Trav•el, v., 1. to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship; take a trip. n., 1. a movement through space that changes the location of something.[quote2]
However defined, the word travel can mean something different to anyone who’s ever hiked, driven or flown anywhere in the world. It’s a two-week cruise. It’s a week’s worth of sunbathing on foreign shores. It’s a four-day camping trip. It’s a weekend visit to long-lost relatives.
But while summer road trips, study abroad adventures and hotel stays have become as routine as Slurpee stops, luggage tags and customary bibles in bedside drawers, MSU students have acquired ulterior motives when it comes to packing up and leaving East Lansing until next fall. Through internships, teaching experiences and volunteer opportunities, a number of students intend to get a bit more out of their travel plans than passport stamps and a collection of snapshots.
Although Becky Hart has been to London and recently went on a Caribbean cruise with her family, her plans to teach English as a second language in Korea for 13 months have been in the forefront of her mind. After graduating in December 2004 with a degree in music and studying the role jazz music has played in Japan, Hart said she was inspired to travel beyond past vacation experiences.
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“I feel like I have to be doing something when I go somewhere,” said Hart, who has also gone to Honduras twice for mission work at an orphanage. “When I went on a cruise, I felt ambiguous. I wasn’t doing anything, I was just consuming, and that left me unsatisfied. Yeah, it was relaxing, but that’s not the type of trip for me.”
While Hart is uncertain what to expect from her teaching experience and will be faced with the decision of what to do after teaching in a foreign country, she said she still feels more excited than nervous.
“I have no fears whatsoever,” Hart said. “I’ve been in a static mood. What is sticking around here gonna do? I’m just so open to everything right now. I’m definitely sure this is going to give me a travel bug that I won’t be able to get rid of.”
Physiology and Spanish junior Jason Manzano has also felt a continuous urge to travel after going to parts of Mexico through MSU’s Alternative Spring Break program, studying abroad in Costa Rica and traveling to the Philippines with his family. Volunteering at an orphanage in Queretaro, Mexico, Manzano was motivated to search Missionfinder.org and came across an opportunity to offer his services at an orphanage in Peru this summer.
“I like to travel and volunteer,” Manzano said. “I thought this would be a good way to do both and also practice my Spanish. I just want to do my part. I know I can’t change the world, but I’d like to make some contribution.”
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Like Hart and Manzano, English senior Phil Johnson has also had a great deal of mission work experience. Graduating in May, Johnson will apply his interest in volunteering by serving two years in the Peace Corps.
“Even when I’m home, I like to get out,” Johnson said. “I always do mission trips, so this is sort of like a big mission trip.”
Although Johnson has spent a great deal of time on the road, including trips to Mexico, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Czech Republic and other parts of the United States, he said he tries to get more out of his trips than most tourists.
“I think it seems like a zoo,” Johnson said. “You’re just going to look at things. I’d rather go to Costa Rica in the rain forest and see a sloth than go to the zoo and see monkeys. I’d rather do what the locals do. I want to live in a foreign country for two years and get the whole effect.”
Preparing to leave in August, Johnson has learned he will be placed somewhere in Central Asia to work. Although he is still unaware of a definite country, he said he is content with wherever he is told to go.
“I told them no preference,” Johnson said. “I’d just like to leave it to fate. I figure it will work out, I’ll just go where they need me.”
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While Johnson has left his summer plans up to the universe, Tolga Yaprak has yet to decide between two summer job internships in Turkey. The international studies sophomore plans to intern for either Novartis or Coca-Cola and would work in communications for either job. Yaprak, who traverses the globe at least once a year and has family living in Turkey, said he enjoys international travel because his career and personal growth will benefit from the skills he has formed abroad.
“When you get put into a new environment where your culture doesn’t really help you, you have to find yourself and be a problem solver,” he said. “When you’re working, you’re introduced to a new type of work experience. You get the same results through different procedures. You really get a lot of experience in life.”
“I think traveling allows people to look at themselves as individuals as opposed to how they are in society,” Hart agreed. “It increases the opportunity to turn inward and be out of your element to not only define yourself, but make changes.”
Leaving immediately after first summer session classes end and returning right before fall semester classes begin, Yaprak said he has grown used to being on a tight schedule. He said he looks forward to gaining even more international experience this summer.
“Later on in life, it would look a lot better with a multinational corporation on your résumé,” Yaprak said. “I could get an internship here, but I’d rather do something new. It spices life up a bit.”
Matt Wiersma, political science and pre-law junior, also plans to kick his summer up a notch by backpacking through Europe with his cousin. With a homemade, crumpled itinerary in tow, the duo will trek throughout both Eastern and Western Europe, visiting countries including Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Croatia. Since Wiersma has vacationed in Florida and Canada only a couple times before, his lack of travel experience has made him even more eager to explore the foreign continent.
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“When else am I going to have time to take a month and travel across Europe with my cousin?” Wiersma said. “This is a once in a lifetime chance.”
Comparing his anticipated travel plans to studying abroad, Wiersma said he wants to have the freedom of traveling on his own and planning his own schedule, rather than worrying about roaming around with a larger group of people taking classes.
“I always wanted to study abroad, but never wanted to do the study portion of it,” he said. “I also won’t have to coordinate a whole group of different ideas. If I want to, I can go anywhere I want. I’ll like essentially not having anyone to tell me where I can or cannot go. I don’t think I could handle a group of people deciding what to do for a day.”
While his family has warned him about traveling on his own, Manzano, who will either live alone or with a host family in Cusco, Peru, said he was done studying abroad and was ready to go out on his own.[quote3]
“I don’t really like going with big groups,” Manzano said. “By myself, I’m my own person, and I only have to worry about myself.”
However, Francisco Quiroga, an economics junior who was born in Puerto Rico but considers Argentina his home since he lived in the South American country for most of his adolescence, said he still thinks studying abroad could be beneficial for students. Although he has traveled back and forth countless times between MSU; Argentina, where his mother and three younger brothers live; Brazil, where his father works, and Puerto Rico, where the rest of his relatives live, Quiroga said he still hopes to study abroad before he graduates.
“Going back home to see family and friends is not anything new,” said Quiroga, who justified his desire through his roommate who studied abroad in London and came back a changed person. “I still want to study abroad because it’s an excuse to go somewhere else. It’s not the same thing as living in Argentina.”
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But the Argentine said he is grateful for the places where he grew up and explored. Attending an international high school, Quiroga said being surrounded by diversity has helped him broaden his mind and develop a better understanding of the world.
“The school I went to was extremely diverse, it was hard to find two people from the same place,” Quiroga said. “I feel a lot more comfortable with people who have been places. I like the fact that I’ve lived in all those places, because I get to see their views. I see the way people think here and there. I’m on middle ground because I’ve been on both sides.”
While Quiroga said he is uncertain where he will live in the future, he is supportive of other people who decide to live abroad.
“If it was one of my friends going to live somewhere else, even if I’ve never been there, I’d say do it,” Quiroga said. “To live there and integrate yourself completely is one of the best possible things you can do.”
“Everyone should travel, but I don’t consider cruises traveling – that’s America on wheels,” said Hart, who leaves for Korea in July. “People have no understanding of why I want to go. They’re thinking of it in a very different way, but I can be the bridge between people who have no idea and the other side.”[quote4]
Johnson said, as much as he likes to travel, he’d appreciate staying in one country for a long period of time so he might have the chance to become really familiar with a place that’s different from what he’s used to.
“You’ll start to understand the culture, rather than just view it,” Johnson said. “You have more of a purpose, instead of just imposing American culture on foreigners.”
Yaprak said he looks forward to his summer plans, but understands travel might not be for everyone.
“Everybody is different, and everybody acts and reacts in different situations,” Yaprak said. “If I could excel in another country, others might not. That’s one thing you learn when you travel. There are all types of people, and you just need to respect what that person feels.”
“Once you go out into the real world,” he said, “and once you see what you can do in life and the rewards, then it’s all worth it.”

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