Commending the abundance of student travel opportunities

As students of the University, we love Illinois. However, we can’t say we always love the bitter cold winters and the view of endless miles of flat farmland that stretch across either side of I-57.

Exposure to new places is a welcome change once in a while, and with spring break rapidly approaching, we felt it appropriate to commend the University on its abundance of opportunities to allow students to experience the world outside of Champaign-Urbana.

Being young, knowledge-hungry students, there is really no better time to take advantage of travel experiences than now. After graduation, there is the looming fear of the “real world” and the time-sucking, full-time careers that (hopefully) come with it. In other words, travel might not be quite as feasible for a while. But with so many programs available to University students — regardless of season — there are plenty of options for students with a case of the travel bug.

In late February, The Daily Illini reported national averages indicate that the percentage of college students who study abroad has increased 150 percent in the last decade. From short-term to long-term trips, there’s no shortage on chances for students to experience different states, countries and cultures.

Students tend to go abroad later in their college careers, and generally for shorter periods of time. For 2012-2013, the most popular abroad locations were Europe at 43 percent, followed by Asia at 22 percent and the United States at 10 percent.

Looking at this upcoming spring break in particular, University students are eligible to participate in Illinois Alternative Seasonal Break trips, which will go to Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana and New Mexico. They will also include service projects dealing with energy conservation, youth development, environmental restoration, wildlife and more.

What is so beneficial about these trips is that the money spent to go seems well worth the actual work and experiences that happen while there.

For instance, it’s one thing to talk about energy conservation in a classroom, and another to actually go to a new community and work to reduce carbon emissions by installing compact fluorescent light bulbs into New Orleans homes. Another really great example is the Civil Rights Pilgrimage spring break trip, partly funded by University housing, that includes a week of stops at locations that will teach students more about the Civil Rights Movement — an experience you inevitably cannot get in a classroom.

By no means are lengthy study abroad journeys or even short-term trips viable for every student, and we do not intend to simply advertise these opportunities. We realize that time, money and other factors limit some students from experiencing these trips, and that is completely justified.

Rather, for other students who do want these experiences, we appreciate the multitude of venues the University has opened for students to do a little (or a lot of) traveling to gain memories and experiences outside of the classroom.