Making flight-free travel accessible to UU students with the Travel Green Grant
Train travel is much more environmentally-friendly than flying, and yet for a variety of systematic reasons, plane travel is often much cheaper. Luckily for UU students, 2021-2022 was the first academic year in which they could go on exchange with the Travel Green Grant. The Travel Green Grant is a grant of maximum 185 euros, offered to students who choose to take the train or bus to their European exchange destination. In its first year, the Travel Green Grant was conditionally offered to 160 students.
Given that the Green Office had a role in helping the International Office launch the Travel Green Grant, we interviewed two students about their travel experience with the grant. From castles to cows, podcasts, and famous bridges: being climate-friendly isn’t the only perk of flight-free travel.
Meet train travellers Nine Jit & Rikst
The first student we talked to is Nine Jit. She had been hoping to go on exchange in Sweden since before COVID. Then travel around the world grinded to a halt. A few years later, she reapplied, got accepted, and went on her way to Uppsala in Sweden by train. She was no stranger to long-distance travel by train, with a family trip to North Italy and back already under her belt. With that train trip through the alps under a starry sky in mind, along with the will to travel in a more environmentally-friendly way, she opted to go to Uppsala by train. Nine Jit: “When you travel by train, you experience more of the country. With the plane you just get into a metal tube, and once you come out you’re suddenly in a different country”.
The second student is Rikst, a UU student who went to Lyon. “I was already looking at my options to go on exchange by train, because I am really interested in sustainability – I am a trainer for MilieuDefensie after all - and also because I enjoy it, but it was quite expensive. Then I got an email about the Travel Green Grant. That came at the perfect moment. In the train I saw the landscape slowly transition from the North of Europe to Southern France. You don’t have the same rite de passage in a plane. In the train, you get more of a sense of where you are and what the environment is. It’s nice to know how all the spaces in-between look from the train window”.
The perks of train travel: Bridges, cows, castles and podcasts.
Since train travel can take longer, it is often perceived as more inconvenient. “A lot of time for flying is spent at the airport, waiting before boarding, going through customs, waiting in line. In the train you are sitting, moving towards your destination, and if there are delays then at least you know that you are part of the way there”, said Rikst.
“When you travel by train, it’s easier for your family to say goodbye. My parents, brother and sister, a roommate, two cousins, they were all waving me off. One of my cousins actually took the same first train as me, and helped me get out at Amersfoort. His final destination was Deventer while mine was Uppsala”, said Nine Jit. “To pass the time in the train, I read some letters that my sister and friends wrote for me. I spent the rest of the time listening to music, watching series, reading, trying to sleep, or trying not to sleep… For the train segment between Denmark and Sweden, I set my alarm early so that I would see the sunrise. We crossed the famous bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen. I like the series ‘The Bridge’ so I was excited about that, and I sent the photo to all of my friends who also love the series”. Another upside for Nine Jit came with the choice to buy a Eurail pass instead of individual tickets. “I used the leftover days within my Eurail pass to travel within Sweden. I went to another city close to Uppsala, to Stockholm, and also visited landmarks such as the Gripsholm Palace”.
I set my alarm early so that I would see the sunrise. We crossed the famous bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen. I like the series ‘The Bridge’ so I was excited about that, and I sent the photo to all of my friends who also love the series.
Rikst: “My mother and brother joined me on my trip. While we were on our way, I read a book to practice my French and listened to music. It had been a while since I had time to catch up on podcasts, so I did that too. At times, if I looked out of the window, I could see the occasional castle on a mountain. The valleys under the castles were cut by different streams, and covered with pastures and cows. When we stopped at the Brussels train station on the way, we had some nice croissants”, a nice initial entry point into the culture that would host her for half a year.
Travelling by train is also easier on travelers with a lot of luggage. Rikst: “I had to bring two suitcases, and in a plane they can be difficult with what they allow and what they do not allow. In a train you can keep your luggage with you so it doesn’t get lost, which feels more reassuring”.
At times, if I looked out of the window, I could see the occasional castle on a mountain. The valleys under the castles were cut by different streams, and covered with pastures and cows.
Naturally, train travel can have its inconveniences,. Nine Jit: “I didn’t sleep much throughout the trip. It took almost 24hrs, But it’s not really relaxed when you have to watch your stuff and so on. My friend from UU also came here by train, but she stopped in Copenhagen and stayed there for two nights before continuing. She arrived at her destination feeling way more awake than I did”.
Rikst: “You do have to change trains. It can make the trip more stressful as you might miss the next train if you have a delay. That’s why you should plan your trip so that you can miss one train”. Carrying luggage can also be a burden. “Don’t bring luggage that you can’t carry yourself” said Rikst. “People in the train often show their best side, but maybe you’re the only person who needs to get off, or maybe everybody is sleeping when your stop arrives, you never know”.
Overall, both students really enjoyed their trips. “This was my first long trip alone, which made it an adventure. Receiving the grant helped with making the train travel more affordable”, said Nine Jit. “It made it easier to have my return also by train. Both train tickets would have been too expensive. Then I probably would have flown one of them”. Rikst: “I was glad that the grant gave me the opportunity to travel sustainably and see more of the world, without being worried about destroying it”.
Would you like to have your own train adventure? As we wait for the structural factors which make planes cheaper than trains to change, you can apply for the Travel Green Grant when you are about to go on exchange! Do you not have much experience with train travel, and would you like to get some tips? The Sustainable Travel Guide of the Green Office is a great place to start:
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