Why you should travel before starting college

I bought a motorcycle before I came to Baylor. It was perfect for the long treks from Rogers to Old Main when I was an engineering major, and it had me convinced I was going to be designing bikes for the rest of my life. That is, until I realized the skills I was hoping to learn as an engineer actually lined up more with industrial design — a degree Baylor doesn’t offer.

While college may never provide me the perfect degree, it did give me another opportunity. I went on the Baylor in Budapest trip this summer, and it taught me the value of travel and how learning about other cultures reveals a lot about oneself. I met people my age who were taking a break from school — taking time off to see the world, meet new people and learn more about themselves in the process. Like those people I met, young adults should consider traveling first to discover more about themselves before they commit to school.

Many young students find themselves second-guessing their degree early in their college career. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 80 percent of students change their major at least once.

Cited in the same report from NCES, the flopping between degrees takes its toll on one’s graduation plan didn’t graduate until 2014. That is, it took them an entire two years longer to graduate than expected. Taking a year off to travel could actually save money if the students come back more certain about their degree.

Travel immerses you in diversity and in the discovery of your own potential. Unlike a career fair or college day, it plunges you into the reality where you can see the application of a multitude of professions. It forces you to consider your role in the world rather than which pamphlet is the most appealing or which alumni base is the strongest.

I sold that motorcycle I bought before freshman year. It paid for a few dates with my girlfriend and taxes I had forgotten to set money aside for. I wonder now what could have come from the money I had used to buy the bike – maybe it could have paid for a ticket to Australia or Japan. For those of us who still want to take one of those trips, it’s still not too late. The break after graduation is an excellent time for one last hurrah before entering the work force, and taking some time to explore new places might just reveal more about ourselves than we ever could have learned in college.