College and University students – how many of you are in the midst of either applying to, currently are, or have recently finished a degree in ____ (fill in the blank) , and are finding yourself asking the age-old question: “But what am I going to do with all of this??”.
I hear you. Loud and clear. But – I come bearing great news!
Since the UN has officially declared 2017 as “The Year of Sustainable Travel and Tourism”, the notion of traveling sustainably and responsibly is in the spotlight. This means that the travel scene is moving in the right direction and that more attention will be focused on the countless efforts and changes that can be made to help local communities.
What will change?
For a start, travelers will hopefully be heading out with an impressive set of tools and information to help create a positive impact when traveling abroad.
The focus will start to shift to local communities and how they are affected by worldwide travelers.
And, most importantly, the travel community will be much more inclined to think “long-run” for all things that are travel related. “Long -run” in travel terms means choosing to be more conscious of ethical, responsible, and local aspects when making travel-related decisions. Choosing to eat at a local restaurant, to sleep at a home-stay or community hostel, to use local tour guides, to volunteer with local grassroots organizations, are only a few examples.
Many college and university students choose to travel and volunteer abroad, and the way in which they choose to do so can have a great impact with regards to “sustainable tourism”. Traveling and volunteering abroad with a responsible mindset means to understand the real needs of local communities and organizations, to use what skills and knowledge you have to help and to visit every new place you discover in a respectful manner.
THIS is where YOU come in.
Believe it or not, what you will learn (or perhaps already have learnt) can be a great advantage to traveling responsibly and sustainably abroad. Depending on exactly what you chose to study, you will have a basket full of tools that will undoubtedly help you to become more sustainable travelers – and who doesn’t love a sustainable traveler??
1 Business management/ Administration/Accounting/Economics – Effective problem solving systems, understanding how to manage manpower reception duties, researching, computing, managing a committee or ordering a restructure of an activity are only some of the skills you will receive from this area of studies. In many respects, nonprofit organizations should be run exactly like a business, which is exactly why your hard-earned knowledge in this specific field can be really helpful when working alongside locals in a nonprofit you chose to volunteer for. The insight you can potentially bring along with you can help you to make your time volunteering with a local community truly meaningful and beneficial.
2 Nursing/Dental assistance/Nursing Assistance – Similar to the above explanation, healthcare and nursing skills are also valuable resources. Once again, if you plan on spending at least a part of your time abroad volunteering with a local grassroots organization, choosing a project that requires your medical and healthcare knowledge will prove truly helpful. Your time will be well spent, and you will be able to continue with your travels with the thought that you left behind very valuable skills and knowledge.
3 Psychology – This major can really prepare you for a responsible time abroad as it awards you with skills applicable for general travels as well as volunteering- focused choices. Communications, interpersonal skills, and being able to understand physiological and emotional behavior are only some of the tools learned during a major in Psychology. With a “sustainable-travel” state of mind – it becomes quite clear that these skills can come in handy with respect to the ongoing daily interaction with locals in new communities you will visit. Using your acquired skills to always come with a conscious and sensitive mindset is the true way to travel sustainably.
4 Communications/Marketing – Working with local communities and nonprofits, many of the issues they face is being able to promote their cause to a large audience in the hopes of receiving more volunteers or possible funds. Many nonprofits seek volunteers to help in their efforts to implement campaigns, fundraise, promote and raise funds. Your specific set of skills in this field can be very handy for these specific projects.
5 Computer Science – Basic engineering skills are the foundations to creating the necessary infrastructures which form communities. Your understanding of these intricacies as you head out on your travels, enter new communities, and possibly join a volunteering project can be very helpful. Your tools can be used to help communities formulate effective strategies that will help them to develop successful developmental projects in the long run.
6 Finance/Accounting/Economics – Your knowledge in accounting, finance, and economics can be of great help to organizations. Your understanding of accounting systems, processes, and recommendations for best practice can help in implementing sustainable change in developing communities. As a traveler, your understanding of how different economic models work can help you to make mindful decisions that respect local markets and their need for sustainability and growth.
7 Law/Criminal Justice – There are countless organizations worldwide that are specifically committed to human rights activism as a leading agenda to all of their projects which they implement in local communities. Your in-depth understanding of law and criminal justice in these cases can be undoubtedly useful in helping local communities move from the issues which they face to putting in place practical solutions, policies and projects.
8 Biology – Rainforests, jungles, deserts, and oceans worldwide have all been negatively affected by years and years of travelers who have left their footprints while exploring new lands. Many of these earthly wonders have suffered due to travelers who were not entirely prepared or mindful of how to best travel and enter these places. With regards to traveling sustainably and responsibly, your skills and knowledge in preservation and best practices can help to make new and sustainable footsteps as you tread along. If you are looking to offer your skills to a nonprofit organization, that are countless projects that are aimed at saving and preserving marine, wildlife and their natural habitats.
9 Electrical Engineering – Engineers are extremely sought-after, in many programs and organizations around the world. Offering technical and sustainable knowledge and solutions can help communities to put together effective and sustainable development strategies that will help them grow. Such strategies will surely have a positive effect in the long run for local communities.
10 History/Liberal Arts/General and Elementary education/ English Language/ Literature – If you’re majoring in one of these, there’s a big chance you’ll easily find organizations looking for volunteers just like you – Nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to improving education in their communities can greatly benefit from your knowledge and presence. With your skills you can assist in creating education programs, designing learning resources and strategies, and developing teaching programs to be used long after you’ve headed back home. Such programs are created with a “long-run” attitude to make an ongoing change and improvement.
11 Sociology – Your degree in Sociology will equip you with some of the most basic understandings and principles of individuals in relation to their society. These tools can be implemented not only in relation to your surroundings, but also when traveling to new communities. Traveling abroad with a sociological mindset can make you truly mindful of the differences that you may experience in new communities, and your sensitivity here can make you a more respectful traveler that will enter new social situations with the right attitude.
Now that you can be sure that all of your educational efforts can yield sustainable and responsible fruits when traveling abroad, you can hit those books and study hard until your next journey abroad!
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