From Shoestring to Beijing: travel720 Helps Students Study Abroad

October 2, 2012

9:00 am

“I just can’t afford it” are words are often heard by academic and study abroad advisers from students who consider education abroad during their college years. While exploring architectural history in Italy or marine biology in the Bahamas may be an enchanting prospect, cost is one of the main factors preventing students from getting the opportunity to dive into another culture firsthand.

Luckily, there’s finally another option. travel720 is a free resource and social funding site dedicated to make travel financially possible for students and young travelers. “The concept is similar to retail layaway meets gift registry,” explains Jennifer Thomas, founder and CEO of travel720. Friends and family can donate any amount to the trip while the student chooses exactly what the money will go toward (tickets, housing, food, travel, etc.).

The website allows future travelers to create a shareable fundraising page and take an active role in earning their goals. By leveraging birthdays, holidays, and special challenges, the platform becomes a fun way to utilize your friends and family who want to support you and see you do well in your travel pursuits.

Despite the number of creative social fundraising sites out there, many do not allow projects relating to personal trips. travel720 specifically builds a close community around student-age travelers, allowing others to be inspired and supported by a network of people who have the same goals.

Last month, travel720 won Tech Cocktail’s poll for Chicago’s hottest showcasing startup. The startup-in-residence is located in Design Cloud, a hub for Chicago’s creative community, which fosters an environment of great energy for the team. “Between the three founding members, we’ve visited over 50 countries, so we know how important the lifelong impact [travel] makes,” explains Thomas.

The team just launched their alpha site and already has over 400 people signed up. They hope to be live by next month. travel720 is ultimately “creating travelers, not vacations, building a notion that travel is lifelong, not a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” Once students get the opportunity to go abroad, “they realize how amazing it is and will ideally get to travel the world 360-degrees and back again,” says Thomas. Hence, the 720.

Sign up for travel720’s private beta or stay in the loop with launch updates via @travel720 on Twitter.

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Stephanie is Lead Designer and co-founder of Landmark, a navigation app for walking directions based on photos of buildings and landmarks. Stephanie was a guest at Y Combinator’s prestigious Female Founders Conference and was profiled in The Washington Post. Actively involved in the DC community, she is a co-producer of the DC Tech Meetup and is actively involved in encouraging technology education and mentorship for women. Follow her on Twitter @nguyenist.

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