Top 10 benefits of undertaking a study tour for students

February 2, 2019


Australian universities pump out more than 130,000 graduates every year and we are the most educated generation in Australian history – yet we’re the most likely to struggle throughout our careers. How does one stand out from the stack of resumes?

New graduates need flexibility and adaptability. Study tours are a powerful way to empower students with these essential skills to survive in the workplace.

But what are study tours? These are short, intense courses (normally 2-6 weeks) delivered abroad which combine academic content with experiential learning. A physiotherapy student might explore the public health system in Cambodia while learning about the local history, or a development studies major can be found at a seminar in Vietnam listening to representatives from non-profit organisations talk about the work they do.

These are totally enriching, life-changing experiences that students keep with them throughout their professional careers.

As you can tell, I’m a pretty big fan of them – having helped manage and design tours for universities around the country. Here are the top 10 benefits, I have found, of undertaking a study tour.

1. Not just travel, but live in a new place

Log on to Instagram and scroll through your feed. Guaranteed within the first 10 posts someone you follow will have an incredible travel picture. While many drop a semester of uni to hang out on beaches and hop between hostels overseas, students can have the experience of living in a foreign country while staying on track to finish their degree on time. They’re living more authentically within that culture.

2. Academic relevance

There is no better way to learn than experiential learning. On a study tour, a student might be learning about how a government selects projects for funding, the project is rolled out into the community, and the outcome changes the community. The content and activities planned on these study tours are specifically designed to suit the academic theme. This isn’t just a trip to the city’s landmark and a quick visit to the local university. The itineraries are rich with opportunities to learn about a field in the context of a different country.

3. Professional insight

They’ll engage with organisations and industry professionals that they would never have otherwise met on a personal holiday. Think diplomats, industry game-changers, policy makers, and NGO reps. Not often do students get to hear experts on why they do what they do, what led them to that line of work and the impact they have on shaping their society and the world. It’s really powerful to listen to people that are passionate and inspired by their work.

4. Make friends with similar interests

I don’t know about you, but when I went to uni, I turned up to a tute five minutes before it began and was out the door the second it was over. Sure, I made a few friends that I now speak to once a year, but nothing can compare to the experience of travelling with like-minded people. By spending 24/7 with the group for a few weeks, you will almost certainly be sick of some of them – BUT you would also have made life-long friends. These people will go on to be your colleagues, your mentors and your confidants – essentially your network. And sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.

5. Authentic experience

Nothing beats real life experience. You can read all you want about how to be a pilot, but if you have never flown a plane before you’re not going to get very far. By undertaking a study tour, students get the opportunity to experience potential career paths. Study tours are designed to expose students to as many elements of the course as possible. By engaging with industry professionals, participating in group activities, and reflecting on academic content in the “real world” you start to think and talk in a professional manner.

6. Bragging rights

According to Adzuna, a UK-based graduate search engine, on average as many as 46 university graduates are applying for each graduate position in the 16 countries they operate (including Australia). For more competitive positions, such as the graduate program with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, this number is more than 2,000. All things considered, how does a student stand out from the crowd with a stock-standard undergraduate degree? By drawing on experiences and competencies. Study tours are a fantastic way to help develop valuable skills and link those required competencies in a unique setting. Employers like to see that their potential employees are flexible and willing to take on new challenges.

7. Resilience and other soft skills

Let’s be honest, studying is hard. Travelling is hard. Put them together and you are bound to learn a lot about yourself. When on a study tour in a new country where the language is new and there are academic demands, there may be some I-can’t-do-this moments. Which will be followed by an overwhelming sense of achievement because 9 times out of 10, you actually can! Students learn how to handle tough situations, ask difficult questions, communicate without words, work in a team, manage stress, time manage, and most importantly: adapt. All of which are extremely important in a sustainable career.

8. Get global

We live in a world that’s more interconnected than ever, which means we need to be prepared to work in a global community. I’m not saying you’ll be flying first class to a new country each week. But, there may be colleagues from different countries or projects that involve communicating with companies overseas. Cultural sensitivity and exposure are useful tools to have in the belt. By travelling through higher learning, students enjoy a head start in understanding how the global community can impact a specific field.

9. Finish quickly

Who wants to spend 10 weeks doing something, when you can finish it in 2? Yes, it is intense. And yes, you still will have the same level of assessment requirements. However, the sooner you get the credits, the sooner you can get into the world and start building a career.

10. Financial support

You might be reading this and be thinking… ‘Yeah, it sounds great, but there is no way I could afford a study tour – I’m a uni student…’. Well, that’s where you’re wrong. Australian universities are really keen to get their students out into the global community. Today, there are loads of funding options available to those willing to travel with their studies. For eligible Australian students, you can access OS-HELP funding of up to $8,149 depending on your destination. Other tours have scholarship funding, such as the New Colombo Plan, which even have an internship component. And some universities offer in-house travel grants and scholarships to help their students partake in study tours.

11. They’re fun!

You are going to create life-long memories, friendships and skills. Remember: People don’t regret the “stuff” they didn’t buy, they regret the things they didn’t do!

I’m chuffed to be working for Roam: Experiential Learning, an organisation that values enabling people to positively change their world. Each year, I see students come back from these trips with a feeling of that was the best decision I ever made at university.

Three cheers to adventure and getting academic credit while you’re at it!