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Bridge Year 101: How to Pack for a Year Abroad

Planes, trains, automobiles, changing climates and new cultures – like nothing you’ve ever experienced before – are you ready for your life as a student traveling abroad? “Of course I am”, you confidently think to yourself, until it comes time to figuring out what to pack for this experience of a lifetime. Leaving the nest for the first time isn’t easy and it begins with making sure you’re well equipped with clothes to wear. After all, this is more than packing for a week vacation at grandma’s house.


Before you start washing and folding all your favorite clothes, you’ll want to keep in mind the limitations you’ll most likely encounter right off the bat. If your trip abroad is anything like ours, you’ll need to plan for every season and fit it all inside a packed suitcase that weighs no more than 50 lbs. In addition, you’ll probably be allowed to bring a piece of carry-on luggage and a back pack. It’s more than enough space for a week at camp, and just a smidge limiting if you’re leaving for 6-months or a year. When picking out the right luggage, remember that wheels are a good thing, your back will thank you later. 


Now comes the fun part – finding a way to make everything fit. First, you need a strategy especially if you’ll be experiencing changes of season. Misael Oliver, toured on multiple casts of Up with People over 2 years, logging thousands of miles in 8 countries. His advice is simple, “limit the number of unique pieces of clothing, and focus on the things you wear that are interchangeable.” Good advice! In other words, lose that funky hat that you wear only to the Halloween party each year and make sure you have your favorite clothes you wear all the time.

Also, think of your wardrobe in terms of layering. For example, that favorite summer shirt is perfect in 90-degree heat and a nice base layer in the fall under a sweatshirt. And that lightweight sweater that’s perfect in the fall is probably a solid base layer underneath a light weight coat in the colder months. For a complete packing list, this link will take you to the checklist we send to our first-year touring cast members. One more tip – if you’re traveling to poverty-stricken regions, considering packing a few extra pieces of clothes you can leave behind; an old t-shirt to you may be a luxury for another person.


If you’re like me, organization and packing don’t always go hand-in-hand. Well, when you travel abroad for an extended period of time, guess what? You’re going to want to be organized. In fact, did you know you can even find Packing Organizers on Amazon? I know, right? Crazy. Here’s a link to help you get your stuff together. What makes these little cubes magical is that you can keep your socks with your socks, underwear with your underwear and you don’t have to hunt and peck to find stuff on the road. Awesome invention and it helps you save some time when you’re on the move. Best of all, it reduces your stress levels!

If you don’t have packing organizers, be sure to fold or roll your clothes neatly, rather than just tornado tossing stuff in the suitcase with reckless abandon. You’ll be surprised how much more you can fit when you fold your clothes and organize them neatly. 

Remember, you’ll probably also be able to bring a backpack and a carry-on bag on the plane, so you’ll have some extra storage options. Keep the obvious stuff in your backpack – phone, passport, water bottle, etc. Here’s something else to consider – put a change of clothes in your carry-on or backpack. You never know when the airline might lose your suitcase and if they do, at least you’ll have some clean underwear (which would make your mom happy too). To that end, throw in your toothbrush and toothpaste because after a day without brushing you’ll swear your teeth have grown a sweater over them. And never pack medications, jewelry or other valuables in your checked luggage. If your suitcase is lost, it might have a hard time catching up to you when you’re hopping from continent to continent.

Okay, are you ready? Probably not completely, but hopefully this gives you a head start on a few things you haven’t considered. What tips have you picked up along the way? I’d love to hear your little pearls of wisdom when it comes to packing for a year abroad. Bon Voyage!

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How To Run A Successful Online Fundraiser

Since 1965 over 22,000 young people have circled the globe with Up with People. As a non-profit and as a program that helps hundreds of our participants fundraise each year we understand a thing or two about fundraising. Whether you are raising funds for a good cause or to travel the world, crowdfunding online can be both necessary and challenging. Crowdfunding is defined as, “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.” Where does one begin? In this post we explore the many options available online to help you choose the best approach for your fundraising goals.

Top Crowdfunding Platform Comparison Guide – GoFundMe operates under the “keep what you raise” fundraising model and is the best for individuals looking to raise funds for whatever reason as their name implies. You don’t lose out on donations if you don’t reach your goal. They offer unlimited duration or custom deadlines for your campaigns and are a popular choice for young creatives and travelers. Cost – 2.9% of total raised plus $0.30 gift processing fee per donation. – With KickStarter you must either meet or exceed your goal or you keep nothing and all donations are returned to donors. This platform is best for starting a new organization or business. Campaign duration can last from 1 – 60 days. Kickstarter is the most competitive of all platforms therefore it can be harder to stand out. Cost – If goal is met, 5% of money raised goes to Kickstarter, plus 3-5% to Amazon Payments to cover gift processing. – Popular with the creative crowd, this platform is shared with as many as 10,000 causes at one time, leaving the site cluttered with campaigns for donors to sort through. Competition here is high. IndieGoGo operates under both the “keep what you raise” and “all or nothing” model. Campaign duration can last from 1 – 120 days. Cost – 8% platform and gift processing fee plus $0.30 transaction fee per gift. – When individuals, groups, or communities need to raise funds in the face of hardship, YouCaring can be a great option. Unlike most online crowdfunding sites, YouCaring doesn’t charge a platform fee off what you have raised. They also have a tuition pre-built page which people can use for college, gap year program or study abroad semester fundraising. – Classy is tailored to large nonprofit organizations and social enterprises. It is not a good fit for individuals and small fundraising campaigns. Cost – $499 per month making it one of the more expensive options out there.

Donate Direct To Individuals – With the rise of services and apps like VenMo and Zelle, supporting an individual directly has never been easier. Hefty service fees from major crowdfunding sites can really cut into all of the hard work and needed funds. A common misconception is that simply having a presence on major crowdfunding sites will give your cause exposure thus finding brand new donors. How many people do you know go to crowdfunding sites to donate to random projects? The truth is that the people who make donations will be in your circle of contacts. This is why often times it is better to create a simple web page using a free site builder like WordPress to explain your story and why you need funds. Many people simply start a Facebook page for this purpose. Then people can donate to your cause directly helping you avoid costly service fees. Many participants fundraising to travel with Up with People simply have supporters make payments directly to their program fee on Up with People’s website, thus avoiding 3rd party service fees as well.


Steps to Run a Successful Online Fundraiser

No matter how you decide to raise money online there are some best practices that you should follow. These best practices will give you the best chance to raise the much needed funds for your cause.

1.) Tell A Great Story – Why should someone donate? Empathy is a powerful tool and on your project page you must quickly explain why you need donations. What does that money actually do? Videos are a powerful tool and we recommend always using a video on any online fundraising page. The video doesn’t have to be perfect or professionally produced with lots of bells and whistles, it just has to tell your story. Keep it under 2 minutes if you can and get to the point quickly. 

2.) Show Progress – One great thing about the major crowdfunding platforms and perhaps why they are so popular is that they clearly show how much you have raised and the goal. You must set a goal and show it to the world. This helps supporters see your progress and makes them more likely to give a little bit more if they can see how much it will help in the big picture. People naturally want to help you reach that goal.

3.) Social Media Is Required – As we mentioned before, most of your donors will come from your inner circle and there is no better way to reach them quickly than with social media. Once you have decided on a platform, blast out your page to everyone you know and ask supporters to share it with their own networks. It is also best practice to ask people to share your page after they have donated.

4.) A Thank You Gift – Offering something as a thank you doesn’t have to cost you a thing but it can be a powerful tool in raising funds. If you are raising funds for study abroad, could you promise your donors a digital recipe book from dishes you loved while living with your host family abroad? Could you simply promise a postcard from abroad? Coming up with creative ways to thank your supporters can be a great way to boost funds.

5.) Donate Now Button – You would be surprised how often we see this forgotten on participant run online fundraising campaigns. It seems obvious but if there is no “Donate Now” button on whatever page you send your supporters, you are making it difficult and confusing for people and potentially losing money.

6.) Set A Deadline – Nothing kills donations more than when your supporters say to themselves, “Oh I’ll do that tomorrow.” Set a deadline for donations and remind people of this deadline in your social media posts and on your fundraising page.

In the end you want to make the process for your supporters as easy as possible. Online fundraising can be a powerful tool in your quest to raise funds and using at least some of these best practices will help ensure your campaign pays off. 

How To Choose A Study Abroad Destination

Studying abroad can be an incredible experience no matter where you go. Perhaps you already have a location in mind. But if you are like most of the hundreds of thousands of students who want to study abroad every year, you may not know where to go or even where to begin. It’s critical to make an informed decision before enrolling in a program. Above all else you should go! Many times the number of countries and choices can lead to a sort of study abroad paralysis but don’t let that stop you.

Time is not on your side when it comes to study abroad because the later in your educational career, the harder it becomes to find a place that matches the remaining credits you will need to graduate. Many study abroad programs offer courses that are easier to transfer to satisfy general ed requirements as opposed to upper level classes.

Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help you make a good decision, and this post will take you through those resources to make the best decision for you. 

It can be expensive to study abroad and location is a huge factor. Costs can vary greatly depending on where you go. Below is an estimated tuition cost for a year of study abroad per country.

  • UK – $20,000 – $55,500 USD (Does not include living costs, travel, room and board)
  • Australia – $17,000 – $60,000 USD (Does not include living costs, travel, room and board)
  • USA – $10,000 – $41,000 USD (Does not include living costs, travel, room and board)
  • Up with People Multi-Country Study Abroad Program $27,350 for 1 Year World Travel – (Room, board and travel included)

(Source: Times Higher Education)

When it comes to location there are so many destinations to choose from. It’s helpful to narrow down the type of location that interests you the most. For example:

  • Do you want to learn another language while abroad or does the thought of studying abroad ANDlearning a new language sound like a chore?
  • Do you prefer living in a big city or a more rural location?
  • Do you want to live in 1 location or would you rather travel to multiple countries while you study abroad? For example you can study on ships that travel from port to port or participate in a multi-country study abroad program such as that offered by Up with People.


Once you have at least a few locations in mind, it’s time to consider the timing. Most study abroad students choose to study abroad during their sophomore (or equivalent) year from their home universities. Many home universities don’t allow students to study abroad during their freshman year. More and more are also choosing to earn university credits during a gap year between high school (or equivalent) and university. But timing is everything as many home universities have specific requirements and rules when it comes to study abroad.

Typically you should give yourself plenty of time (think 12 months ahead of the departure date) to plan your adventure. Some study abroad programs require an applicant apply no later than 6 months prior to the start of the program.

Do you love to hike? Then maybe New Zealand is a great place for you to spend some time. Do you live for skiing? Perhaps Switzerland should be on your shortlist. Enjoy singing in the shower or air-guitaring in your living room? Consider a touring musical program like Up with People. Whatever your hobbies, many destinations fit perfectly with those things you love to do. This can be a huge factor in combating culture shock and homesickness which many study abroad students experience at some point in their time abroad. Spend a little time researching your top location choices to find out which are the best match for the hobbies you love. 

If you have specific requirements for courses during your study abroad time there may be a program for you. Most colleges and universities now have study abroad offices on campus. That is the best place to start as these offices can help you find schools and programs within your major that they already know will easily transfer credits back to your home university.

Depending on your home country some destinations require more bureaucracy (and fees) to acquire the necessary visa to study abroad. This should be considered before setting your heart on a specific location.

A great way to meet people and enrich your resume is to volunteer or get an internship while abroad. If you have narrowed down your options to a few locations, simply contact the program coordinator and ask if their might be internships or volunteer opportunities available. You might be surprised at the amazing things you discover just by taking the time to ask.

In a world with so many wonderful places to explore, choosing a study abroad destination can be stressful. At the end of the day, trust your gut and go with that option that makes you feel the most excited. Remember the words of Mark Twain. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” Happy travels!

Unique Gift Ideas For Aspiring Young Travelers

The United Nations estimates that 20 percent of all international travelers, over 200 million people, are under the age of 30. Travel is the new most wanted gift under the tree. With millions of high school and college grads considering a gap year and over 300,000 American students planning to study abroad next year, it’s easy to see why anything related to travel will turn you into a gift-giving champion. As this new wave of young people prepares for a much-anticipated adventure abroad and gift-giving season in full swing, consider the following list for that travel aspiring person on your list. Whether that gift is a thing, or an experience, the following list has something for every adventurous young traveler.

The ideal power adaptor is universal. Many travelers will visit multiple countries and will need multiple adaptors to keep their phones, cameras and laptops charged as they explore. The new wave of universal power adaptors can adjust to most plugs around the world. Simply search ‘universal power adaptor’ on your favorite online retail site.

Many young travelers save money by staying in hostel rooms (or even staying with host families) that hold multiple sleepy people. Almost always at least one of those people will snore. The difference between a good night’s sleep and extreme irritation can be an inexpensive stocking stuffer like earplugs!

These small and lightweight chargers can be a life saver on long-haul bus rides or camping trips abroad. They work by allowing you to charge devices via usb ports anywhere. When stranded in a strange place and your phone flashes 1% battery remaining this can be the ultimate lifesaver.

Writing can be an important and sentimental gift that will allow the intrepid traveler to process the incredible experiences they will discover on the road. Among items that poll the highest with experienced travelers as most valuable years after a trip are journals. When culture shock hits sometimes a journal can be that emotional processing tool that keeps a person on the positive track of personal growth.

Think about it. Is there any other gift that has the power to change your loved ones life more profoundly than a long-term trip abroad? One of the longest running and most respected gap year and semester abroad programs in the world is Up with People. This is a gift that offers improved academic performance, accelerated maturity and a new perspective. Learn more about program options (including academic credit) here.

Lightweight, quick drying and easy to pack, microfiber towels are essential especially when the traveler plans to stay in hostels or camp. These towels are easy to find in camping stores and are very inexpensive. When every ounce counts while packing, ditch bulky towels for a microfiber option.

This may seem obvious but think of the power of this gift to change a life. Pauline Frommer summed it up best when she said, “You can’t have a narrow mind and a thick passport.” For passport holders we like the unique options found on sites like Etsy.

For those of us unable to afford first class airline tickets complete with showers and slippers, facial cleansing towelettes offer a way to clean that travel grime from your face after hours of international transport. This stocking stuffer allows your young traveler to freshen up before getting off the airplane and meeting up with say, a new host family abroad!