Does the idea of shepherding your class throughout international customs (and coming out of it in one piece) sound impossible? Sure, it’s a big project to organize—but the educational and personal gains for your learners are impressive; and unavailable during regular class time. Here are 6 reasons to put group travel on your to-do list.
1. Destinations for every season
English students are spoiled for destination choice, with ideal study abroad summer and winter options the world over. Think Miami, Sydney, and Cape Town in summer; then New York, London, or Dublin in winter. Non-English speaking countries deserve a big old pat on the back as well. Try spring in Barcelona, Paris, and Toyko; or fall in Rome, Berlin, or Buenos Aires.
2. Immersion learning
It’s no secret that studying in the country(ies) where their chosen language is spoken results in exponential progress across all the skills. Being forced to negotiate city streets, read menus, go to class, take public transport, chat with locals, and work through problems as they arise will exercise your students’ brains in a way no standard course of study will be able to fully replicate.
3. Witness confidence sky rocket
Immersion learning will take your students on a journey through a series of stages in which their confidence in their language abilities will ebb and flow. From feeling euphoric at understanding a waiter’s banter to frustrated by coursework, or pleased at being able to follow a conversation with locals, as teachers we have to be prepared to support our class throughout the full range of emotions they will experience while studying overseas. And the flip side of all this heightened emotion? That your students—once they become more accustomed to the accent, lifestyle, culture, and logistics of their temporary home—will soon start to gain confidence and flourish as both students and young people.
4. Increased independence
EF teacher Mara Reynoso, talking to us about her group travel experiences, shared that watching her students complete a “journey into themselves” was especially memorable. For many students, traveling with their classmates will be their first major trip away from home—so it’s understandable that they may not be particularly independent. After a time away from their parents, however, that will change. They’ll learn to wash their own clothes, navigate city streets, advocate for themselves at school, interact with a variety of people from different social and cultural backgrounds, and maybe, (though hopefully not!) visit a doctor. All these experiences work together to create independent young adults their parents will barely recognize when they touch down back home.
5. Create bonds
Don’t be surprised if your class becomes the best of buds while away. It’s another side-effect of spending time together in an intense situation, while also being forced, through sheer necessity, to speak a language other than their own. These forge bonds of friendship that very often last long after the trip ends—and sometimes for a lifetime.
6. Learn about your own teaching
And now, a tip especially for teachers. Doing something as important as traveling abroad with your class will require a lot of logistics and planning on your part, which in turn will teach you so much about your strengths and abilities (bonus!). You’ll learn things you hadn’t ever considered about yourself as a person and as a teacher: that you are more patient that you realize, more organized, a stellar communicator and peacemaker. A great counsellor and role model.
Mara found this out herself. “Traveling abroad was an adventure for everyone,” she said. “Both teachers and students shared the fear of the unknown, the excitement of getting there, the discovery of new places, smells, flavors and people, and we were all the better for it. I would go again in an instant.”
Where would you go?