You know the formula: One 50 kilogram suitcase + A one-way ticket to a European university = One hell of an adventure.
But before you give your mother the final mom-like-seriously-you-need-to-let-go hug and leave her weepy-eyed at international security, you have a big decision to make:
Where should you study abroad?
While the age-old destinations of Rome, Barcelona, and London promise intoxicating accents, beautiful boys, and a gloriously low drinking age (helloooo, Sangria), don’t forget to look past your friends’ wanderlust-inducing Instagrams and ask yourself: why am I studying abroad?
By facing this simple but surprising tough question– the kind we love to ask here at the Lala– you’ll find yourself on an adventure through the world and yourself.
But don’t worry: you’re not alone in the search! The Lala has compiled five unconventional study abroad options to spark your search for the perfect travel program for you.
1. Semester At Sea
For the girl who loves the open ocean, itches to see every glamorous and not-so-glamorous corner of the world, or simply obsesses over Kiera Knightley’s sea-savvy badassery in Pirates of the Caribbean, Semester At Sea may be your ultimate experience. In just one semester, you’ll channel your inner Ferdinand Magellan and circumnavigate the globe on a student-only cruise ship. From diving in shark cages to riding camels through the desert, you’ll never have a dull day but will always have the same cozy bed to come back to on the ship each night.
You in? Check out the SAS website for full details.
2. Conservation Work
Are you worked up about the poaching of Cecil the Lion? The insanity of illegal logging in the rainforest? The fact that we’re actually dumping trash onto the Great Barrier Reef? Good, because you should be– and by going abroad, you can fight the green fight against the destruction of our planet. The not-so-glamorous but oh-so-rewarding task of rehabilitating wild animals, reforesting destroyed land, or restoring fragile reefs will lock you into the local culture and local environment. Wanting to save some of your own green, too? Many of these programs can be fundraised, so you won’t have to pay out of pocket.
You in? Ask your study abroad advisors for field research and conservation study abroad programs through your school; don’t be afraid to ask professors doing international research in science and anthropology fields if there are positions as research assistants. For out-of-college programs, start your online search at Volunteer Forever and review their posting on conservation trips.
3. Eastern Culture and Language Learning
Ever heard of Oman? Okay, no seriously, have you? For those of us who didn’t just lie to ourselves and truthfully admitted that Oman sounds more like a bread and less like a nation, have we got a surprise for you: many countries with minimal global visibility or diminishing language relevance have sponsored programs to attract young, educated visitors to their borders (*cough cough* you). And by sponsored, I mean free. Like, you pay zero dollars. These programs aim at spreading interest in native languages, culture, and political influence– somethings these nations and subsequent programs are willing to pay the sweet bucks for. This experience is for the you-don’t-know-what-you-don’t-know academics, thirsting for experiences and knowledge they never even knew existed.
4. Teach English
We always adopt a few local cultural practices while abroad: we say the proper “e” sound at the end of “Grazie“, walk on the left side of the London streets, and knock back an Irish Guinness with ease and proper form. But what about bringing your culture abroad? By teaching English, you can both integrate and give back to a local community. Odds are, you won’t be teaching little kids with delicious accents but with working adults who wish to expand their skills; though less adorable, this assistance helps locals work in a globalized business world and travel for themselves– and who doesn’t love a little empowerment?
You in? Review Go Overseas’ guide to teaching English abroad and ask a study abroad advisor for school-sponsored outreach options.
Americans drool over the cultural acceptance of a Gap Year in other nations, but the idea of taking a year off to wander aimlessly is still met with a judgmental eye raise and a backhanded comment. While taking a Gap Year is hard to swallow, the untethered adventure of backpacking with no responsibility but your daily desires is achievable on a smaller, less interruptive scale: a semester! Most universities will let you take a semester off with no penalties, so don’t be afraid to seize this approval for what it’s worth: a badass, self-guided, no-strings-attached adventure into the truly great unknown.
You in? Talk with your academic advisor or the dean of your university for information and potential consequences of taking time off. Want an even less interruptive gap? Skip the summer internship grind and go during these months.
Still not sure where to go? The world’s big, girl, but the internet is bigger– so get googlin’!
Image via Alexis Tokarski