What is educational travel?

It is travel abroad with purpose and preparation. Instead of landing somewhere in a clueless state for a vacation break, you will study up in advance and hit the ground running with knowledge of the history, culture, language, and layout of the land. Spending some time learning the back story of the places you will visit enhances that visit immensely. To know that construction on the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris began way back in 1163 and took nearly 200 years to complete enhances your appreciation of the place. Recognizing the Pantheon in Rome for its full two-thousand year history standing exactly where it is today, or identifying the medieval architecture of Florence while standing atop the Duomo – that is educational travel.

Educational travel is also learning the basic greetings and courtesy words in the languages of the countries one intends to visit. Knowing that one says “buongiorno” instead of “good morning” as a greeting in Italy or asking for help in Paris with a “s’il vous plaît” to start and a “merci” to end makes a big difference in your experience. At the very least, English-speaking Americans who learn to use the courtesy words of other languages when visiting foreign countries enhances travel and interacting with others, wherever one may be. Learning is part of educational travel. This is the type of opportunity that travel guru Rick Steves calls “traveling as a temporary local.” Instead of a step on, step off dedicated tour bus that segregates students from the local people, we will be stepping on and off city buses and subways, or standing in line at a taxi station waiting for a cab. Educational travel is all about preparing you for a much more meaningful experience abroad – something that we here at Lake Superior College take very seriously.

Florence Duomo from Michelangelo Hill
Florence Duomo from Michelangelo Hill

Getting out into your world with LSC—what difference does it make?

Educational travel can offer avenues for personal growth and career opportunity – it can be part of an education for life.

With regards to personal growth, experiences abroad can help you to grow and mature as an individual by forcing you to step out of your comfort zone. Taking steps out into the larger world can lead to steps out of one’s limited self, so to speak. Discovering the unknown world out there can be a ticket to finding paths within oneself that you didn’t even know existed – a realization that you can be a bigger you.

And then there are the potential career opportunities down the road. We live in an increasingly interconnected world and knowing how to communicate and interact effectively with people from other parts of the world might well make the difference in your future career. When considering for a moment who I work with here at the college, colleagues from Poland, Finland, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Italy come to mind. Duluth is an international city, and time abroad can help you better appreciate the diversity of other cultures. Travel can also open up avenues for future jobs and careers that you had never before realized were possible. There are Americans living and working in countries all over the world, and you never know – that might be you one day! Traveling abroad can be life changing, but at the very least, it is just plain fun and a cool thing to do. Get out into your world!

Educational travel and study abroad—what’s the difference?

Both experiences are worthy of your consideration and involvement, but they are different opportunities. First there is the difference in time commitment – educational travel at LSC typically lasts from 7 to 21 days. Study abroad programs are longer – running from one-month summer programs through semester-long exchanges and even stays abroad lasting a full-academic year. The second factor is cost – shorter programs typically cost substantially less than their longer, study abroad counterparts. For example, the May 2019 program to Italy and France cost approximately $4250 per student, while a semester in Montpelier, France through the U of MN, Twin Cities cost about $23, 500 for spring semester 2019. Another difference is found in the extent of the academic work involved – educational travel at LSC includes non-credit learning prior to travel or a 1-3 credit global studies course attached to the trip, while study abroad programs normally include 12-15 credits of coursework. Again – both of these approaches to spending time abroad have their place. You can decide which is right for you or perhaps you’ll start with some educational travel at LSC and end with a study abroad experience at your transfer college or university.

Can student loans be applied toward educational travel programs at LSC?

Maybe. They can if the program includes a class – though we strongly recommend that students think very carefully about the long-term implications of this added debt. Your obligation to repay this loan money will continue long after the class and travel associated with it are done. As an alternative, consider taking on an extra job, moving home for a semester, asking grandparents to pay part of it, or finding other ways to finance your travel before deciding to go the student loan route. It is ultimately up to each student to decide – this might be a life-changing, career-enhancing experience that will prove to be well worth the investment. Or it might just be a really interesting, eye-opening trip that provides memories that last a lifetime. You won’t know until you get there, but it is right to think about it before you go.