5 Easy Ways to Combine a University Education with Travel


You’d be forgiven for thinking travel is something you need to delay until after you’re finished your studies. At least, that seems to be the opinion of most young people I meet back home in the UK. They think that they either have to take a Gap Year before university or put any major thoughts of travel to bed until after they’ve graduated. Of course, there are always the summer holidays for you to take trips on, but with most students operating on an uber-tight budget during semester time, many will feel the need to work and save money at home during this period instead. What you may not realise is that there are some really good options out there for combining your studies with travel. You just need to think ahead when making your study choices to make sure you have the opportunity to combine both.

1. The Open University

Most people in the UK traditionally think of The Open University as a study option for people who want/need to keep working full-time whilst they study. However, the remote-study nature of The Open University also allows people to study whilst being based pretty much anywhere in the world! Provided you have a good wifi connection wherever you are, then it’s entirely possible to travel and study at the same time whilst doing an Open University course. The fees are also a hell of a lot cheaper than going through an ordinary campus-based university.

The only thing to bear in mind with The Open University and travelling is that there are some optional tutorials that you may want to attend in the UK. Some are online and can be attended anywhere, but some also need to be attended in person if you wish to go to them. Secondly, your books will be sent to you a short time before your course commences at your home address. So far on my own course I’ve been able to access each chapter independently online as well as in print via the textbooks. However, I’m not sure if this is the case with every book in every module of every subject. It’s just something to bear in mind if your home address is in the UK and you’re half way around the world somewhere!

2. Choose a course with a compulsory study abroad unit

If you’d prefer to study through an ordinary campus-based university then there are still lots of options for study abroad experiences. For example, if you study a foreign language or choose Geography as your subject then there is usually a compulsory study abroad year or semester involved at most universities. Immediately you are guaranteeing yourself a year abroad if you choose one of these options. In other courses, such as International Relations or Travel & Tourism Management, there is also usually a strong push to get students to take a period of study abroad. Choose your subject well and you’ll almost certainly find you get to experience living abroad during your education.

3. ERASMUS (and other student exchange programmes)

In Europe, or more specifically the European Union, there is a fantastic programme called ERASMUS, i.e. the European Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. To make a long story short, the ERASMUS programme essentially makes it easy for students within the EU to study or do an internship abroad for up to 3 months at a time. More importantly, it does so in a way that will be recognised by your university when you get back, provided of course that you stick by the terms of your study or internship agreement. A key advantage of the programme is also that students do not pay tuition fees to the university that they visit. I remember renting out rooms in my old flat in Edinburgh to a few ERASMUS students and most of them did more than 1 ERASMUS placement too, meaning they got to live in more than 1 European city outwith their own. It really is an incredible programme that I urge any EU student to try! However, even if you’re reading this as a student from outside of Europe, it’s always worth enquiring about qualifying study exchange programmes in your own university. Some colleges and universities advertise exchange programmes prominently, but others do not, so it’s worth enquiring to see what options are available to you.

4. Choose a university abroad (and possibly pay less fees too!)

Studying abroad for the entirety of your degree can have more benefits than just the live abroad experience. For starters, in many countries in mainland Europe you’ll find the average cost of annual fees is actually a lot less than what you’d pay in the US or UK. For example, standard tuition fees in Holland for the 2014-15 year were just €1,905. It should be noted that these subsidised prices are only for EU students and Dutch nationals (and that some private colleges & universities do also charge a lot more.) However, when you consider that most Dutch courses are taught in English, you can see the value compared to paying £9,000 per year in some English universities!! The same goes for many other European countries. Even if it involved learning a foreign language first for an entire year in order to study in some countries where they teach in the native language, I imagine it’s a lot cheaper overall than paying full-price at some universities back home!

5. Private Language Schools

One thing I learned this year when I was thinking about combining my International Studies degree with Spanish is that the DELE A1 to C2 spectrum, used by accredited European languages schools, is roughly the same spectrum that universities use throughout an entire degree course. For example, if you take any Spanish modules in your final year of study during a university degree, it will be roughly the same level as someone studying the C2 level in a private language school abroad. What was particularly enlightening about this knowledge was that I know people who have started at A1 level and who have got to C2 level within 8 months of study at a (good) private language school in a Spanish speaking country! It does make me wonder about what other Latin languages might be possible to learn to this level (and in this time frame) at a foreign language school? You could essentially take a study abroad Gap Year, of which 8 or 9 months is spent at a really good foreign language school, and combine a university level of foreign language study overseas. You’ll find fees at a good private language school to be a bit more than a year’s study at a European university. However, you would save overall in the amount of years you need to study and therefore money spent in the long run.

– Travel doesn’t need to stop while you’re studying. It can very much be a part of your education!

4 Responses to “5 Easy Ways to Combine a University Education with Travel”

  1. Sean Phillips says:

    This is really useful! Thanks!

  2. Arianwen says:

    Great tips! I really wish I’d done a study abroad programme. I didn’t even do a brief exchange, and I know if I got to do it all again I’d jump at that kind of opportunity.

  3. jess says:

    Do u know of any language school in Barcelona which provides accomodation and intensive course in spanish language for a month .. i am 44 and i have always wanted to learn spanish

    • Jane Meighan says:

      Hi Jess, I haven’t personally taken classes in Barcelona yet, but I know International House (the same organisation I took my course in Cadiz with) do have a school here and they do usually have accommodation offers too. However, regardless of which school you choose, they usually always have accommodation options to purchase through them too – whether that’s with a host family or in an apartment.


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