Just over a month ago, I participated in one of many Twitter chats that I'm known for participating in. In this particular session, we talked on the topic of reunions – and the travels that we would want to be reunited with. This immediately brought me back to my very first flight – and, in all reality, my very first major trip - as a student traveler going to Germany. It was an act of sacrifice by my family to help me make the trip as a high school exchange student; something that I will forever be grateful for. More importantly, that allowance gave me a passion for travel – and helped to get me where I am at today.
My student trip opened my eyes to a world much bigger than my childhood home of California. And it got me to understand that student travel is much more important than letting young people take a holiday. In measure of culture, economics, and social enrichment, student travel is so much more important than we may give it credit for.
One statistic that caught me off guard was the amount of student travelers that go to different destinations around the world every year. According to the Wyse Student Travel Initiative, 20% of the global travel marketplace consists of student travelers. From their travels alone, student travel provides a direct impact of $165 billion in ticketing alone. With this much of an impact, student travelers are a vital part of the travel ecosystem.
But student travelers aren’t just going abroad for holiday or fun travel. Like a younger version of myself, over 2 million student travelers take trips to other countries to immerse themselves in a new language. As the understanding of the English language is growing in importance, 75% of those travelers are coming to English-speaking areas to learn the language. As a student traveler, I did it in reverse: I went to Germany to learn how to speak German. Of all the lessons I came out of from my travels, that ended up being a minor one.
Perhaps the biggest reason students travel is to seek higher education outside of their home countries – which can be an incredibly enriching experience. Despite the economic downturn that we experienced years ago, higher education was not touched as a result of the recession. And while many students come to the United States to pursue a higher education, other areas are growing as destinations for educational and student travel. Those areas include the United Kingdom, France, China, and Australia. The growth of student travel is so important to China, that they are now investing more into domestic infrastructure in order to accommodate students visiting the country.
As I did my research into student travel, one of the biggest surprises that I had was the growing trend of “voluntourism.” That is, traveling to a destination to do volunteer work in a country. Nearly two million students travel to another country each year to do humanitarian work and community development, and leave a significant economic impact behind them. This growth in traveling for self-enhancement is pretty amazing to see, and proof that student travel doesn’t have to be traditional in order to be fulfilling and completing.
The world of student travel has grown significantly over the past decade, and far more since I was a student traveler myself. If I could go back to be reunited with my travels to Germany…I absolutely would in a heartbeat. In fact, I probably should have done a little l0t better in school, so that I could have done lot more travel.
Have you been on a student trip that changed your life? Or are you planning a student trip of your own? Have you gone or are you going to try "voluntourism?" I’d love to hear about it your plans – let me know what your experiences in the comments below!