The Best Worldwide Student Travel Programs

One of the best worldwide student travel programs is available through the world recognized National Geographic Society, in partnership with Putney Student Travel.  They are specifically designed for students in the 9th through 12th grades.  Students can participate in community service programs, field workshops, photo workshops and expeditions lasting from 11 to 21 days.  There are destinations within the US and as far flung as Iceland, South Africa, China or Peru!  

The various outings have groups comprised of anywhere from 14 to 30 students along with college-graduate trip leaders and National Geographic experts like writers, photographers, researchers or explorers.  “On Assignment” projects allow students the unique opportunity to create their own stories, in the tradition of National Geographic, through field activities, photography or research.  Examples of on assignment projects include climate and geology field work in Iceland, creative writing in Tuscany, or filmmaking in Alaska.  Each trip includes a community service element as well as a trip project. 

 These community service elements range from 8 to 16 hours long. For students who want to a more intense community service experience, there are longer community service programs in Tanzania, Peru, Thailand, and Costa Rica.   Community service groups are limited to 18 participants. These programs last about 40 hours.  To sign up for these or any of the other National Geographic student travel opportunities, students must submit an application, an application statement expressing why the student desires to participate, a deposit, and teacher references.  First hand perspectives are available via the website, where the From the Field section features recent posts by student travelers.

People to People

People to people student ambassador programs offer global adventures for students from 5th through 12 grade and college.  Their mission is to create global citizens. The trips last anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks and offer participants the opportunity to “be more than a tourist”. 5th through 12th graders can participate as student ambassadors and travel to over 40 countries in groups lead by volunteers. More than just sightseeing, these tours help to prepare students to excel in the classroom through the development or confidence, responsibility and having a global perspective.  High school students can benefit when it comes to college application essays and interviews.  Students participate in service projects in the communities they visit and can earn academic credit on these trips which emphasize education, safety and friendship.  Students can be nominated for the programs by school personnel or program alumni, or they can just apply, interview with a program leader and submit the required amount of recommendation letters.

ACIS (American Council for International Studies)

This educational travel company offers educational travel opportunities for students and teachers.  Although they present specific learning objectives for each trip, the educational benefits that students derive from these experiences are woven throughout each journey.  Students can also earn high school and collegiate academic credit from their travels based on individual institution requirements. Students travel in groups of 35-45 along with a tour manager and a group leader.  Participants can choose tours based on region (US/North America or Africa, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Europe, Mexico/Central America, South America or South America) or tour types including Holiday, Classic or Explorer tours.  There are even service project tours available for IB (International Baccalaureate) students.

ISV (International Student Volunteers)

As the name implies, ISV – International Student Volunteers provides international travel opportunities for university and high school students with a mind to make a difference.  Students travel in groups of 25-50 to Australia, Thailand, South Africa, Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic. Their standard program lasts 4 weeks, with two weeks spent on a meaningful volunteer project, followed by two weeks of adventure in the same country.  Projects fall into the categories of environmental management or children’s programs. ISV has partnered with over 100 volunteer organizations and participants have contributed over 2.5 million volunteer hours.  Some of the projects they have worked on include teaching English, monitoring sea turtle hatcheries and constructing schools and libraries. The adventure tour includes once-in-a-lifetime activities like a full day game drive in South Africa, a Northern overnight hill tribe adventure in Thailand, or snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Other programs offered by ISV include a 2 week volunteer trip with no follow on adventure tour or a high school program for students ages 15-18.  ISV will also tailor custom tours for groups of 10 or more. Academic credit for ISV activities is available and has been given by more than 300 universities.

EF College Break

This inclusive tour service is geared towards college students but accepts any traveler between the ages of 18-26.  Their tours are scheduled around most college schedules, so they offer trips during spring and summer breaks and at New Year’s.  Destinations include major cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean and the Americas and trips can last from less than 10 days to more than 30!  Unlike other student travel options, this one is all about exploration and fun.  Trips include roundtrip airfare, hotel accommodations, breakfasts, transportation between cities and entrance to major attractions.  There are sight-seeing tours given by local guides as well as a full time tour director to take care of logistics.  

To get started, interested travelers need only select a destination, departure date and departure city.  As this is not an academic endeavor, there is no application or interview required, just a deposit and payment plan.  One of the best features of this service is the opportunity to make friends.  About 50% of participants sign up with companions and 50% sign up on their own.  This is a great way for someone to travel solo without really being alone.  First time travelers especially will appreciate being able to enjoy the sights and activities without the hassle of figuring out bus schedules, or hunting for hotel rooms. Before the trip, participants have a chance to get to know their fellow travelers via a Facebook page that the company sets up for each specific tour.

Author Bio: Jessica Millis is a traveler, freelance writer and editor. She works as a writing student consultant at EssayMama essay writing agency and always ready to help with any issues and questions here.