Taking students abroad is a lot of work. You have to become the temporary parents and guardians of hormone crazed teenagers in a foreign country, and essentially keep them alive and happy for the duration of the trip. After adding in pressure from school boards and parents as well as all the fundraising you have to do, I don't blame any of you for being hesitant to take on the responsibility.
But traveling with your students is also an immensely rewarding experience and is a great way to help students apply knowledge from the classroom out in the field. In an increasingly globalized world, it's important for students to have experiences with other cultures. Taking students abroad can be an invaluable teaching experience about ethics, values and respect.
If you're lucky, you'll give all of your students the travel bug and will have taught them how to go out into the world in a respectful and sustainable way. Still need convincing? Here's 5 advantages of traveling with your students.
1) Push Limits
It's important to help students step out of their comfort zones and what better way to do that then by taking them abroad. They can try fried crickets in Uganda, chocolate facials in Ecuador or camping in the Yukon and all of these diverse experiences can help students push themselves to try new things and be more open to other cultures.
Taking risks can help students build character and improve their personal development. Being open to new things is an important trait to have especially as many jobs (particularly in the tech and start-up industries) are looking for people who are willing to try new things and take risks. As well, encouraging students to push themselves teaches them important life lessons and gives them the tools to be resilient and successful throughout life.
Taking students abroad can give them confidence in themselves and in their abilities to travel independently later in life. Just listen to Jamie from Westview Secondary talk about conquering his fear of heights in a cable car ride over a canyon during our Engage Ecuador program.
"Being scared of heights this wasn’t the easiest thing for me to do, but it was beautiful, and the waterfall on the other side was great. With my legs shaking I almost didn’t do it but I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and I’m glad I didn’t."
2) Broaden Horizons
Another great reason to take your students abroad is the chance to broaden their horizons and give them hands on experience abroad. It's one thing to learn about the Rwandan genocide at school and another to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial and see the real scope of the tragedy. Violet Bullock discovered this during her experience on our Engage East Africa program.
"The hours we had spent studying the genocide could not have prepared me for what we were shown throughout the museums many displays. To see first hand the clothing, pictures, and remains of real victims was an experience I feel no amount of research could have prepared me for."
It can also be really helpful for students who have very little experience outside of their own communities or families to gain insight into the ways that people live around the globe. It can be easy for students to grow up in a bubble with likeminded peers, but no challenging perspectives, so taking them abroad to a place entirely different from their home can help them recognize important differences (and also similarities!) between their experiences and others.
3) Respect for Others
Taking students abroad is a great way to encourage them to respect other people and other cultures. It's also a good opportunity to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes that they may have formed from the media and their friends and families.
By giving students the chance to interact with local people and communities they are often shocked by the similarities and common ground that they find with people who are seemingly so different. Many students are also surprised by the growth and development of the countries that they visit because it can be a very different experience from the "third world" images that they see on TV.
4) Teaching Opportunities
Another one of the advantages of traveling with your students is the limitless teaching opportunities. Almost every experience that they have while abroad is an invaluable moment to impart knowledge or help develop life skills. The skills required for safe international travel like being alert, navigating transit systems or picking up a foreign language are all helpful skills for students to have as they leave high school, and begin to find their place in the world.
Students also get the chance to explore world history that doesn't always get covered in the classroom. For example one of the teachers on an Engage Ecuador trip, Holly describes how her students got the chance to learn more about the influence of the African slave trade on Latin American countries. She says,
"we learned about how the slave trade influenced Ecuadorian culture, and how Salinas was recognized, at times throughout history, as a place friendly to the African community. Though not often discussed in our own history classes, the slave trade actually had a...profound impact on the Carribbean and Latin America".
5) Foster A Love of Travel
Finally, one of the best advantages of traveling with your students is inspiring them to love traveling and exploring. Hopefully, they will finish a trip with you and already be planning their next one! And since you've helped show them how to travel safely and responsibly you can be confident that as they go around the world, they will be doing it in a sustainable way that's respectful of local people and cultures.
A desire to see the world and hunger for new experiences is one of the best gifts that you can give your students as you prepare them for the world. As Mark Twain said:
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of [people] and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”