Wednesday, June 24, 2009

College Student Travel Tips: Course Credit

Are you sick and tired of being cooped up in class all day? Do you need a change in scenery from the brick walls, dusty chalkboards, and a professor who makes Ben Stein seem caffeinated? What if I told you there was a way that you may be able to travel and explore while getting class credit? There are a few ways of achieving your goals: study abroad, internship, exchange program etc.

In my never-ending goal of bringing Americans out of their patriotic shell, I have come across some students who do not want to live abroad from months on end. They want to escape the boredom of college and their small towns, but they do not want to live in a foreign country for long amounts of time. They want to start off small and work their way up to longer and more exciting travels. For those of you who want to travel for a shorter amount of time while receiving course credit, there is a solution: travel for college credit.

There are a few ways in which you can travel for a short amount of time while earning college credit. One way of doing this is to take a course during the summer--or winter semesters if offered--that promotes opportunities for students to travel. For example, the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS) promotes summer study abroad programs that students can join for course credit. Universities in general usually offer study abroad opportunities over the summer for course credit, so ask your international center for more information on travel abroad opportunities. If you know the professor who is teaching the program, then you may want to ask him/her for more details.

These trips can last anywhere from a week to an entire month. Most courses usually have at least one week of classroom time in order to prepare students for the exciting adventure of traveling to another country. While there may be some classroom instruction, traveling for course credit involves an element of adventure that connects with the lessons. I have seen courses that revolved around environmental peace courses in Costa Rica, learning to tango in Argentina, and learning the language and history of numerous places such as Mexico and Turkey. Many of these courses also offer chances of receiving grants or scholarship funding to help you fund for these trips, so talk to the professor, study abroad advisor, and/or financial aid office for additional funding opportunities.

What if your school does not offer any travel opportunities that interest you? Create your own! During a winter semester, one of my friends joined forces with a travel buddy and they traveled throughout the larger cities of the United States where they took part in volunteering opportunities. They went to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding of the city after Hurricane Katrina, traveled to Washington D.C. to assist in a homeless shelter, and they spent a total of two weeks just traveling and helping others. All of this counted for college credit since the school offered an independent studies program that allowed students to create their own courses, justified the importance behind the course, and they had to explain how this would contribute to their major or general requirement courses. Now, you probably cannot do this for every single class, but if your school allows for students to create their own courses then you may be able to create one or two of your own courses.

Are you interested in escaping your boring classroom? Then leave the room and start talking to professors and study abroad advisors about potential opportunities to escape the dullness of structured learning. Education should not have any borders in terms of expanding your horizons, so feel free to create your own lessons. After all, how much can you learn about the real world if you are sheltered from it by brick walls and piles of homework?


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