Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How to find travel opportunities in community college

When I was in Boston last week, I happened to overhear a group of students discussing some of their plans for studying abroad next semester.

And it got me thinking, and wishing in fact, that every student could have that amazing opportunity.

The thing is – I think every student can have those amazing opportunities – I just think the responsibility falls upon the individual to find those opportunities. And not only find them, but make them happen (even if you're broke).

Sometimes that means extra work, extra classes, and extra risks.

But it also can mean an extra experience, an expanded perspective, and often amazing relationships. 
So below are three tips (It is Three for Thursday after all;) for you to use your college as your own personal travel agency and see what opportunities it can open up for you.

1. Clubs offer the most accessible pathways for student travel.

Not every club or scholarship organization has a budget that can afford to send everyone of its students on a trip. But quite a few do.

I wrote about the opportunities clubs offer in my book; I had never been on an airplane until my Sophomore year of college – Phi Theta Kappa offered that opportunity because our budget afforded officers to travel to their international convention. And that trip led to me building friendships that I still have six years later.

Even if a club can only offer you a few trips around your state or locally – those opportunities are ones that can really serve to expand your day-to-day college journey, especially if you are at a two-year school and live at home. 

Those trips also forge bonds between you and your fellow club members.

And those bonds are the ones that can last even after you transfer to your next destination. 

2. Community colleges offer travel opportunities – sometimes at a cost – but at one that you should consider.

The 2-year college that I attended offered honors students a free opportunity to participate in a global summit with students from around the world in Austria.

Now, I'd be lying to say that they took just any student - in fact, the program was very selective and usually only took a handful of students a year. 

But why can't you be one of the handful of students on your campus? Your school might not have the exact same programs, but you should certainly contact your Honors program director to see what is out there.  

If your community college doesn't offer a program like this, the odds are they still have a study abroad program (or a partnership with a local college who has one).  

I researched five different community college study abroad programs for this post, and the trips aren't cheap - they can cost anywhere from $2000 - $5000 for a program (depending on its length and scope of travel). But here is the catch - most of those programs have scholarship opportunities and grants that they allow students to apply for. 

In fact, one college that I researched offered awards to students of up to $5000 to pay for the program! The important step is to plan ahead and think creatively to make it happen (e.g. some of the colleges offered monthly payment plans for the programs as well). 

I know that it's hard enough just to cover tuition, let alone anything else. But if you close off your mind immediately, it will 100% never happen. Set a goal, ask a lot of advice, and work really hard. I promise you it is possible for you.

3. Study abroad programs at your transfer destination can also be an option.

When I transferred to a university, I took a class that included a two-week trip to England as part of the curriculum.

My scholarship covered the cost of the class – I had to work to pay for the rest of the cost of the trip. That meant that I had to work quite a few extra hours at my part time job – but I honestly can say that at no point in my life would the opportunity have ever presented itself otherwise.

And I think that is what is important to remember about these kinds of opportunities.

I constantly hear students (and even adults) mentioning the “college experience” – I don’t think a lot of people think about what that actually means.

I think the “college experience” should mean that you have this rare opportunity to expand your horizons in ways that you never had thought possible growing up.

If you’re a student like me, one that comes from a family that didn’t have the financial means to really see a lot of things outside of where you grew up, college can be a vehicle for you to see parts of the world you never would see otherwise.

The most enriching experiences aren't always the easiest or the cheapest. But they are worth the effort - and there is always a way to make it happen if you're dedicated enough. 

The best way to start? Ask someone who has studied abroad for their advice :)

To read more about Isa's personal story how you can build relationships to: make positive friends, be more successful in academics and work, find the right people to connect with, and access the hidden job market, grab a FREE e-copy of the first chapter of Community College Success: How to Finish with Friends, Scholarships, Internships, and the Career of Your Dreams! Claim your free copy on the Facebook page!

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