Looking back on my time at The British School in The Netherlands (BSN), I am overcome by a warm fuzzy feeling. I am particularly grateful that the BSN encouraged travelling, as this was and is a huge part of my life. I was so lucky to go on some incredible school trips to Luxembourg, Spain and even as far as Kenya, to name just a few. As my friends and I got older, we began to plan our own adventures, including festivals, girls’ trips and the legendary grad trip.
I hope this article gives you insight into some of the benefits of travelling whilst at school and provides you with some handy tips from someone who is hopefully relatable, as it wasn’t so long ago that I was beginning my travel journey.
Preparation – the most important element
Although I am an avid traveller now, my travelling experience began when I was much younger.
In school, I found that travelling was more than just the event itself; it was the planning, the excitement, the chat about who would sit next to each other on the bus and making sure we got to school ridiculously early just so we could sit at the back (I have no idea why!). In many ways, bizarre traditions such as these laid the foundation for the most important element: preparation.
Without preparing, it’s unlikely that every part of travelling will go successfully. Through preparation, you may learn things you didn’t know before that could make all the difference. For example, in Greece, where I went on my grad trip, you must always carry a form of photographic ID on you. Small details like these can prevent unnecessary complications for you and your friends. Check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Travel Advice website for more helpful tips.
Grad Trip – stick with your mates!
In my graduating year at the BSN, a fairly large group in the upper sixth decided to go to Malia, a proper destination to let loose and have fun, on the island of Crete in Greece. For a lot of my friends, it was their first trip abroad without the comfort blanket of parents being there. This meant that it was particularly important that we kept together as a group, with no one wandering off on their own or with people we didn’t know well.
Festivals – bring wipes
Another huge part of travelling when I was in school was going to festivals. Pukkelpop in Kiewit, Belgium, was the festival of choice at the time. On my website, there is a dedicated article named ‘Boogie Wonderland’ that gives you all the tips and tricks you could need for preparing and dancing the night away at your chosen festival. You can also find a ‘Festival travel checklist’ here.
My three big tips are:
Girls’ trips – a time to relax (sometimes!)
As my friends and I went into our last year of school, girls’ trips were particularly exciting. Sometimes there is nothing better than being in the heat with your pals, drinking lemonade, and getting ready for a big night out.
The girls’ trip that really comes to mind is when I went to Barcelona, Spain, with four of my gal pals. Again, planning for this was part of the fun, though the FCDO Travel Advice website would’ve been a great help! Unfortunately, groups of young women are often seen as easy targets for thieves and personal attacks. Sticking together and keeping vigilant is an important part of any trip, especially with female friends.
Whilst in Barcelona my friends and I spent quite a lot of time at the beach. In Spain, there is a flag system on the beaches to indicate the safety of entering the water; if there is a red flag, you should not enter the water at all! There are more helpful tips for Spain and the other 225 countries you may want to visit on the FDCO Travel Advice website.
Charity excursions – travelling for fantastic causes
The biggest adventure I went on in my school career was going to Kenya with a wonderful group of 26 students and some teachers. Before setting off on our expedition, we spent about a year fundraising and preparing, raising over €40,000 for the cause.
The team and I were lucky enough to travel to a tiny remote town called Njoro in Nakuru, an area in western Kenya about three hours from Nairobi. Whilst there, we spent two and a half weeks building classrooms from local materials, teaching the pupils and soaking up the culture that is so different from ours.
The local laws and customs are mapped out on the Travel Advice website so have a look for some more info. One particularly interesting part was that plastic bags are banned due to their damaging environmental effects. I noticed this when I was there as the bags we got when we went to the local market and supermarket were a cloth material. I was so interested in them that I took some home to the Netherlands!
As well as spending time in Njoro, the team and I completed our Gold International Award by trekking Mount Londiani, about an hour away. Spending four days and nights in the forest trekking a very long distance through streams and bamboo was an incredibly challenging experience (to say the least!).
A significant part of our mission on the trek was to GPS track the poaching of sandalwood trees in the forest. Kenya is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (cited on the Travel Advice website), so this felt like a worthy cause! After staying overnight in the country’s capital Nairobi, we travelled to Mombasa, a beautiful seaside area on the eastern coast. This area is predominantly Muslim, so we ensured that we wore the appropriate dress to respect local laws and customs.
As you can probably tell, my early travelling experiences were varied. I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to explore the world as I did. There are very few better feelings than looking back on my school travelling experiences with a smile on my face.
Through travelling, you learn about yourself, how to prepare and most of all, about different cultures. Moving forward with my travelling, I’ll utilise everything I’ve learnt in combination with the information on the FCDO’s Travel Advice website, which will certainly improve my adventures even further!
FCDO – Travel Aware Campaign
Although my travel experiences throughout school were incredible, the FCDO Travel Advice website could have made them even better! The Travel Aware campaign, run by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, aims to provide travellers with the necessary information before and during their travels. They make their Travel Advice website accessible by sorting the information to be country-specific. For some topics, such as festivals and insurance, they have designated space for particular focus on that subject area. My job as a student brand ambassador is to communicate those tips in a way that is informative as well as fun because that’s what travel is all about!
I got the position through my university student mobility team, who helped me on my biggest adventure yet, moving to Paris for my semester abroad in my third year of university.
I joined the BSN in January 2013 after moving from Hertfordshire, England. I had never even moved house before, so moving country was a pretty big thing! The BSN is a family, and I was welcomed in with open arms. My experience couldn’t have been better. I was so lucky to be part of the BSN, travel so much whilst I was in school and make memories that will last a lifetime.
After graduating from the BSN in 2019, I moved to Glasgow to go to university, studying International Business.
This summer, I am lucky enough to have been chosen to be a student brand ambassador for the FCDO’s Travel Aware campaign. The campaign aims to inform young travellers using the FCDO Travel Advice website so that they can get as much out of travelling as possible!
Follow FCDO on Instagram: @travelaware