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 Grad trips still a must, but on a smaller budget

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PostSubject: Grad trips still a must, but on a smaller budget   Wed Mar 04, 2009 5:54 pm

Grad trips still a must, but on a smaller budget

By Huang Huifen , Estelle Low and Kimberly Lim

We're all going on a summer holiday, singer Cliff Richard crooned to baby boomers.

Nowadays, the new phrase is 'grad trip' - for newly graduated students who can afford a post-final exam holiday before the ho-hum of nine-to-five working hours.

The current recession has not dampened such wanderlust but it has, to put it literally, narrowed the horizon for some students.

The Sunday Times polled 100 final-year students from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU).

It found that three in four student are still bent on their graduation trips, despite the recession and fears of not securing a job.

But 41 students said they will scale back by taking shorter trips to nearer destinations. Among these, the more popular are Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

East Asian destinations like Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, and Australia and New Zealand, follow close behind.

Grad trips typically occur in May, June and July, the time after students graduate and before they start work.

Mr Lin De Wei, 24, a final-year computer engineering student at NTU, is among those who would have liked a grad trip to Europe but he has settled on looking out for the 'Welcome to Taiwan' banner upon touchdown. 'I had initially wanted to go to Europe, but it is now too expensive,' he said. 'Times are bad, and it's not good to spend money to go to a faraway place.'

He expects to make his trip in June. Despite the downturn, he intends to spend $2,000 during his 10-day trip.

For those who do so, a grad trip is a rite of passage into working life.

Ms Samantha Lim, 23, an NUS final-year English Literature student, said: 'I must go on a grad trip. It is a tradition, and it gives some closure to my life as a student.'

Having heard about grad trips from her seniors when she was a freshman, she plans to go to Nepal or India for missionary work and sightseeing.

Ms Rin Leow, a marketing executive at Super Travels, said the grad trip phenomenon probably became popular here about three to five years ago. 'Singapore students are more affluent now. Some work part-time, hence they would have the finances to travel,' she added.

But various tour agencies note a less extravagant approach now.

CTC Holidays saw a drop of 15 per cent for students who booked trips to Europe and the United States this summer, compared to last year. Ms Alicia Seah, its senior vice-president of marketing and public relations, said more of the trips are now six to 15 days, instead of the usual 14 to 21 two years ago.

STA Travel, which caters mainly to students and young adults, saw a similar trend this year. Mr Timothy Su, its marketing manager, said: 'We expect a 20 per cent increase in inquiries and trips by soon-to-be graduates to the Asia-Pacific, compared to Europe at this year's National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) fair.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times.
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