Ambitious 18-year-old needs advice!

Feb 26th, 2006, 07:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Ambitious 18-year-old needs advice!

Hi Travel Gurus,
I want so much to be able to travel to another country this coming summer before I go off to college. I've been researching my options and would love some advice on where I should go, how I should plan, who I should travel with, where I should stay, how I should travel, etc. given the following:

- I will most likely be at a private institution next year (meaning high college tuition costs).

- I am very interested in international relations and specifically human rights.

- I have an interest in alternative culture and the arts.

- I am a pesco-vegetarian.

- I am independent and mature, but want to feel safe and secure wherever I go.

- I've studied French for five years.

- I'm looking for a good cultural experience.

- I'm not into drugs or drinking alcohol but love to dance.

- Countries I've been to include Canada, Spain and Mexico, but it's been awhile.

- A European country is where I'd most like to travel.

Thanks in advance for your input!
halfjapanesegirl is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 07:58 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
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You need to take a deep breath, and then go to a library and read where you think you may like to go.
tondalaya is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 08:12 PM
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Congratulations on making the decision to travel! I feel that this type of experience will give you a different (and in my humble opinion, better) education than college.

The first thing you need to do is determine what your budget is both for time and money. Keep in mind that July and August are the most expensive and the most crowded months to visit Europe, so that will most likely impact where you go and how long you can stay. If you can go earlier (May/June), that would be best. I've found that most European schools are still in session through the end of June, so things don't get as busy as they are later in the summer.

Based on the interests you've listed, I'd definately consider the Netherlands, France and Italy.

Let us know what your time/financial budgets are and when you can go...and then you'll get lots of suggestions.

margyb is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 08:43 PM
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As far as time goes, June would be good...right after gives me time to spend the rest of the summer prepping to leave town for college. (I'd probably want to go from one to two weeks...but if you recommend that I go longer, let me know.)
My financial budget would probably be $3000, but if you have experience traveling while paying for college, I'd love to hear advice regarding student budgets.
halfjapanesegirl is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 11:02 PM
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I had the greatest job in college, I was the student director of the study-abroad programs. So each summer I got to take a group of students to Mexico and travel all around the country then pick up a paycheck at the end of summer. Plus the university paid most of my travel expenses. In law school, my college roommate and I conviniced her father to start an employ exchange program and we volunteered to be the first exchange so we spent the summer in England. Our pay was low compared to American standards but we did not care since we were in Europe.

I love to travel, but come from a family without a lot of money and all of college was financed with financial aid and multiple jobs. So to travel, think outside of the box and look for opportunties similar to what I did. You just never know what you will be able to do.

To keep costs down, go to student travel centers of any nearby colleges. I was at UCLA and the center was great and hooked us up with a charter flight that was 30% less than was what available. Traveling, especially as a student, is one of the greatest gifts you can do for your education. Good luck.
itsv is offline  
Feb 26th, 2006, 11:33 PM
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Since you've studied French for five years, I think that would be the logical choice. Also, you probably would be an ideal candidate for an overseas program from your university. My daughter (who has a minor in human rights) went to one through AHA with the University of Washington and was in Siena for 6 months and it was an incredible experience. Check into similar programs from your university.

Best of luck. You sound very focused and mature!
artlover is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 02:56 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi half,

Have you considered saving your money and using it for a Study Abroad program in your Junior year?

You could spend 1-2 semesters in Europe and get college credit.

If that's too far in the future, I suggest:

Fly into Amsterdam - 4 nights
Train to Brussels - 3 nights, daytrip to Bruges,
Train to Paris - 6 nights
Fly home.

Air fares are at and www.1800flyeurope.

Train schedules and tickets are at

You can buy train tickets 60 days in advance - 90 days (I think) for TGV from Brussels to Paris.

Have a nice visit.

ira is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 05:20 AM
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I used to head up a summer study abroad program in Spain. Our students spent one month with a host family. However, it was an expensive program and we didn't offer financial aid for the summer participants (only for the year people). You could check out study abroad programs for the summer, but if you want to do something independent and inexpensive that includes speaking French, why not look and see if you can do a summer au-pair thing? If you like children and want to learn French, it is a great idea. Also, it takes care of your housing worries.

What is "alternative culture"?

Frankly, if you were older I would suggest you go to Morocco. I was there this past summer and aside from speaking French all day every day (except when i was in the north), it was very inexpensive and I had a really wonderful time. And I never felt unsafe.

laclaire is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 05:27 AM
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You could go to a UK or Irish University. Fee for international Students I know in Ireland tend to be less than what you p[ay in the U.S. for similar colleges. Look at (UCD) or (Trinity College Dublin) You could still do a degree programme in Feench or History or a combined two subject degree. Start doing some research on colleges and decised the best education for you and then pick locations.
SiobhanP is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 06:39 AM
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Why not do as your British counterparts do and take a Gap Year.
British teenagers tend to go and dig wells in Pakistan or teach in Africa, but you could go to "darkest" Europe.
For example, you could do a year as an au pair in France.
There are agencies working in the US and by the end of the year, you would be fluent in French.
This is one example
and there are probably more.
Being an au-pair in the US has a bad name because people often treat the girl/boy as a cheap skivvy.
It's different in Europe where the concent is more familiar.
Feb 27th, 2006, 07:04 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 5,641
go to and request their free and excellent European Planning & Rail Guide which i recommend for any novice European traveler, whether going by rail or not. Will not answer your esoteric questions but will give you a firm foot on the practicalities of European travel. Bon voyage!
PalQ is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 08:27 AM
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You might consider a week at a "Vaughan Village" in Spain as part of your time. This is a program for Spaniards to learn or improve their English. Native English speakers stay for free and have the opportunity to meet and enjoy recreational activities with the Spaniards, in adition to helping them with English. Here is the website for information:
enzian is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 08:37 AM
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You'll find you're more in sync with the crowd at
Also try Let's Go. They're Harvard students.

Have a great trip!
Bluehour is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 04:43 PM
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Let's Go and Rough Guides for guidebooks.

The Thorn Tree forum at Lonely Planet and Rick Steves Graffiti Board for websites.
suze is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 04:57 PM
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Try, also, for a good resource specializing in student travel. They give student discounts and understand budgeting.
Have fun! You're smart to get a trip like this in while you can. Good luck in college, too. Try to save up so you can also afford a junior semester abroad. It usually costs about the same as tuition on your private school campus.
Feb 27th, 2006, 05:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,336
The Center for International Health and Cooperation which works closely with the United Nations, offers an intensive course in training for humanitarian field workers through The Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland. The program does offer some scholarships to eligible students. I know about this program because of a 25-year family association with a travel health physician in NYC, who has spent much of his life setting up medical clinics in Third World countries.

Of course you probably wouldn't make much use of your French language skills, but it still might be worth checking this out if you're interested!

Also generally I'd recommend checking out for inexpensive accomodations all over Europe, as well as

Weadles is offline  
Feb 27th, 2006, 06:17 PM
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Thanks for the thoughtful input.

I certainly plan to study abroad in college so thanks for suggestions on how to make that work best.

I'm thinking right now that attacking two cities/towns in France is what I'd like to I can use French, have a true vacation (rest and explore) and really get an in-depth look at wherever I choose to go. I also don't want to be gone too long because I will need adequate time to enjoy a final summer with family and friends before leaving my hometown for college.

if you refer back to this thread,
what I mean by saying 'alternative culture' is culture that is, perhaps, underground, less well-known, on the edge of the mainstream...
Specifically, I like indie music, films and world cultures (which isn't the norm in my town). In a sense, one could say that certain subcultures have, in fact, become more mainstream because the alternative scene is popular with youth. So, alternative culture may be a misnomer in cases where it's mainstream to be alternative...if you catch my drift.
halfjapanesegirl is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 09:05 AM
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Hi H,

>I'm thinking right now that attacking two cities/towns in France is what I'd like to do...<

Please, don't attack - just vsit. :}

May I suggest a 10 day visit:

Fly into Paris, 4 nights
Train to Dijon, 2 nights,
return to Paris, 3 nights?

ira is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 11:23 AM
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If you eat fish and dairy both I don't think you will have any problem at all with food options.
suze is offline  
Feb 28th, 2006, 12:14 PM
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Thanks for the clarification. Alternative culture can mean so much these days. In fact, and hopefully you will find this while traveling, it means different things everywhere. What is subversive and new in one place is the norm in others. To give an example, I am from Dallas and when I arrived in Spain at age 17, I flipped out that everyone in my high school went clubbing on the weekends. That was really alternative back home. Then I got to college in Boston and experienced things that were completely normal at my school, but that friends in colleges in Texas freaked out about.

So, alternative is relative to where you are and who you mingle with.
laclaire is offline  

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