Top 10 ways to make your students TRAVELERS and not TOURISTS

Top 10 ways to make your students TRAVELERS and not TOURISTS

October 03, 2018

Student travel is one of the most amazing parts of teaching.  To see them in their own element with friends and free time, but even more so, to see them discover new things, communicate in the target language and within the target culture is even better.  We have had a number of students travel with us and then after being “done” with language, come back again to take more classes, because the culture just grabs them and won’t let go.

When you take them abroad, though, there are a few inevitable things that make them stand-out.  Our goal is for that to just be the big camera and the backpack, and not their behavior. Here are some suggestions as to how.

  1. Do your homework:  Before your trip, do a little bit of research to see if there are any practices or nuances that you should know about.  We don’t have green bike lanes here in San Diego, but they do in Seville. Good to know...because having a student run over or cause a bike accident would NOT be cool. The meat section of the Mercado in Cusco is DECIDEDLY different from the supermarket here.  You’ll want to warn them, or you can be sure that they will embarrass you.   

  1. Have a few contests before you go:  We have a bunch, but one of our favorites is the straight line contest.  Like they are preschool, we split them into two or three groups and make them race to a destination.  The group that gets there first doesn’t win. The group that takes up the least amount of space WIDE does...the reminder that people are heading to work while we are traipsing around the city has more impact with this demo.

  1. Teach them how to apologize profusely: So my student didn’t know it was bad manners to throw away her outside trash in a store in Barcelona...until she got yelled at.  Of course a profuse apology came in very handy here when the owner quickly let up. When some other random tourist did the same thing and couldn’t apologize except in English, the owner just kept on.  

  1. Give them the tools to be extra polite: Mis disculpas, perdóname por favor, gracias de antemano...all of these are great ways for the kids to own up to not being perfect BEFORE they ask for something or have a million questions.

  1. Have a taste test of weird things:  Nothing nasty, necessarily, but different.  Like sardinas aliñadas or nopales en totopos.  They are strange to them. Before they start, discuss how to cope with food that they don’t like, and to NEVER EVER say things like “ewwww!” or “GROSS!” or the absolutely never ever even THINK about making noises.  Thanks to weeks of meriendas this isn’t usually an issue with my students, but we’ve had others on tour without proper training.  

  1. Airport etiquette:  No one likes the airport hustle and bustle part of traveling.  In busy airports that are under construction, we’ve had to hunt down the most appropriate spot for our students to hang out for sometimes long layovers.  Find a place where they can be out of the way, even if it’s not at your gate. You can send a pair of kids (or yourself) to scope out your gate and spend less time laying on the airport floor.

  1. Set up some local interaction with people their age: On our EF tours in Spain, we had a few hours with students at a High School in Madrid.  The kids all exchanged What’s App or whatever the communication platform was, became friends and hung out for our two nights in Madrid.  They got to ask all kinds of questions that they may not ask in the school context. So, if you are on a tour that doesn’t offer that, you have a few options: Speak to your tour director to see if that is a possibility.  Otherwise, see if you can set something up via email from home before you go!

  1. Organize some of their free time:  I mean, I’m a BIG believer in them having their free time to soak up some culture, but do a little organization, get on some public transportation, take them to a local eatery where they choose something authentic or grab some cabs to a destination that isn’t on the itinerary.  That way, they experience interaction and life that the locals do. At the very least, read up on some reviews to give them some ideas before they embark on free time.  

  1. Dress the part: High heels on cobblestone streets, short sleeves in the frigid cold, no wraps to cover shoulders / knees / heads in religious situations…all of these SCREAM tourist.  Be sure that you are prepared, but, most importantly, that they are.

  1. Go to the grocery store:  This is really real life.  One of my favorite experiences with our students was using their lunch budget to buy a picnic for the group.  We split the money between them, they pulled an item out of a hat, and their group had to budget and take care of it.  **Each group had a budget of 17 euros. One group chose “fruit”. They had 14 euros worth of strawberries, and wanted apples, but the bread and crackers group wasn’t spending it all.  They worked out some trades here and there, and loved every stressful minute of what felt like a game. All while marveling at the amazingly different things the store had to offer.

No time for a picnic party at the store? No problem.  Put it on your souvenir shopping plan. Things are cheap and great for anyone on their list, and they get the bonus of the cultural interaction.

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