Student travel is a passport to volunteering, learning and personal growth.
Opportunities to build, teach or conserve have teens — especially high school grads — putting in the miles to help in schools and orphanages, and do conservation work around the world.
According to S-Trip! — a leading North American student travel company — more than 35,000 students embark on their Grad Trip each summer and with 60-70% of those choosing to venture out on a volunteer experience, they return with a bigger view of the world.
Larissa Crawford will once again be expanding her horizons with rich travel experiences thanks to her recent win in the S-Trip! Amazing Travel Scholarship contest.
The 18-year-old winner will embark on an S-Trip! next summer as part of her grand prize. This summer she travelled to the Dominican with the company, and also had plans to attend Summer Camp in China 2013 — a two-week, government-funded exchange program for 20 students from Alberta.
The Lethbridge, Alta., resident gives a lot and receives a lot in return.
“From 2011 to 2012 I collected books and school supplies to start a library at an all-girls school in Kpandai District, Ghana. After working up to three jobs and with the help of Chinook High School, I was able to fund a trip to bring these items to the school,” Crawford says.
Leadership and wanderlust also garnered her some cash as the S-Trip! contest winner, including a one-year tuition scholarship to pay for post-secondary school tuition and books, a paid summer internship (with accommodation) at the company’s headquarters in Toronto, and a trip in 2014 with three friends.
“Travelling has offered me professional and personal life-long relationships, development of skills in a second language and ability to adapt for foreign situations, the chance to amplify the impacts of volunteering, the opportunity to grow as an individual, and has offered prospect for future trips,” Crawford says.
“I am not the only one to reap (benefits) from my travel experience; my humanitarian spirit has sent me on pursuit of a career in international charity, which will offer more opportunities to combine my passion for volunteering with travel.”
Life-changing travel is what it’s all about, says Jay Hamilton, of s-trip.com. High school, university and college students can travel to more than 40 destinations around the world — “whether it’s helping grads celebrate the end of an era, taking a ski getaway to a mountain resort, making a difference through volunteering in an underprivileged community, or venturing off to Europe’s finest cities, we ensure students have the time of their lives in a safe travel (experience).”
S-Trip! encourages students to become global citizens and open their eyes to new cultures, languages and experiences, Hamilton says.
“Beyond the incredible personal development that comes from travel, there is something extra special about travelling with your best friends. The bonds and memories that are created while travelling truly last a lifetime.”
Caitlin Russell has wonderful memories of student travel and will soon have more. The 19 year old is one of three runners up in the Amazing Travel Scholarship contest and won $500 toward her tuition and a trip for two.
“Travelling with friends is an experience everyone needs to have. I went with S-Trip! to Quebec City in Grade 11 and it was fantastic. Exploring a new city during the day and then dancing the night away with my friends was the perfect combination. I made friends on that trip from my high school that I continue to be best friends with today.”
Travel also opens doors and teaches lessons that one can only learn from being in a new place, says Russell, who is in film studies at Ryerson University.
“I urge every student to travel if the opportunity arises. It is money you will never regret spending. You learn things about the world around you, and in turn learn even more about yourself. As corny as it sounds, travel really is about self discovery.”
Meanwhile, according to Hamilton, the contest got reams of entries: “Canada is full of incredibly talented, passionate and young difference makers. It wasn’t easy to select the winners as there were just so many amazing applicants doing incredible things at home and abroad.”
Hamilton says the company plans to hold the contest again next year with even more scholarships and prizes to recognize talented youth across Canada.