Alumni Travel is a growing component of nonprofit/educational travel. Despite its name, many alumni travel programs are open to non-alumni, and what follows is a selective sampling of these inclusive programs.
Coordinating this section is Transitions Abroad’s new Lifelong Learning Editor, Mara DelliPriscoli—president of Travel Learning Connections, Inc., www.travelearning.com, and founder of the Educational Travel Conference (formerly Nonprofits in Travel Conference), now in its twentieth year. It is the only forum of its kind dedicated to the education and training of professionals involved in experiential learning through travel.
Despite their affiliation with colleges and universities, not all alumni travel programs are created equal. You will find a variety of options from program to program, and even within a specific program trips may be no more than typical sightseeing tours. The majority, however, are based on the principal that education doesn’t begin and end with college and that travel is an ideal way to enrich your life and learn about the world—and, sometimes, to give back to the world, as evidenced by an increasing number of service-learning alumni travel programs.
Aside from the obvious benefit of not having to plan all the details of a trip yourself, alumni program travelers find some of the advantages to include carefully selected travel providers; experienced and local tour guides; access to people, places, and events that are closed to the public; educational pre- and post-trip opportunities; and often small and personalized groups composed of like-minded individuals interested in mind-enriching travel. Programs are often ranked in terms of physical requirements, from mildly active to active or even adventurous. There are trips geared specifically for families, and many programs are willing to assist single travelers who want to share accommodations.
One sticky subject is cost. While costs are always relative, they seem particularly so with alumni travel. Program costs vary widely. You should weigh carefully program philosophies and what each includes with its trips—meals, airfare, educational seminars, special events, etc. Many programs offer similar trips, so you can afford to be discerning.
With college faculty leading or accompanying many trips, you may wish to consider one over another because of the faculty leader’s qualifications or interests.
Most programs require an upfront deposit and acceptance of the trip’s terms and conditions, and the majority have detailed itineraries available on their web sites. The most obvious starting place might be your alma mater. If you don’t see a trip that meets your needs and interests, google “alumni travel” and your options will be endless.
We look forward to expanding our alumni travel resources in the future and welcome your feedback. If you’ve participated in alumni travel, write to us with your perspective, resources, or full-length article. —Sherry Schwarz
See Jessica Hayden's selection of her Favorite Alumni Travel Programs for more...
Contact the program directors to confirm costs, dates, and other details.
Alumni Association of the Univ. of Michigan,
True Blue Travel Program (800-847-4764; alumni.umich.edu/travel/index.php, email@example.com) was established more than 40 years ago and was one of the pioneers of alumni travel. It is recognized as a leader in the field, having established itself as one of the top three largest alumni travel programs in the U.S. All True Blue Travel programs are accompanied by a tour director, and many include Univ. of Michigan faculty members. There are options for family travel programs and a series of popular travel and learn programs that include seminars and other educational elements. To participate in True Blue Travel programs, you must be a member of the Alumni Association of the Univ. of Michigan. However, only one person per room needs to be a member of the Association, and the Association accepts non-graduates of the University. The cost for membership is $59 a year.
Journey of the Czars 2005: Univ. of Michigan lecturers Enoch Brater, professor of English and theater, and Senator Liz Brater, who represents the 18th District in the Michigan State Senate, lead this trip aboard the exclusively chartered Novikov Priboy. Explore St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, Catherine’s Palace, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and Petrodvorets—the summer palace of Peter the Great. Visit Moscow’s Red Square, the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and Tretyakov Art Gallery. Between your visits to St. Petersburg and Moscow, you’ll see the Russia others miss—the grand nation immortalized by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Gogol. With visits to Svir Stroy, Kizhi Island, Yaroslavl and Uglich, you’ll experience a quainter Russia, gaining access to forested islands, lakes, and quiet villages. Details: July 8-31, 2005. Approx. $1,695, plus airfare.
Historical China and the Yangtze: Explorations include Beijing’s Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace, walking along the Great Wall of China, experiencing Beijing’s traditional Hutong area by rickshaw and sharing a meal with a local family in their home, observing the ongoing excavations of the terra cotta warriors site in Xian, cruising the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River before the features are forever changed by the new dam, sailing the Li River in Guilin—inspiration to Chinese artists for centuries—and participating in the Make-a-Friend program in Beijing, Dazu, and Shanghai. Details: Oct. 5-21, 2005. Approx. $4,689, including airfare from Detroit or Chicago.
The Univ. of Chicago Alumni Study Trips (800-955-0065; www.alumni.uchicago.edu/study.html, firstname.lastname@example.org) are led by Univ. of Chicago faculty members, as well as top guides and local experts. Trips are open to alumni and friends (interested travelers need not join the Alumni Association).
Alumni College in Poland: With its soaring towers, fortified castles, and splendid old houses, Kraków is the spiritual capital of Poland. The city will be the base for exploring Poland’s Malopolska region and visiting such sites as Czestochowa, Zakopane, and the Dunajec Valley. Those who choose will also visit Auschwitz. Led by Bozhena Shallcross, Professor of Slavic Studies. Details: Aug. 31–Sept. 8, 2005. Approx. $1,895 plus airfare.
Greek Islands: From the stunning cliffs of Santorini to the ruins of Ephesus, this trip will explore the islands of classical antiquity in the Aegean Sea while cruising aboard the M.S. Andrea. Led by Humanities Professor Herman Sinaiko. Details: Oct. 20–28, 2005/ Approx. $2,895 plus airfare.
College of William and Mary, my alma matter, offers more than 20 alumni travel programs every year, with destinations ranging from the British Isles to Argentina. Several of their programs include a short study abroad program with lectures by local historians and professors. W&M wins the prize for longevity: they have been offering alums travel opportunities for nearly four decades: www.wmalumni.com/?travel.
When I was 15, I participated in a Duke University travel program for high school students in Costa Rica where we studied biology. Many of Duke’s alumni travel programs continue to have a science component and participants can learn about ecology in the Galapagos or travel with a local naturalist along the Amazon. www.dukealumni.com.
Penn State offers approximately 40 programs a year to its alumni and their friends and family. The Nittany Lion’s programs have some great themes, like “Hemingway’s Footsteps” study tour, where participants visit Paris, San Sebastian, Pamplona, and Madrid, following in the great author’s path. www.alumni.psu.edu/travel.
Finally, to fly with the Univ. of Texas Flying Longhorn travel program contact the alumni office at www.texasexes.org/travel/fl.asp.
The Univ. of California and its BEAR TREKS program provide alumni travel programs to the 92,000 members of the California Alumni Association. The program is administered by Berkeley’s alumni office: alumni.berkeley.edu/travel.
University of Wisconsin—Madison Continuing Studies. Dept of Liberal Studies & the Arts
From four-day weekends to several weeks overseas, these trips provide an opportunity to attend world-class performances throughout Europe and North America. View the collections of the finest museums on earth; follow in the footsteps of kings, and learn about it all along the way! Our tours focus on Performing Arts, Theatre, Visual Arts, History, and/or Archaeology.
Each educational tour includes seminars or lectures to provide insights and information regarding your trip’s unique subject and destination. Our guides and lecturers are local and outstanding and may include actors, production personnel, artists and musicians who can give you a thorough and fascinating inside look at the subtleties and complexities of their field, while also giving you personal insights into their culture and way of life.