Friday, July 3, 2009

Travel Agents

Many sites encourage the use of travel agencies in terms of travel, but are they really as helpful as they seem? There are some pros and cons to using travel agencies, but overall it depends on your comfort level and the price. Occasionally, if you are planning on going on a cruise or have a large number of travelers going with you, then you may want to consider a travel agent since they might have discounts. However, while I was booking my trip to Toronto in order to attend a friend's Christmas party, the travel agent told me personally that usually their prices are not lower than the prices found online.

Why should you use a travel agent? When I was planning my very first trip overseas, and on an airplane, my study abroad advisor recommended the Student Travel Association travel agency in order for me to book my flight. The price was slightly higher, but not by much and they said that the first time I change my ticket the extra fee would only be $25. I ended up enjoying my experience with the agency, but when I had to change departure date due to a sudden family reunion in the States, I found out that it would cost me $125 instead. That was just to change it and not counting the difference between ticket price (which luckily there wasn't any difference). Overall, this was a very decent experience.

However, some tickets issued by travel agents can be rather tricky since many of them have special stipulations. For example, the Toronto ticket I purchased through a travel agent was based on a special holiday fare. When I needed to change it, the travel agency was closed for the entire week, so I called the aiport directly after five failed attempts at changing it myself. Because of the special stipulations on it, it wasn't going to cost me an extra $300 that was quoted on the was going to cost me an extra $700 plus additional fees! In the end, I managed to get the ticket changed without any extra fees, but I was ashamed of the way I acted in order to get the change.

I recommend a travel agent for solo or small group travelers only if the traveler(s) are new or worried about planning a trip online. Also, if the prices are lower and there are no extra stipulations on the ticket, then it may be worth booking the trip through a travel agent. There are some decent travel agencies out there, especially for youth travelers. So, keep your eyes open for some great deals!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

College Student Travel Tips: Travel After Graduation

One of the best times to travel is during your time at college. After all, how often can you take off for a couple of months during the summer while you're at work? However, there are quite a few students who have not taken the opportunity to travel and they are about to graduate. Is it too late for them to travel? Of course not! There are plenty of scholarships and fellowships available to help them explore the new world they are entering before they end up chained to their desk jobs.

What if I told you that there was a fellowship where you can travel anywhere outside of the United States for an entire year studying whatever you want to study? What if I told you that you would receive $25,000 in funds? There is a program that will allow you to study almost any topic that you wish and it's called the Watson Fellowship. The study topics can range from how cricket is seen throughout the world to the study of musical instruments in numerous nations. This program is available to graduating seniors, so if you want to postpone your entry into the working world and start exploring for a year then you may be interested in this offer.

Perhaps you prefer something a little more structured. In that case, you might be interested in joining one of the thirty-two students each year who are chose for the famous Rhodes Scholar program. These students are given the chance to study at the famous Oxford University in England for a couple of years. Now, if you are interested in England, but not particularly interested in Oxford, you can sign up for the Marshall Scholarship and study in one of the universities throughout the United Kingdom. Especially my old study-abroad alma mater in Sunderland...go Mackems!

Are you more interested in teaching or researching rather than studying in a classroom? Another way that you can travel after your program is to become an overseas teacher. Many students join programs such as Fulbright and the JET program in order to make a difference while traveling abroad. Programs such as JET allow individuals to travel abroad and teach students in non-English countries the English language. The Fulbright programs offers a broader variety of activities and topics including research, teaching, and studying.

There are tons of opportunities for you or anyone who will be graduating soon to travel or study abroad after graduating from your bachelor's program. Many of these scholarships and fellowships are sponsored by individuals schools, so ask your college's study abroad coordinator or academic office for more information on these and other programs. You may also try searching through Fast Web online for other scholarships that are more open to the graduating public.

List of Fellowships, Scholarships, and Programs: