October 25, 2010. As foreign travel by young Americans continues to be a growing trend, its long term benefits are being measured.
Despite the challenges of the current economy, study abroad by American students is bigger than ever. A November 2009 study by Open Doors, a non-profit institute for education which tracks international enrollments for the U.S. Department of State, revealed that study abroad was up 8.5% over 2008. Now, a survey released in September 2010 in conjunction with Educational Travel Week has found that traveling overseas at a young age — whether for vacation or an academic program — supports school performance and increases the likelihood of continued travel throughout one’s life.
The survey, “The Impact of Early Travel Experiences,” was jointly endorsed by the Student Youth & Travel Association (SYTA) and Explorica, an educational travel company. The goal of the survey was to gain a better understanding of the learning inherent in travel and the resulting life enhancement.
Increased Eduacational Achievement at a College Level
The SYTA-Explorica survey revealed that more than 88% of respondents who traveled before the age of 18 received a college degree, with more than a quarter of respondents going on to receive an advanced degree. Respondents also were high performers in school: more than 81% of respondents achieved a college GPA of 3.0or higher, with more than 40% completing college with a GPA greater than 3.6.
An FTF analyis shows that more than 80% of SYTA-Explorica survey respondents reported a household income of more than $75K, a level of affluence that would positively influence educational success whether or not the student was exposed to foreign travel.
According to the Open Door study, the educational benefits of foreign travel are so well understood that the State Department will provide more than 1,700 study abroad scholarships for 2010 — more than double the number that it allocated for financial assistance two years ago.
Lifetime Influence of Youth Travel
SYTA-Explorica Survey respondents were asked to share the lasting impact of their travel abroad experiences. Local culture immersion provided the most lasting impact according to respondents, and almost three-quarters of these respondents credit their travel experiences with positively impacting their education and career.
Positive effects have spread to host countries, too. Another student travel organizer, People to People Ambassador Programs, recently announced that student participants had completed approximately 253,000 hours of community service during 2010, with projects completed by students within the U.S. as they prepared for international programs, and in their destination country as a way to learn and experience different cultures abroad. Notes Peg Thomas, president of People to People Ambassador Programs, “As students work to help people in another country, they not only provide a benefit to the local community, but also experience their own power to truly make a difference in the world.”
The SYTA-Explorica survey corroborated that youth travel heavily impacts travel behavior in adulthood. Survey respondents that traveled outside North America before the age of 18 continue this trend as adults. In fact, more than 43% of youth travelers have visited at least 10 countries outside of North America, with almost 90% traveling to non-English speaking destinations. Travel is considered so important to these respondents, that more than 70% report spending at least $2,000 each year on travel, with one out of four respondents spending more than $5,000 annually.
More Youth Travel Information
Conducted in August/September 2010, the SYTA-Exploricasurvey polled North American travelers over the age of 21 who had taken a trip abroad – whether through a school-sponsored tour, a family trip or other independent travel – before the age of 18.
While the organizations behind the survey admittedly have a bias towards promoting international travel among the young, the results jibe with what Family Travel Forum has found in analyzing the results of its annual Teen Travel Writing Scholarship, now in its fourth year. Download FTF’s 2009 Teen Travel Trends Report.
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