Newark to London trip: Alumna takes local teenagers to Wroxton

TravelingMad Wroxton group

Five high school students from Newark, plus chaperones Akhmose Ari-Hotep and Madeline Boughton, BA'05 (Metro), meet with Wroxton College Dean Nicholas Baldwin during their trip to England. Below: Boughton at the Tower Bridge in London, England. (Photos courtesy of Boughton) Madeline Boughton

By Kenna Caprio

High school junior Tamaj Nicholson of Newark, N.J., wants to travel to more countries than Fairleigh Dickinson University alumna Madeline Boughton, BA’05. He had better get started: Boughton has traveled to 21 countries on four continents.

And she wants inner-city students everywhere to know they can, too. So much so that she recently personally funded a trip abroad for five Newark students.

“There is a great need for students to be educated about travel and the benefits of study abroad. No one is talking to students in Newark Public Schools about the possibilities,” says Boughton, who runs her own communications consultancy firm, TravelingMad. “Other schools in other towns and counties are taking their students abroad. It’s unfair that Newark students don’t even know about it.”

Nearly a year ago, Boughton decided to kick up her study abroad campaign — which consists of offering travel advice and informational workshops at urban high schools — by taking students overseas herself. This spring, Boughton, chaperone Akhmose Ari-Hotep, and five students traveled to FDU’s Wroxton College in Oxfordshire and London, England.

“I loved it so much,” says Amanda Dominguez, a junior at Barringer Academy of S.T.E.A.M. in Newark. “I want to do a semester at Wroxton now. Or study abroad somewhere. It’s a must for me now that I’ve been over there.”

For eight days and seven nights, the high school students explored England, visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, Banbury, Blenheim Palace, Greenwich, London and more.

At Wroxton they saw the gardens, waterfall and ponds — more green than they’re used to seeing on a day-to-day basis, says Boughton. “They also had a taste of dorm life, staying with a roommate, eating in the dining hall and playing in the game room.” Wroxton College Dean Nicholas Baldwin gave a lecture on the Abbey’s history and took the students on a tour of the building and grounds.

Boughton, who studied psychology at the Metropolitan Campus, says her life changed when she traveled abroad to study at Wroxton College. Though she’d lived in Germany previously, and would attend graduate school in Paris, France, Wroxton captivated her in a special way.

“I really fell in love with it. Being from Newark, which is a large city with a fast pace, I enjoyed the relaxation of Wroxton and the tutorial style of learning. I appreciated it more because it was so different than what I’d experienced in New Jersey,” Boughton says.

After completing her master’s degree in global communications and civil society, Boughton founded her company, TravelingMad. But business didn’t boom the way she expected it to. So, she followed another passion and started reaching out to local high schools to share her travel knowledge.

During presentations, Boughton shares photographs of her world travels with the students. “They need to see someone who looks like them in the photos. They need to seek these new experiences to bring back to their community,” she says. “I’ve studied, traveled and lived abroad but I always come back to Newark and share my experiences here. All of us have friends and family who will never leave the country, or maybe even the tri-state area, and if we share with them, they can live vicariously though us.”

TravelingMad London group

The Newark to London group rides the London Eye. Below: The group relaxes on the back lawn at Wroxton College.

TravelingMad Wroxton lawn group

When she describes the value and possibilities of study abroad, affordability always comes up. “The number one hesitancy I hear is that it’s not affordable for ‘people like me,’” Boughton says. Through information about scholarships and other funding, she tries to mitigate those concerns. Once she decided to run her own trip, she knew she didn’t want money to become a hindrance.

To promote the trip, which she planned to fund through crowdsourcing (soliciting online donations from a wide audience), she handed out flyers at bus stops and other locations near high schools. The trip had two eligibility requirements: applicants must attend a Newark public high school and submit a personal essay.

“I wrote about how I like to make people happy,” says Tamaj, who attends North 13th Street Tech in Newark. “I love it when they smile and if I could bring that to another country, it would be out of this world.”

“I wrote about how if I were given the opportunity to go to London, I’d experience something new. The trip would give me new insight into William Shakespeare, a deeper feel for who he was,” says Amanda.

All told, about 20 students applied. After reading the essays and meeting with finalists and their parents, Boughton selected the student travelers.

Before the trip, Boughton met regularly with the parents and students to get everything in order. Baldwin, who helped Boughton coordinate elements of the trip, flew to Newark for a meet and greet with the students and parents. The only piece not coming together was a critical one: the money. With crowdfunding efforts falling short, Boughton decided to supplement the trip with her own money.

“I didn’t want to cancel the trip or have the parents pay for it. My last resort was to use my retirement money to pay for the rest of the trip,” says Boughton.

It was well worth it. “I feel accomplished about having shown the students another part of the world and now they’re inspired to see more,” she says.

“Focused study abroad broadens the mind,” says Baldwin. Countries and peoples are different — differences exist in culture and attitudes and approaches. Just because things may be — indeed are — different, does not make them, by virtue of that fact alone, either ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than what individuals are used to and comfortable with in their own home environment. ‘Different’ should not be a value judgment.” “Students who study abroad are able to come to an awareness — and greater understanding — of a foreign country, culture and way of life.”

Boughton has hopes of running the trip annually. Currently, she’s at work with the Community and Transactional Lawyering Clinic at Rutgers University’s School of Law, trying to establish TravelingMad as a nonprofit organization. As a nonprofit, Boughton can secure larger corporate donations and apply for additional sources of funding.

“Traveling just gives you a greater perspective on life,” says Tamaj. “Traveling abroad really opens you up. It makes you try new things and it opened my mind. It was just an amazing trip — a once in a lifetime trip. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Read student blogs and more reactions to the trip on Boughton’s website,