The student union is calling, but so are the beaches of South East Asia. Which to choose?

For some the decision is just too difficult; whichever path you choose you don’t feel it’d be right. You’ve weighed up the pros and cons of both and still, it’s even.

Well, what if I told you you didn’t necessarily have to choose one or the other? There are ways to do university and travel, in the same years. Here’s how you could be in the library finishing off that coursework by day and hanging out with the overseas locals on the beach by night.

1. Study abroad

Study Abroad

Studying abroad is exciting, and makes for a fancy story to tell when you’re older too. The chance to actually live somewhere and do as locals do is a pretty cool one – you need to create that opportunity.

Money definitely doesn’t have to be a barrier. There are many countries in the EU that don’t even charge tuition fees so effectively you can study for free. Look at Norway, Germany and Denmark for starters.

In some countries it’s crazy expensive for international students, but you can still make it work depending on your income and access to cash.

Think differently to your friends and you could be right in the middle of an exciting part of the world that allows for foreign travel and exciting adventures beyond what a university in England ever could.

Just make sure that the qualification you receive is recognised in your field in England too.

2. Do a semester abroad

Harvard university

If studying abroad sounds like a little too much for you to organise and cope with, think about just taking a semester or year overseas instead.

Many UK universities offer the chance to study abroad within a course. And if they say they offer it, make sure to follow up, stay strong and actually pursue it.

On my journalism course in Sheffield they offered a year abroad in the prospectus but then in our introduction they told us we’d be better off staying there, effectively putting everyone off. For some reason, even though this was one of the reasons I’d chosen the course, I didn’t pursue it.

Lazy, from both sides.

If your university doesn’t have a study abroad programme then look at experiences like Erasmus; if they can, they’ll help you out.  

3. Use your summer holiday wisely

Use your summer holiday wisely

Most UK universities finish mid-June and don’t go back till the end of September. That’s like 12 weeks-ish! Remember how long school holidays were? Well it’s twice that. Even if you worked your arse off for six weeks to get money, you could still do something cool for the remaining six.

You could pick a country in South East Asia and travel very nicely for six weeks on a few hundred quid. Or you could work at summer camps in Western Europe, or join a tour through Africa, or even find a short volunteering project.

If you can’t, or haven’t managed to save any of your student loan then there are plenty of options to travel for very low cost. Take a look at workaway.info for summer projects or go and teach at camp in the USA. I worked as a radio DJ and visual arts camp counsellor in New York for 12 weeks – one of the cheapest things you can do in a summer, and you actually get paid at the end of it too.

If I hadn’t spent it all after camp with a week in Cancun I would’ve had a nice stack of cash to take back to my third year, but I did. No regrets.

4. And your winter one

Use your winter holiday to travel

University winter holidays run from mid-December to mid-January – around 3 or 4 weeks. This could be the perfect amount of time to bag yourself a seasonal job so you can afford to do something awesome in the summer.

Or, if you’re super keen and feeling flush, it’s a great time to travel too. You can get some bargain trips if you don’t mind where you go and wait till the last minute.

Snow anyone?

Or use the awkward time – what with the family wanting to see you and all – to get some work done to free up reading weeks and weekends in the future, just so you’re well prepared for future travel opportunities.

5. Hang out with the international students

Travel friends

My Australian university friend reckons the best thing about being an international student is all the other international students. You get to learn about the world from them, travel vicariously, and, if you can, make good enough friends so you’ll have free places to stay the world over too.

Find out when and where they meet during Fresher’s Week, and go. If you’re a Brit at a British university you can say you’re here to bring the local culture. No one will mind. These guys could be the most interesting and open minded of all your new university friends.

You’re welcome.

6. Weekends!

Weekend trips to Europe

Depending on how your course pans out you might find that you have a Monday or a Friday off, giving you a long weekend to make the most of.

There are some amazingly cheap flights out of the UK, if you forego taking any luggage. Keep life exciting and go last minute to wherever's cheapest and you could find deals for around £20. Hostels are cheap, in much of Europe there’s a lot to see in every city for free or for very little, and you can flash that student card wherever you see the sign.

This is a great way to combine seeing Europe with the security of toeing the line and getting your degree at the same time.

Don’t waste your holidays

I spent my first university summer holiday living at my parents', working every weekday in an office on minimum wage and at Boots at the weekend. I made a lot of money, but I also spent a lot going out to my local town with friends as much as possible, and on a week in Kavos and another in Ibiza. I mean, it was fun, but I definitely could’ve had more to show for that money if I’d got in gear and done my research.

It was the next year, my second university summer, that I signed up to work at summer camp in the USA and life really got interesting. In fact, to this day, that summer remains the best of my life.

Make sure you study!

There’s no point planning all the trips in your spare time if you can’t keep up with your studies. It kind of defeats the point if you then have to go and repeat a year because you were too busy planning or actually travelling, costing you even more money and time.

Your organisational skills and productivity levels are going to have to be on point to give you the time to explore in your holidays and time off. Which, as any ‘grown up’ will tell you, is another excellent life lesson to learn.

Good luck!


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