What can our kids do when they accelerate their bachelor’s degree by combining their high school studies and CLEPing their college gen eds? Plenty! I recently returned from a two-week visit with my 21-year-old daughter, Kate. She left just two months ago to live/work/travel in New Zealand for a year.
It was seven years ago when Kate was 7th grade, that I introduced my three kiddos to CLEP. I suggested that instead of a traditional college experience and the traditional debt that followed, they consider goals and experiences beyond college. Something that was bigger than living on a campus. None of us knew what was, but we had faith that, when the time was right, they would know.
In the meantime, Kate, like my other two kids, worked hard at her studies to combine courses that overlapped. For example, instead of studying US History in middle school, then high school, then again in college, she dug in, studied it once and took a CLEP exam to demonstrate her college-level knowledge. Subject after subject turned into a pile of college credits. The remainder of her degree was accomplished through college-level courses taken both online and on-campus while working first part-time then full-time to gain experience and financial independence.
Then came the question – What’s next? As many graduates know, it’s not a comfortable question to be faced with. While uncertain as to what’s next, Kate felt very fortunate. It wasn’t just her education that put her in a position of opportunity, but the pathway that got her there.
It’s fun to ride on your kids coat-tails! To know that they are equipped to take chances. When leaving home, Kate’s initial plan was to travel for a year in NZ (the length of their working holiday visa), then return home. Perhaps we were both naïve. During my visit, she shared that she has been bitten by the bug, the travel bug. Her new plan is to travel until she is 25 – Australia, South America, across Asia. I will keep my passport current!
While there, I met many of her friends, flat mates, co-workers when we hosted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. None of her new friends are American, but they were all interested in willing to bring a dish and share in our holiday. Around the table were friends from Argentina, Chile, Germany, Taiwan, New Zealand … It seems traveling in your 20’s is much more common for people from other countries. One of Kate’s new friends was likely returning home sooner than she would like because she is having trouble finding a job. There is need to have marketable skills, an employment portfolio, and polished people skills to land a job, no matter where you live.
Traits that seemed common among this group of travelers was the ability to live on less for the sake of living in the moment, the willingness to take a chance without the assurance of success, the desire to foster relationships above all else, and to be self-reliant.
Some ideas that I would now recommend students who want to consider life off the campus:
- Think big. Watch GlobeTrekker, Travel the Road, and SharkTank
- Have $5,000 that you earned yourself in an online checking account.
- Work to establish good credit card skills.
- Learn a skill where you can walk in and land a job. You can’t go wrong with barista.
- Work towards being self-reliant in your choices, finances, purpose. It’s okay to no do what your friends are doing!
- Look up two helpful organizations: InterExchange and WWOOF.
Read more on Kate’s travel blog.