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When we talk about studying abroad, student volunteering is probably not one of the first things to come to mind, but volunteering can be an extremely valuable way for students to supplement their time in class, one that enriches their overall experience of the host culture. During the last several years, we’ve seen an increasing demand from students for volunteering opportunities onsite, likely due to the millennial generation’s interest in social progress and helping the less fortunate. CEA strives to make volunteering possible in most of our destinations, with pre-arranged volunteering options and the flexibility to find new placements that fit students’ needs. 

Volunteering offers several unique benefits in the study abroad context:  

    

For students who participate in international study and internship programs, recreational travel within and outside the host country is often a part of their experience. Did you know CEA tracks student travel in all of our program destinations, every single session? Using a weekly online travel survey, we ask our students to self-report their travel plans, including intended destinations, mode of transportation, return date, and if they’re traveling with other CEA students. While our main objective is to use this information to preserve student health and safety, we recognize the potential value the travel survey data can have to our university partners and university study abroad offices in general, should they start to track student travel abroad themselves.  

Sometimes, the patterns that crop up in student travel survey data can be surprising: students based in major western European cities don’t always visit the cities and countries we usually expect to be popular. Earlier this month, some of our European student travel destinations included Greece, Croatia, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, and the Spanish island of Mallorca. While plenty of students based in Europe do visit the obvious cities—Paris, London, Florence, etc., they also choose to see locations such as the aforementioned, and discovering why those countries draw students could inform university internalization efforts and curriculum.    

Student travel trends can tell you where students may want to study abroad, if there are not already programs there. A high volume of student travelers or steady pattern of travelers to a particular location can indicate where a new study abroad program could attract a lot of participation. Alternatively, popular travel destinations for study abroad students can also guide educators in designing overnight excursions and fields trips, along with custom and faculty-led programs. Beyond the international education sphere, where students travel while abroad can inspire courses at your home institution across a wide variety of disciplines, including language, history, literature, and political science. If you know what parts of the world capture student fascination, you can tailor study abroad programs and courses to achieve greater student satisfaction, engagement, and success.   

While CEA does take student travel trends into account for program development, we originally started tracking student travel for another equally important reason. We prioritize student health and safety above all else, which is our primary motivation for tracking student travel activity. Families and university partners can rest assured that we know where students are when they leave their program site to travel, and we’re prepared to respond to student emergencies whether they’re onsite in their program location or not. We monitor international events alongside student travel to make sure we know how to advise traveling students on where to go and when. Asking for each student’s personal phone number in every weekly travel survey gives our onsite staff an immediate way to contact our students should we need to alert them of anything or get in touch following a potential emergency in the travel destination.   

Travel is an inevitable part of student life in international education, and paying attention to where students go is an important strategic and operational practice.     

For more information on your institution’s student travel trends abroad, please contact your CEA University Regional Director.

WHAT OUR UNIVERSITY PARTNERS SAY

Constant Support
CEA was wonderful to work with…Their support and knowledge was constant through the planning and execution.

Megan Doerr , Faculty-Led Programs Coordinator
Central Michigan University
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