Smithsonian Student Travel

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Smithsonian Student Travel

The Smithsonian Student Travel Program is a special opportunity for high school students to learn outside of their classrooms by traveling. This program helps you visit important places, learn about different cultures, and get real-world experience that adds to what you learn in school. It’s a way to see new things, become more independent, and think more deeply about the world.

In this blog post, we’ll look into what the Smithsonian Student Travel Program is all about, including where it takes you, when it happens, and why you should consider joining. Traveling with the Smithsonian means you get to learn from experts and have experiences that are both fun and educational. No matter what you’re interested in—whether it’s history, science, art, or something else—this program has something for you. It’s a chance to challenge yourself, meet new friends, and discover in a way that books and online resources alone can’t offer.

What is the Smithsonian Student Travel Program?

The Smithsonian Student Travel Program is a dynamic way for high school students to expand their understanding and appreciation of the world through immersive summer travel experiences in the U.S. and abroad. This program brings students together with experienced trip leaders and Smithsonian experts for engaging and adventurous activities that foster curiosity.

A young male geologist explores a mountain cave

Students delve into the history, culture, cuisine, language, and environment of their destinations, turning each journey into a live classroom. With a focus on educational and cultural enrichment, the program aims to inspire students to explore, learn, and connect in meaningful ways.

2024 Smithsonian Student Travel Programs

The Smithsonian Student Travel programs offer unique insights into cultural, environmental, and technological themes, providing hands-on learning and adventure for high school students interested in broadening their global perspectives. Here are the programs being offered to interested high school students this summer, 2024:

1. Conservation & Culture from Outback to Reef

Journey through Australia’s rainforests, deserts, and the Great Barrier Reef, then to New Zealand’s geothermal wonders. Learn about Aboriginal and Maori cultures, encounter unique ecosystems, and discuss conservation efforts.

2. Conservation, Coral Reefs, & Maya History

Discover Belize’s barrier reef, lush jungles, and Maya heritage. Explore caves, swim in rivers, meet with conservationists, and learn about protecting natural resources.

3. Marine & Wildlife Conservation

In Costa Rica, explore diverse ecosystems, participate in conservation research, and get hands-on experience with marine and wildlife preservation efforts in national parks and reserves.

4. Art & Science from Paris to the Alps

Experience France’s rich history in art, science, and cuisine from Paris to the Alps. Visit museums, learn about sustainable development at the UN, and explore groundbreaking scientific facilities like CERN.

5. Ancient Civilizations, History, & Myth

Explore the ancient worlds of Greece and Italy, from Athens to Rome. Dive into history and mythology at iconic sites and see how past civilizations influence the modern world.

6. Geology, Climate Change, & Renewable Energy

Witness Iceland’s stunning landscapes and learn about climate change and renewable energy. Meet with experts and see how this island nation is tackling environmental challenges.

7. Ancient Culture & Modern Innovation

Immerse in Japan’s blend of ancient traditions and technological advancements. Visit historic sites, learn about cultural practices, and see how innovation shapes society.

8. Wildlife Conservation in East Africa

Engage with conservation efforts in Kenya and Tanzania. Go on safaris, contribute to field research, and learn about the balance between human activity and wildlife preservation.

9. Ancient Cities, Mountain Treks, & High Atlas Culture

Discover Morocco’s cities and mountain cultures. Explore Marrakech and Fez, learn about water conservation, and trek through the High Atlas Mountains.

10. Architecture & Sustainable Design

From New York to Denmark, delve into design and sustainability. Visit architectural marvels, meet with designers, and learn about eco-friendly principles in urban planning.

11. Art & Architecture on the Iberian Peninsula

Journey through Spain and Portugal’s rich history of art and architecture. From Lisbon to Barcelona, explore the legacy of diverse civilizations and their impact on the world.

12. Innovation & the Future of Technology

In Silicon Valley, explore the forefront of technological innovation. Visit startups, engage in workshops, and learn from leaders in the tech industry.

13. Highland Cultures & Natural Wonders in Southeast Asia

Experience the highlands of Thailand and Vietnam. Learn from Indigenous communities, explore lush landscapes, and delve into regional traditions.

14. Aerospace & the Race to Mars

From Washington, D.C., to Houston, dive into aerospace engineering and space exploration. Meet NASA experts, debate space ethics, and explore the future of interplanetary travel.

Ultimately, participants in the program benefit from the expertise of Smithsonian Student Travel Experts who join the group for part of their journey. These experts are professionals in their fields, enriching the travel experience with their knowledge and passion for the region’s theme. Whether it’s discussing climate change with researchers in Iceland, exploring Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., or meeting an astronaut at the Johnson Space Center, the program offers themed itineraries that are both educational and fun.

Where is the Smithsonian Student Travel Program Being Held?

The Smithsonian Student Travel Program takes students on adventures across the globe, covering both domestic locations within the United States and international destinations. Each program is designed around a specific theme that brings the location’s unique aspects to life, providing a deeper understanding of the subject through the lens of the world around us.

Domestic Destinations

In the United States, the program explores the rich history and scientific achievements from coast to coast. From the political and historical significance of Washington, D.C., where the nation’s capital serves as a backdrop for learning about American history and governance, to the technological hub of Houston, Texas, home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, students get an up-close look at aerospace innovation. The programs also venture into the natural beauty of places like Shenandoah National Park, offering insights into environmental science and conservation.

International Destinations

Globally, the Smithsonian Student Travel Program spans continents, from the ancient cities and cultures of Greece and Italy to the innovative and technology-driven society of Japan. Students can dive into conservation efforts in the biodiverse landscapes of Costa Rica and Belize, explore the geological wonders of Iceland, or immerse themselves in the vibrant cultures of Morocco and the intricate ecosystems of East Africa.

A photographer taking photos.

Each international program is carefully crafted to highlight the historical, cultural, and environmental significance of the location, from Australia’s Outback and Great Barrier Reef to the artistic and culinary traditions of France and Switzerland.

Highlighted Locations and Focus

Specific programs highlight remarkable locations such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, where conservation meets incredible marine life; Belize’s barrier reef and jungles, offering a hands-on look at Maya history and contemporary environmental challenges; and the geothermal wonders and cultural richness of New Zealand and Morocco.

These destinations are chosen not just for their beauty or historical importance but for how they contribute to the program’s educational goals, whether it’s understanding global conservation efforts, delving into ancient civilizations, or exploring the future of technology and design.

Through these diverse destinations, the Smithsonian Student Travel Program aims to enrich students’ understanding of the world, providing educational experiences that inspire curiosity, foster cultural awareness, and encourage global citizenship.

When Does the Smithsonian Student Travel Program Take Place?

The Smithsonian Student Travel Program offers a variety of sessions throughout the summer, typically from late June to early August. This schedule allows high school students to engage in enriching travel experiences during their summer break, making it convenient to participate without conflicting with the regular school year.

The programs generally begin in late June and run through to the end of July or early August. Each session varies in length, ranging from 8 to 20 days, depending on the specific program and its itinerary. Below shows each program with its corresponding dates and cost.

1. Conservation & Culture from Outback to Reef

  • Session 1: June 22, 2024–July 11, 2024 (20 days)
  • Session 2: July 6, 2024–July 25, 2024 (20 days)
  • Tuition: $9,990 + airfare

2. Conservation, Coral Reefs, & Maya History

  • Dates: July 19, 2024–July 31, 2024 (13 days)
  • Tuition: $7,590 + airfare

3. Marine & Wildlife Conservation

  • Session 1: July 12, 2024–July 26, 2024 (15 days)
  • Session 2: July 26, 2024–August 9, 2024 (15 days)
  • Tuition: $7,490 + airfare

4. Art & Science from Paris to the Alps

  • Session 1: June 26, 2024–July 9, 2024 (14 days)
  • Session 2: July 12, 2024–July 25, 2024 (14 days)
  • Tuition: $7,990 + airfare

5. Ancient Civilizations, History, & Myth

  • Session 1: June 18, 2024–July 6, 2024 (19 days)
  • Session 2: July 2, 2024–July 20, 2024 (19 days)
  • Tuition: $8,690 + airfare

6. Geology, Climate Change, & Renewable Energy

  • Session 1: June 25, 2024–July 9, 2024 (15 days)
  • Session 2: July 10, 2024–July 24, 2024 (15 days)
  • Tuition: $9,290 + airfare

7. Ancient Culture & Modern Innovation

  • Session 1: June 23, 2024–July 10, 2024 (18 days)
  • Session 2: June 30, 2024–July 17, 2024 (18 days)
  • Tuition: $8,790 + airfare

8. Wildlife Conservation in East Africa

  • Session 1: June 25, 2024–July 13, 2024 (19 days)
  • Session 2: July 16, 2024–August 3, 2024 (19 days)
  • Tuition: $9,990 + airfare

9. Ancient Cities, Mountain Treks, & High Atlas Culture

  • Session 1: June 20, 2024–July 4, 2024 (15 days)
  • Session 2: July 11, 2024–July 25, 2024 (15 days)
  • Tuition: $7,990 + airfare

10. Architecture & Sustainable Design

  • Dates: July 29, 2024–August 11, 2024 (14 days)
  • Tuition: $7,990 + airfare

11. Art & Architecture on the Iberian Peninsula

  • Session 1: June 22, 2024–July 7, 2024 (16 days)
  • Session 2: June 29, 2024–July 14, 2024 (16 days)
  • Tuition: $8,790 + airfare

12. Innovation & the Future of Technology

  • Session 1: June 22, 2024–June 29, 2024 (8 days)
  • Session 2: July 1, 2024–July 8, 2024 (8 days)
  • Tuition: $6,790 + airfare

13. Highland Cultures & Natural Wonders in Southeast Asia

  • Session 1: July 1, 2024–July 20, 2024 (20 days)
  • Session 2: July 9, 2024–July 28, 2024 (20 days)
  • Tuition: $7,290 + airfare

14. Aerospace & the Race to Mars

  • Session 1: June 22, 2024–July 3, 2024 (12 days)
  • Session 2: July 21, 2024–August 1, 2024 (12 days)
  • Tuition: $7,690 + airfare

While the programs are primarily educational, they are designed around the unique features and opportunities of their destinations, allowing for special events that coincide with the best seasonal conditions for the activities planned. For instance, wildlife conservation programs are timed to match animal migration patterns or nesting seasons, and cultural programs align with local festivals or events when possible, enhancing the learning experience.

Young students of language school on color background

Students are encouraged to choose a session that not only fits their summer schedule but also aligns with their interests and educational goals. With a wide range of dates and durations, the Smithsonian Student Travel Program offers flexibility for participants to embark on an adventure that promises both learning and fun during their summer break.

Why Should You Join the Smithsonian Student Travel Program?

Joining the Smithsonian Student Travel Program is an opportunity to step beyond traditional learning environments and dive into experiences that enrich your knowledge, enhance personal growth, and prepare you for a globalized world. This program isn’t just about seeing new places; it’s about engaging deeply with different cultures, ecosystems, and innovations, offering a hands-on approach to understanding the world.

  • Educational Benefits: The program turns the world into your classroom. You’ll learn directly from experts in fields like conservation, history, science, and art. Whether it’s discussing climate change with scientists in Iceland, exploring ancient ruins in Greece and Italy, or engaging with wildlife conservation efforts in East Africa, each program is designed to deepen your understanding of complex subjects through real-world application.
  • Personal Growth: Traveling with the Smithsonian Student Travel Program fosters independence, confidence, and adaptability. You’ll face new challenges, solve problems, and navigate different cultures alongside peers with similar interests. This journey is not just about academic learning; it’s about developing life skills that will serve you well beyond high school.
  • Building Global Perspectives: Participants come away with a broader worldview, a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity, and a heightened sense of their role in a global community. The program encourages you to think critically about global issues, understand different perspectives, and consider your impact on the world.
  • Success Stories: Alumni of the program often credit their experiences with influencing their academic and career paths. Some have pursued degrees in environmental science, international relations, or art history, inspired by their travel experiences. Others have become advocates for conservation, cultural preservation, or social justice, using the knowledge and skills they gained to make a difference.

In summary, the Smithsonian Student Travel Program offers more than just the chance to travel; it offers a chance to grow, learn, and envision your place in a wider world. It’s an investment in your education, your personal development, and your future as a global citizen.

How to Apply for the Smithsonian Student Travel Program?

Applying for the Smithsonian Student Travel Program is a straightforward process designed to evaluate your interests, academic standing, and readiness for the travel experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to secure your spot in one of these enriching travel programs.


First, make sure you’re eligible. The program is open to students who are completing grades 8 through 12. You also need to be at least 13 years old by the time the trip starts. This ensures that all participants are of a similar age range and educational level.

Application Process

Step 1: Start Your Application

  • Begin by creating an account on the Smithsonian Student Travel Online Application portal. If you’ve already started an application, simply login to your existing account.
  • The online platform is where you’ll manage your application and submit the necessary documents.

Step 2: Hold Your Space

  • To reserve your spot in the program, you need to fill out the Online Application Form. This form collects basic information about you and your program preferences.
  • Along with the application form, submit a signed Agreement Form. This document outlines the terms and conditions of your participation in the program.
  • A payment of $700 is required at this stage. This includes a $200 non-refundable application fee and a $500 tuition deposit. The deposit will be credited towards your total program tuition.
  • Note: If you apply after March 15, full payment is required within five days of making the initial $700 payment to secure your spot.

Step 3: Complete Your Application

  • To complete your application, you must provide a Personal Statement and two Teacher Reference Forms. These are critical parts of your application, giving the admissions team insight into your character, academic performance, and suitability for the program.
  • The Personal Statement is your chance to share why you want to join the program and what you hope to gain from the experience.
  • Teacher Reference Forms should come from instructors who can vouch for your academic abilities and personal qualities. These references play a significant role in the admissions decision.

After Application Submission

  • Once you’ve submitted all required documents and information, the Admissions Team will review your application. You can expect to receive an email notification with the admissions decision within a few days.

Applying early is encouraged due to the rolling admissions process and to increase your chances of securing a place in your preferred program. This detailed application process ensures that students who are most ready and eager to benefit from the Smithsonian Student Travel Program have the opportunity to do so.

How Hard is it to Get Into the Smithsonian Student Travel Program?

Gaining admission to the Smithsonian Student Travel Program involves a selective process that focuses on identifying students who are most likely to thrive in the unique environments the program offers. The selection process is not just about academic achievement; it evaluates a broader range of qualities to ensure participants are ready for the challenges and opportunities of educational travel.

The Admissions Committee reviews applications with a keen eye on several key traits: maturity, enthusiasm, motivation, and a willingness to actively participate in a community setting. The goal is to assemble a group of students who are not only eager to learn and explore but also capable of contributing positively to the group dynamic.

Smithsonian Student Travel champions inclusivity, ensuring a supportive experience for all students, regardless of race, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This commitment to diversity enriches the travel experience by fostering a rich, supportive, and varied community environment.

Male And Female Secondary Or High School Students Outdoors At School Looking At Mobile Phone

Upon acceptance, you’ll receive access to a wealth of preparatory materials and necessary forms through your Digital Locker. This platform provides everything from packing lists to travel details, as well as information about your trip leaders and experts. Both students and guardians have independent logins, ensuring that all parties are well-informed and ready for the upcoming adventure.

Gaining admission to the Smithsonian Student Travel Program is competitive, but focusing on these aspects of your application can significantly enhance your chances. Showcasing your readiness to learn, grow, and contribute to a supportive and dynamic group will make you a strong candidate for this transformative experience.

Tips for Making Your Application Stand Out

When applying for the Smithsonian Student Travel Program, standing out from other applicants is key to securing your spot in this sought-after educational journey. Your application is a window into who you are, showcasing not just your academic interests but also your character, passions, and readiness for an immersive travel experience.

Here are some tips to help you make a strong impression on the admissions committee. These suggestions aim to highlight your unique qualities and demonstrate why you are an ideal candidate for this transformative program.

1. Show Your Enthusiasm

Your personal statement is more than just words on a page; it’s your chance to let your personality and passion shine through. Talk about why the Smithsonian Student Travel Program excites you. Is it the opportunity to see the world through the lens of conservation, history, or science? Explain how the program aligns with your hobbies, academic interests, or future aspirations. Make it clear that you’re not just looking for any travel experience – you’re eager for the unique learning opportunities that this program provides.

2. Demonstrate Maturity

The ability to adapt to new surroundings, work well with others, and take responsibility seriously are qualities that the admissions committee values highly. In your application, include instances where you’ve been entrusted with responsibility, such as leading a project at school or managing a challenging situation. Share stories that show you can step out of your comfort zone and handle the unpredictability of travel with a positive attitude.

3. Express Your Motivation

Being clear about why you want to join the program sets you apart. It’s one thing to want an adventure; it’s another to have a deep-seated interest in learning from experts, understanding global issues, or contributing to conservation efforts. Whether it’s a personal story that connects you to the program’s theme or a long-term goal you hope to advance by participating, let your motivation be known.

4. Reflect on Community Engagement

Community involvement is a testament to your ability to work as part of a team and your willingness to make a positive impact. Detail your participation in community service, clubs, sports teams, or other group activities. Highlight leadership roles you’ve held and describe how these experiences have taught you about collaboration, leadership, and the importance of community.

5. Diversity and Inclusion

In a global program like this, a respect for and understanding of diversity is crucial. If you’ve had experiences that involve engaging with diverse groups, learning about different cultures, or advocating for inclusivity, be sure to mention them. This could be as part of a multicultural festival, a diversity-focused club at school, or personal experiences that have shaped your view of the world. Showing that you value and respect diversity indicates that you’re prepared to be an active and empathetic participant in a global learning community.

Happy female student travel in the Colosseum in Rome, Italy

By focusing on these areas, your application will not only demonstrate your suitability for the Smithsonian Student Travel Program but also your readiness to be a thoughtful, engaged, and enthusiastic traveler.

Final Thoughts

The Smithsonian Student Travel Program is a great chance for high school students to learn more about the world and themselves. It’s more than just a trip—it’s a way to dive deep into different cultures, history, and big global issues with experts and new friends who share your interests. Whether you’re into science, art, history, or nature, this program has something exciting for you.

We encourage you to apply and take the first step towards an amazing adventure. This is your chance to see new places, learn in a fun way, and make memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to make your high school years even more special. Go ahead and explore what the world has to offer!



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