With the carefree summer months coming to an end and students returning to their alma maters, it may seem to some that the time for adventure is over and the time to get down to some serious businesses has arrived.
While that's not entirely untrue, there are more similarities between college life and travel than might initially appear. Travel, more often than not, provides brand new experiences and exposes people to tons of new information, whether it's hearing foreign languages, experiencing different weather, or even learning local histories. College exposes students to the same experiences within a concentrated area. No need to jump in a car—just walk over to the International residential hall to enter a different world.
Because college and travel share so many commonalities, here are five travel lessons students can apply to collegiate life to make the adventure a positive, useful and expansive one.
We all know the type: the traveler lugging the pregnant carry-on they cannot lift into the overhead compartment, who no doubt also has a 49.9-pound bag checked. The roommate that brings 18 boxes and sets them in the living room unopened. For the year. The other roommate that so kindly leaves one whole quarter of the closet unused, or one entire shelf out of the dozens in the kitchen. Nobody wants to be these people.
Not only can packing light resolve possible space conflicts but when it comes to limiting clothing options and sticking to a sort of uniform, personal efficiency is boosted. This genius trick is one used by a slew of highly successful people from techies like the late Steve Jobs and still-Facebooking social media CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to the always-revered theoretical physicist Albert Einstein.
When exploring, whether it's on the road, in a foreign country or a new class, efficiency is a useful thing to have in the tool belt. Find a personal uniform. Pack light.
Eat at home
The local flavors: They're so good! But much like college, they're also quite expensive. That fifteen dollars spent on the burger made from meat brined in-house at that cool pub could make a few burgers to enjoy at a barbecue getting to know new neighbors, for example. That means it could also sit brined to taste in-house in a college apartment and feed one person several times over.
But if cost is not enough to deter the most devoted foodie, perhaps the not-just-Freshman 15 might be. A majority of college students—70 percent—will gain weight during their college careers due to a variety of factors including an increase of stress, lack of time for exercise, and increased caloric intake (think alcohol, pizza).
By eating foods made at home, food costs can be reduced, saved for non-digestible experiences, and nutrition can be better tracked with no secret high-calorie, flavorful ingredients (like added sugars) lurking uncalculated. Besides, getting a few recipes from home can provide a taste of it in times of homesickness.
Hanger is no joke. Chances are that when paying tens of thousands of dollars for an education, students will want to get as much bang for buck as possible. But when hunger creeps in, causing the belly to rumble and brains to mentally repeat the phrase "I'm starving" during lecture, it isn't only nutrition they're not absorbing, but information.
If even the shortest flights can offer over-salted peanuts, keeping grumpy folk at bay for flight attendants, students can show themselves, their classmates and professors the same consideration.
Keep the mind quiet and the belly full to avoid distraction—or becoming one. Foods that serve as good snacks to facilitate better brain activity include blueberries, nuts and seeds. Combine the three to make a fresh trail mix to fuel mental activity. Even adding chia seeds into pomegranate juice can help soak in all that new information.
Pursue every interest
"I had a great time on my travels doing literally nothing, seeing all the things I've already seen before," said no one ever.
Much like travel, education is a time to explore even the smallest hankering in terms of new experiences, subjects and more.
Explore beyond your comfort zone: are you an English major who is interested in microbiology? Or maybe a soon-to-be neuroscientist who is interested in comedic improvisation? Perhaps you're an artist interested in literally everything. College is a time, at no matter what age or stage—from freshman to doctoral student in their last semester—to define identities and interests.
And not all interests should be professional or traditionally useful. As stress in schools becomes an increasing concern, educational institutions are encouraging students to take time each week to decompress with fun activities that engage the mind in ways that don't necessarily utilize the same intense critical thinking as many required courses.
Any roadtripper has seen the car weaving from right to the left, or the truck just off the middle-of-nowhere exit in the dark of night.
If governments can encourage frequent breaks via signs reading "fatigue kills" and providence of frequent rest stops, the message should be clear: Rest is necessary.
Among a number of other suggestions, a Michigan Institute of Technology story on effective studying—which leads to effective learning—reported that when people take frequent breaks, studying for 50 minutes and breaking for 10, they absorb more and perform better. But aside from putting on the breaks mentally, it is important to put in the hours—for sleep that is.
Experts recommend getting eight hours or more and avoiding accumulating a sleep deficit, or a roster of missed hours that add up over time and begin taking a toll on the body and its ability to learn.
Whether returning to a campus that has become a seemingly familiar place, or embarking on a new journey, the year is sure to reveal new pathways provided students are open to them. Treat the experience like an adventure, enjoy the travels, and surely do not rush to the destination.