn’t see myself going back to Belgium for a 2 year-long Master program. So I started to look into my options and eventually found out that a traditional Student exchange program wasn’t the only option to study abroad. You can simply apply as an international student. As a city that genuinely took my heart, I decided to go back to Granada, Spain. I loved every little thing about this place: the Spanish culture, the tapas, the weather, the friends I had made along the way and let’s be honest – the nightlife there is just amazing! It was a no-brainer for me to go back there for another year of study!
Once I’d already gotten myself excited at the idea of heading back to Granada, I brought myself back to reality and realised that enrolling to university as an international student would probably cost a lot. Nope! The truth is, the whole year fee cost me around 2300€ for a master degree in Economics. Not bad hey!? So if you hate the idea of remaining at home, feeling trapped, don’t overrule this option and take the time to look EVERYWHERE on the internet, you might be amazed at what options you have in reality.
Nowadays there is a big misconception about the word ‘Education’.
Most people envision education as a typical ‘university’ kind of education, and it’s just wrong. Education can be gained through so many different ways such as self-learning, reading books, going to workshops, getting a mentor or enrolling into volunteer projects – you name it. Surprisingly, you’d most likely learn more than with traditional studies.
Realise that enrolling in an university is an important choice that, when badly made, can involve a huge opportunity cost. When you are choosing a degree, you are ultimately trading your money, time, and 4 to 5 years of potential full-time work earnings in exchange for a better career opportunity in the future. It is basically the same as a business investment so you’d better consider it as such.
Lots of students choose their degree based on the totally wrong reasons. They let authority figures influence them, they follow their friends, or they simply choose a degree they are not passionate about.
Do you recognise yourself in this? If you do, please understand that for at least 3 years of your life, you will be doing something that doesn’t really mean anything to you. You could travel the world, or start a project that you are truly passionate about, instead of studying something that doesn’t drive you. So before making a study choice, think twice.
Remember that a paper alone doesn’t determine your path in life or the next travel you want to take. While traveling the world won’t earn you a diploma, it will transform your perspective and knowledge in ways you didn’t think possible. If you have a dream that does not fit with typical university studies, you should believe in yourself and go for it. And get ready for raised eyebrows from your parents and friends telling you it’s a bad decision. You will have to stand up for yourself. Hell, if you don’t stand up for yourself, who will?
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” — Steve Jobs
I personally wish I had read an article like this when I was 18 and about to start university. If you are in the dilemma of choosing between travel or study, comprehend that you have the opportunity to do both so share this to let other people know.
If you know a friend who is about to make the decision or struggling with it, please share this information so that others will benefit from this information and hopefully make a better thought choice.
If you finished your studies and wish you read that years ago, share it one more time so that people hopefully read this at the right moment in their life and don’t start meaningless degrees or stay trapped at their home university when there are literally a million other options out there.
Do you know other ways to travel and study at the same time? Please let us know in the comments below!