Ask any college student who has participated in a travel study, and they will tell you it was one of the most profound experiences of their lives. To live and learn, while exploring something outside the world you come from is extraordinarily enriching. Travel studies are not your typical vacations, and though these programs schedule time for leisure, it is the idea of learning through experience and exploration that makes the adventure more fulfilling.

UC Riverside’s Summer Travel Study provides students the opportunity of a lifetime. Whether chronicling the tumultuous beauty of Vietnam, studying Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre or soaking in history and culture throughout Spain, there is something to take away from each moment. Get ready for a journey that extends beyond the plane ride, to meeting new friends and the freedom of knowing the existence of worlds that no textbook can describe.

One program titled, “Encountering Vietnam” includes daily lectures and scheduled trips to the Hoi An area to Hanoi, as well as the former demilitarized zone (DMZ) where a series of goliath towers set the backdrop between North and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

“It’s a magnificent thing to learn about something in class and then experience that time, place or culture firsthand,” says Christopher Records, whose previous travel study to Vietnam involved learning the language, people and culture by reading narratives by past authors while creating his own unique travel narrative in the process. Students stay in the idyllic city of Hue, where they can participate in a slew of cultural activities such as martial arts and cooking classes.

Program instructor, Professor David A. Biggs explains, “Hue also presents other opportunities for students to learn about development through firsthand experience. Students in the past have volunteered at orphanages and health clinics, learning firsthand about public and private efforts to alleviate poverty.”

On the other side of the world, a different experience awaits in the sprawling cultural metropolis of London where students are able to participate in a program titled, “Shakespeare’s World: Society, Religion, and Politics in England.” Here, London is your classroom where exploring sights like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace.

During the five-week stay, students read famous Shakespearean works and then experience their theatrical production at the Globe Theatre. Participants in the past have been engulfed by the productions, going so far as to even getting some blood shed on them from the stage (it was washable).

“Without any question, you will never feel, hear and smell as well as see better Shakespearean productions,” says Thomas E. Cogswell, Ph.D., professor of the London program.

Another interesting distinction to the curriculum is Professor Cogswell’s assignments to enjoy and experience London on your own, or with your fellow classmates, through various assignments and scavenger hunts to London’s most famous museums. Soon, you come to know London just like a regular Brit.

The last great destination offered by UCR is their “An Encounter with Spain, Past & Present program,” which, though you may need to be proficient in Spanish to qualify, offers a truly authentic discovery of a rich and influential culture.

Past program participant Dorothy Beck explains, “It was the best trip of my life. I met some great souls, and I believe anyone who has the chance to do this should!” Students can travel all throughout the country from Barcelona and Sevilla to Toledo and the Bourbons. After classes, students go on various group excursions to other cities outside Madrid, including El Escorial, Segovia and La Granja, Ávila and Salamanca. The opportunity for solo exploration is a must, including a legendary nightlife, the Rastro flea market and various museums, movies and plays.

Michelle Gould recalls her trip: “Having studied about kings, queens and important authors of literature in Spain and then visiting the forts, palaces and houses where they actually lived was very complementary to what we were learning.”

All three programs are offered for the 2010 Summer Sessions and are open to all students for credit. Not only that, the opportunity to explore and experience such rich cultural settings while enjoying lasting friendships will be the least of the memories you’ll cherish.