May 31, 2013

Why are educational travel tours important for students?

Educational travel tours are an essential vehicle of global competency for students. There is no more effective means to provide students with hands-on-experience and lifetime lessons which transcend the classroom. 

No matter the subject area, students are able to comprehend, recall, analyze and apply lessons learned by personal experience. Educational travel tours to historical sites, cities with rich cultural pasts and those celebrating major political or social changes, allow students to see, feel, and understand specific events in context. Students can make sense of the enormity of a situation, grasp the vastness of the city and innovate solutions to global issues through educational field trips. This is essential, practical knowledge which books alone cannot provide.

As teachers, we strive to impart multicultural awareness in our students, but within the confines of a traditional school environment, such global diversity is rare. Educational travel abroad provides students the opportunity to meet people from different cultures, see them practicing their rituals and everyday lives. It instills a feeling of connection with others, encouraging respect and understanding for a range of religions and cultures.  Indeed, traveling to places recovering from historical conflicts confers indelible knowledge of the challenges second and third generation people face as a result of 20th century American foreign-policy actions. With our military engagements raging around the world today, these experiential lessons are critical to our collective security. As Julia, a California Sophomore writes of her Friendship Tour in Vietnam and Cambodia:

“This trip has truly changed my life. From traveling on boats through the Mekong to learning the lost art of leather puppet making from grateful, adorable Cambodian orphans, we truly experienced a culture unlike anything we have known. Both South Vietnam and Cambodia have been uprooted by violence and scars have been made not only in the landscape but also in the psyches of the people…. I realized how, no matter how "civilized" we appear, humans are capable of the worst imaginable things.”

Educational travel abroad programs play a critical role in developing the worldly connection in students. It makes them appreciate and value the fact that we live in one large world where we all bear responsibility to one another. Understanding the issues that the “less developed countries” face creates a sense of gratitude, grace and action in students from “more developed countries.” Educational travel tours inspire students to take up careers and initiate actions aimed at making this world a better place for each one of us. Julia’s heightened-consciousness from the Vietnam and Cambodia adventure did not settle on the negative, but rather delivered a hopeful lesson in the power of experiential wisdom:

“These orphan children, who had so little, were so happy and working so hard [to learn English]. I knew they were going to make a difference in the world, even born from such troubled times. They were the reason we, humans, deserve life: Because we are durable and elastic. We can rise from adversity and against all odds and fight.  We must fight for those who can't fight for themselves.  We must fight against those too inhuman to understand what they are doing. As I sat with those laughing children I understood. Humanity is not evil as a whole, only those who forget what being human truly means are evil. Evil people are those who forget the common bond that links us all. We are all connected and all deserve the chance to choose to live and be fully human.”

Imagine an informed citizenry which considers the social, military and fiscal impact of our nation’s policies on both the domestic and global communities. With time and vision, this is a possible dream. International educational trips make an immeasurable difference in the overall academic achievement of all learners. Students, teachers and school administrators must be encouraged to integrate the ultimate experiential learning within the academic year: global educational travel abroad.

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