After leading 14 EF tours between the two of them, Sue and Gen continue to passionately educate students on the importance of understanding different cultures. The key to making each tour a success has been their approach to long-term student travel planning. Originally, as many Group Leaders do, they began planning their trip 9 to 12 months before their tour’s departure. They quickly realized that many students who weren’t traveling with them that year were still interested in going on tour a year or two later. This led to them announcing their tour destinations two years in advance. Soon, their student travel program grew in size and popularity, and before they could announce the next tour students were asking where and when.
I recently had the pleasure to speak with Sue and Gen and learn a little bit more about their long-term student travel program.
What is your process for planning a student tour? Have you developed a routine for planning each tour?
We designed a flowchart that begins with identifying a tour, picking a date, and getting administrative approval. After our tour’s first student/parent meeting we immediately begin building our fundraising strategy. Long-term planning obviously creates more time for recruiting students, but now there is a constant buzz among the student travelers each year. The students traveling that year can’t wait to go on tour, and their enthusiasm spills over and naturally recruits students for the following year.
What have you done as Group Leaders to build upon that enthusiasm?
We integrated a student travel achievement program that includes badges, certificates, senior recognition awards and a varsity letter pin. Similar to a basketball team or drama club this engages and enables students to become more involved in the school. Plus it recognizes them for their extracurricular accomplishments. This also encourages students to attend meetings and take part in fundraisers. Instead of us chasing them, they’re asking us what they can do to earn badges and certificates. It’s been a great incentive for student involvement.
In your experience what is the biggest benefit to long-term student travel planning?
The organizational benefits and the preservation of time. As all teachers know, once the school year begins, time quickly marches on. Having more time and a well-organized strategy helps us maximize our time and energy, and ensure that each tour is a success.
Have you come across any obstacles or challenges with long-term student travel planning?
The only obstacle that we’ve encountered is setting travel dates before our school officially ratifies the following year’s school calendar. We announce the destination of our trips with the understanding that they are subject to change. So far this has worked out nicely for us.
What would you say is the goal of your student travel program?
From the beginning our goal has been to provide students with a global experience that connects them with classroom curriculums, but also helps build self-confidence and prepare them for their future.
What advice would you give a new Group Leader looking to implement a similar long-term student travel program?
The best advice we could give a new group leader is to fully utilize your EF Tour Consultant and have them pair you with an experienced Group Leader that can share their best practices and tips. EF Tour Consultants are highly qualified and professionally trained to assist Group Leaders through the entire process, but an experienced Group Leader can be a great resource to lend their perspective on how to deal with the day-to-day questions that you’ll encounter at your own school.
Sue (Family and Consumer Science) and Gen (Art and Photography) have passionately educated students both inside and outside of the classroom. Between the two of them, they have 49 years of combined teaching experience, and have led a total of 13 EF tours. Both believe that travel inspires students to seek out their dreams and approach the world with confidence and enthusiasm.