Finding the right destination, putting together the programme, managing sign ups and deposits, hosting a parents’ night and taking students through the airport: there are lots of (stressful) tasks involved in organizing an overseas trip for your students. So why bother? Is it worth all the time and effort you put in?
From my experience, students (and teachers!) participating in a school trip abroad not only have a fabulous and unique time during their trip, but also benefit from many other advantages for weeks (indeed months) after their return to “normal life”.
So yes, organizing a trip for your students is totally 200% worth it, not just for them, but also for you. For those moments when you feel like it’s all taking a bit too much of your time and effort, read on for the top 10 reasons to organize a trip, to get your motivation back up:
1. Language Learning Opportunities
Whether students take language lessons during their time abroad or are just able to experience the target language in a real-life context, an overseas trip is an amazing opportunity for them to practice their language skills, especially the communicative skills of understanding and speaking. These are incidentally often also the skills that for teachers can be challenging to incorporate into their language lessons on a regular, and are more often than not the skills that students are generally most nervous about for end of school exams. A trip abroad gives them that unique opportunity to get extensive practice.
2. Learning about Local Culture
Teaching your students about the country’s culture is one thing, having them experience it first-hand is a completely different thing. Living the experience not only makes it a lot easier for the students to understand, but also makes it a lot more enjoyable and fun. Having to read in a course book about local customs never really means much to a student, until they actually have the opportunity to be part of that culture and live it.
3. Meeting new people and making new friends
Students on a school trip get a chance to meet new people, offering lots of opportunities to practice their social skills. It furthermore allows them to make new friends: be that with locals (maybe a host family’s child) or with other students on the trip, who, due to whatever reason, they never really got to know until now. Sharing certain experiences provides a strong bond and friendship between people and gives them an opportunity to relive the experience with others again and again in the future.
4. Better bond between teachers and students
Getting to know your students on a more personal level during a trip is a marvelous way to build a report with them, that you will benefit from for a long time afterwards. Kids who have a personal connection with a teacher are a lot more participatory and motivated in class. Their behaviour in general improves, as they suddenly feel more connected to the teacher and see how them not paying attention directly affects the teacher.
5. Students’ increased motivation
Learning a language in a classroom is necessary and unavoidable, but it is difficult as a teacher to pass on the importance of learning a language, the passion for another culture and the excitement of being able to converse with somebody in a second or third language. Students who have been on a language trip understand these points and need far less extrinsic motivation to learn the language, as they have experienced this this first hand. It can even make a difference for their future careers as some students might choose to pursue a career in languages.
6. Expanding students’ worldview
With the increasing globalization and internationalization happening everywhere, it is vital for students to expand their worldview, to be taken out of their comfort zone and get an opportunity to appreciate other cultures. Without this awareness, students will find it difficult to become worldly citizens of the 21st century. As teachers we don’t just have a responsibility for teaching our students our subject, we also have a duty in making students independent, mature citizens of this world. Taking them abroad offers them a chance to learn about other societies and value other people and customs.
7. Educational targets and prestige
Offering overseas school trips can add to a school’s or a department’s prestige. Don’t get intimidated by a history trip to China, or a safari tour to South Africa: offering a language and culture trip is just as important and exciting as some of the more remote trips that some departments offer. Some schools commit to offering a certain number of trips abroad for different year groups, so why not for the subject that you feel so passionate about? It might get others in your school to take Modern Foreign Languages more seriously and make them see they are just as important as other subjects. Linguistic and cultural tours should more than anything else be part of any school’s trip repertoire as it offers tremendous educational outcomes to the students.
8. CV building
Employers value not just a students’ grades, but also their wider curriculum, including participation in societies, voluntary work and study trips abroad. There are many opportunities for students to travel and study, and opening the door to these possibilities might be the first step for them to participate in many more foreign trips and studies in the future, thereby constantly building their CV more and more and setting them apart from other peers. With the increased financial instability and availability of a foreign work force, continuous CV building is an essential requirement for students to be able to fully participate in the economy as young adults.
9. Culinary experience
With a visit abroad comes a new culinary experience: meals or even just ingredients students might have never tasted, seen and even heard of. Trying new foods is a greatly important (and fun!) educational outcome of a trip, as it gives them a richer food experience which hopefully makes them more open to new foods in general, even in their “normal” lives.
10. Having a (mini-)Holiday
I admit: taking a group of primary aged students or teenagers abroad maybe doesn’t exactly sound like a holiday, but once you’ve arrived in another country, (especially in a sunny one!), away from your normal daily routine and with an opportunity to visit beautiful cities and eat lots of foreign food, it does sound like it is something that closely resembles a holiday. So even if it is with underaged students that you are responsible for, it is also a time when you can (and will!) have fun, be that with the students, your colleagues on the trip or just from being in a foreign country and having a great time.
All in all some excellent reasons to justify the time and effort you spend on preparing and running a trip. During the organizing phase, all the things that have to be organized might at times seem overwhelming, but believe me: it is well worth it and the satisfaction from seeing the students’ enjoyment and experiencing the benefits they get out of a trip are very rewarding. And don’t forget about your own enjoyment during the tour! Surely also a good reason to get that trip arranged!
Don’t forget to have a look at our online documents section with various material to help you prepare your trip and make it slightly easier to get everything sorted!
Inge Hol is the Director of Educational Programmes at Spark Languages in Southern Spain. Originally from the Netherlands and with a degree in Clinical Neuro Psychology, she decided to follow her passion and become an English teacher in Spain in 2007. After teaching for many years, she moved on to teacher training, language programme management and conference speaker until in 2010 she started Spark Languages together with her partner Douglas Haines. Spark organizes Spanish and English courses for children, teens and adults as well as school trips to various areas in Spain.