There’s nothing like international travel to broaden your perspective. In the case of student travel, it can heighten and reinforce lessons in science, math, history and other areas.
Cast your mind back to your elementary school days. In particular, think about science class. What made more of an impression on you – reading about your local flora and fauna, or taking a nature walk with your teacher and seeing it for yourself? Exactly. Nothing is like seeing it for yourself. International travel takes that principle and amplifies it.
Of course, student travel has changed over the years. It used to be that a trip to Washington DC or Disneyland was the most exotic school trip imaginable. Now, high school and middle school students are going far afield and learning about other cultures and languages. In this article, we’re going to look at some emerging travel destinations and some enduringly popular locales through the lens of various subjects and activities.
Unforgettable International Student Travel Destinations
The destinations below are quite broad. It’s not in the scope of this article to go into details, or even to tell you how to book your trip. If any of these destinations sound appealing to you, contact an organization that specializes in international student group travel for details.
Art, Music, and Performance
Mention music or art, and almost immediately someone says “Italy.” This country isn’t a newcomer to the scholastic travel scene, but it’s by no means past its peak. Rome, Florence, and Venice are artistic treasures in themselves. Music lovers say that you can never listen to a Puccini opera in quite the same way after you visit Lucca, the composer’s hometown. If your group wants to perform live, Italy is full of renowned venues, including St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and the Auditorium San Romano in Lucca. And then, of course, there’s the food — no small matter when you’re traveling with perpetually hungry teenagers and young adults.
Often, music is about going back to one’s roots, either genealogical or musicological. For a lot of people, this means the United Kingdom and Ireland. Not only do we share some history with these places, they’re full of magical performance venues like Blarney Castle and Christ Church Cathedral in Ireland, Caernarfon Castle in Wales or Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.
But not everything in performance-based travel needs to be traditional. Iceland is one of the hottest tickets in international travel right bow. It has a history and a culture that are as unique as this island nation’s scenery. Plus, groups can perform at various venues, including Reykjavik’s extraordinary Harpa Concert Hall.
Math, Science, and Nature
What Italy is to music, Africa is to wildlife. Its wildlife is iconic, and it is in desperate need of help. Whether it’s studying elephants in a remote camp in Botswana, participating in the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned animals in Zimbabwe, or working alongside marine mammal conservationists in South Africa, these experiences will satisfy students who want to help the earth while they learn about it.
Another must-see place for students of natural science is the Galapagos Islands. Isolated off the coast of Ecuador — its mother country — the Galapagos are home to many species found nowhere else in the world. As a bonus, several “fan favorite” animals like sea lions and sea tortoises are quite tolerant of the islands’ human visitors. However, small groups are a must, as is a licensed guide.
Finally, we can’t leave the subject of science and math without mentioning Paris. That’s right — the City of Light also has a rich scientific history. Scientific-minded students can tour everything from a Smart Car factory to the Paris Sewer Museum (much better than it sounds). Paris is also home to Europe’s largest science museum, the City of Science and Industry, and a math-centered museum called the Palace of Discovery.
India has been a fantastic international destination for years. It has an unsurpassed cultural richness and an abundant natural diversity. Plus, there are elephants! Seriously, though, traveling in India is like taking an interactive course in religious and secular history. Students can learn about the Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and other belief systems that shaped the country. They can also encounter some amazing feats of architecture and a cuisine that is an international treasure in itself.
Learning about Western civilization usually entails learning about ancient Greece, and there’s no better place to do that than in the country itself. From wandering through the ruins of theaters and temples to walking in the footsteps of historical (and sometimes mythical) figures, this immerses students in the Classical world as nothing else can. Juxtaposed against history is today’s modem Greek culture, which is friendly, hospitable and lively.
Language and Culture
Often, language immersion and cultural immersion go together. And one of today’s most in-demand languages is Chinese. Learning Mandarin in China while also engaging with the local culture doesn’t just improve students’ accents. It gives them a window into understanding a way of thinking, eating, and living with others that is literally half a world away from their own. However, it’s not just the demand for Chinese language that is driving China’s ascent as a student travel destination. China boasts a lot of natural beauty and an extremely ancient civilization. It can offer students unique experiences, excursions and activities that will help them grow as people and broaden their understanding.
Japan is another top contender for immersive language and cultural study. In addition to learning Japanese, students get to explore a culture that is both deeply traditional and progressively modern. As with a Chinese cultural and language experience, students learn to look beyond their own background and ideas. They discover how to interact with others — and in the process, learn how to communicate in a new way.
There is no shortage of immersive Spanish-language programs, but with the lifting of its longtime travel embargo, Cuba is a contender for the most exciting. Havana-based Spanish language programs take a triple-pronged approach to immersion: Spanish classes during the morning, dance and cultural lessons in the afternoon, and a fantastic historic neighborhood for students to visit in their free time. And weekends? Weekends are for the beach, my friend.
The hardest thing about international travel is knowing when to stop. Once students get bitten by the travel bug, they are off on a lifelong voyage of discovery. These immersive international student travel destinations may do more than just open their minds — they may unlock the world.