My experience leading student tours to Europe
One month prior to departure with my students (about twenty of them this year), I’m beginning to think about everything that goes into putting together a student trip to Europe. The 2012 trip will be the fourteenth tour that I’ve organized, and the twelfth I’ve led. Thinking of the many years spent doing this, I decided to do a little calculating just to see how many teenagers I’ve accompanied on trips that last anywhere from 16-29 days: about 300.
Where I’ve traveled with students
I’ve accompanied students to many countries in Western Europe: France, England, Spain, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy. After this summer I’ll be able to add Czech Republic. These trips are sometimes a bit of a whirlwind, but we have such a good time. I really love my students, and they (usually) don’t give me any trouble. They’re all 17-18 years old at the time of the trip, so I’m free to give them a little liberty. They’re also all boys, which in many ways is easier than a bunch of teenage girls!
How do I organize the tour?
I always get started organizing the trip about a year and a half in advance. It may seem extreme, but a lot goes into planning such an excursion, and it does take time. It’s also nice to give the students enough time to take on a summer job, or to ask for monetary gifts from family members for birthdays and Christmas. I believe that opening the tour for enrollment so far in advance allows for more students to sign up in the long run.
The first thing I do is brainstorm about the places I’d like to visit. It’s simple enough to eliminate cities or regions once you pull out a map and have a look at the logistics of it all. Once I come up with a rough plan of where I want to go and what I want to do there, it’s time to have a look at the price. At that point in the game, it’s more than likely time to rework a few things to bring down the cost. Once I reach a price that seems reasonable (though it’s always expensive), I publish the tour and start getting students to sign up. The more the merrier, and the more students we have, the less expensive it is too.
Though I am a French teacher, and most of the kids who come with me are my own students, usually about a third of them are not. These other students may be students of Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Latin or Greek. I like to keep my tour open to any student who wants to come (after his junior year). However, I have to be careful about accepting student I don’t know, and who don’t know me. To help me make an informed decision about allowing to the student to participate, I ask him to provide two faculty recommendations. That usually helps a lot.
Why do I travel to Europe with students?
Parents, other teachers, friends, and even students ask me why I do this. Why would I take out 2-4 weeks of my precious summer vacation to bring a bunch of kids over to Europe? It’s not because I want a free vacation, because it’s much more intense than the school year (think 24/7, 7 days a week).
It’s because there’s nothing like experiencing Europe for the very first time. Unfortunately, you never get to go again for the first time… Unless you relive the experience through the eyes of your students.
I do send the students back to the US with the other chaperone (usually another teacher). Doing so permits me to spend my remaining two months of vacation in France with my family, who meet up with me in Paris once my students have left.
Any questions or comments?
Please do ask any questions or write any comments that come to mind. Especially when I first started organizing these trips, I really found it helpful to toss around ideas with others who had had the experience.
You do tend to come across a lot of negative comments about traveling with students when searching on the Internet. A lot of it probably does have to do with what kind of students you’re going to be dealing with, but I’d say that the majority of the time it has to do with one’s own attitude and organizational skills.