Educational Travel Isn’t Just for Students: Here’s How to Study Abroad as an Adult
September 28, 2021
By Jess Hopper

Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience. These immersive educational and cultural experiences are most commonly thought of as semester-long programs during college. But you don’t need to be in your late teens and early twenties to have your life transformed by a study abroad experience.

Travel specifically focused on education is a rapidly growing segment of the travel industry, which means there have never been more opportunities to create for yourself the study abroad experience you missed out on as a teen or recreate the immersive travel experiences you had as a student.

There are three main ways to go about studying abroad as an adult. You can book a trip with an international educational travel company, sign up to attend a specialty school or educational program in the location of your choice, or you can get creative and intentional with a do-it-yourself version of study abroad. Read on to learn more about each option.

International companies focused on educational travel

As the idea of adult study abroad or educational travel has grown, so have the number and variety of companies offering learning-focused travel programs, tours and packages. While these companies charge a pretty penny for their services and offerings, the ease of traveling with a company that has a plan and itinerary for every trip can be appealing for those too busy to plan an educational trip on their own. The following are a few of the better-known brands offering educational travel packages:

Road Scholar

Road Scholar is a not-for-profit experiential learning company that boasts thousands of learning adventures in more than 100 countries. With a stated mission of inspiring adults to learn, discover and travel, their offerings are lead by expert instructors and faculty with the goal of offering depth, perspective and insight across their adventures and experiences.

National Geographic Expeditions

One of the most renowned names in world exploration began offering its own bookable travel experiences in 1999, and now offers hundreds of trips spanning 80 destinations in all seven continents. Nat Geo Expeditions aims to create uniquely enriching educational travel experiences by tapping their vast network of experts, researchers and scientists as well as the editorial staff of their magazines, books, maps, films and television division.

Education First

EF is an educational travel company with campuses and offices around the globe, touting a number of distinct programs across a variety of age groups. While the majority of their programs focus on high school and undergraduate-aged travelers, two of their programs are specifically designed for adult learners. EF Languages Abroad is designed for adults looking to advance their careers through language learning, offering courses in seven different languages that run between one and 24 weeks in 11 international destinations. EF Go Ahead Tours is designed with adult travelers in mind and, while it may be more travel-focused than education-focused, education through travel is a core element of all of EF’s offerings, so travelers can expect trips to be both informative and experiential.

Local schools in your destination of choice

If the sticker shock of booking a formal educational tour is off-putting, or if you were looking for more of a one-city immersive experience or program, researching a local school might be the choice for you.

Particularly in Europe and in major capital cities, small language immersion schools are easy to come by and will often offer programs that pair language learning and another secondary skill. Offering classes in history, art, cooking and more in the local language with a curriculum specifically designed for non-native speakers and those learning a new language, these classes give you the opportunity to meet other international travelers and immerse yourself in the community more than a larger corporate program might.

So whether you’re looking to learn about French culture and history while learning the French language or are interested in mastering the Italian language while simultaneously mastering Italian cooking, there’s likely a school out there that will help you do just that. And as Americans can stay in most European countries for up to 90 days without a visa, you can get your long-term immersion without having to set foot in an embassy, unlike many college-aged study abroad participants.

Do-it-yourself educational travel

If structured classroom settings aren’t really your thing, there are still ways to create an educational travel experience that will offer more depth than a typical vacation. Just as you would pick up a new hobby at home, you can do so abroad. It’s possible to rent a short-term apartment or book a few months in an Airbnb, enroll in any number of online courses and engage with a new city in a meaningfully educational way.

With universities like Yale and MIT offering recorded lectures, and websites like Coursera offering courses, certificates and degrees online from international universities and companies, you can follow along with college-level courses from anywhere that you have an internet connection. And by making use of tried-and-true educational travel tools like local museums, guided tours, guide books and novels that take place in your destination, you can dig a layer deeper and craft your own educational immersion without breaking the bank. It might take a bit more intention and ingenuity, but travel is inherently educational, and there are simple do-it-yourself ways to make it even more deeply so.

Study abroad isn’t just for the kids anymore. Lifelong learners of all ages are looking into travel not just as a means of relaxation, but also as a means of education, and the ways in which they’re doing so are only growing. So whether you’re the type to book a guided educational travel tour, seek out a local language immersion school or craft your own educational experience, a world of learning awaits you.

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