Traveling abroad can be one of the most amazing and beneficial experiences a student can have. Where can I start with the importance of travel? As a young girl, my parents’ goal was to take our family on a vacation once a year. For them, going to the beach was the obvious get away. Being the history-minded person that I am, I knew that I needed to see and experience more places. The opportunity arose at the end of my senior year of high school to go on a trip with other students to five countries. I begged my parents to lend me the money because I might never have the opportunity to go abroad again (My parents had never been out of the country so I thought it was very abnormal to go overseas). When l I got to London in June of 1999, I realized how many people from America really do travel. I fell in love with the city. It was similar to the US in that we spoke the same language but totally different than anywhere I've ever been. I was in culture shock- cars driving on the other side of the road, the accents, the palace, the changing of the guards. I couldn't believe that this actually happened in the world! I thought these were things that only happened on TV! From there we went to Paris, to Switzerland, to Austria and Germany. I learned a lot from that trip- not only did I learn how to keep my passport safe, but I learned to budget money, use an ATM, have an open mind, try new foods, and be flexible with my plans. I learned how to behave not like a tourist. By that, I don't mean wearing a fanny pack and white gym shoes. I mean to be confident, polite, and walk into a restaurant or store like I knew what I was doing. Being immersed in a different culture and language takes you out of your comfort zone and it builds confidence that you didn't know you had in you.
I then had the opportunity to travel abroad at the end of my senior year of college. Someone came to talk to our class about student teaching abroad and one of the places they mentioned was England- so of course I had to bite at the chance. I was very nervous though since I would be the only student going abroad from the University. Again, it was very expensive, but I knew again that it would be worth it. I lived on a college campus and made a network of friends for life.
When I started teaching, I wanted my students to have the same opportunity that I had so I started planning our first trip. Teaching in an accelerated school full of bright students, I had a unique opportunity to expose my students to more than what they could ever learn in the classroom. I knew from experience that exposure to other cultures and languages can give students sensitivity and globalization that cannot be gained by reading books alone. I knew these kids were ready and able to take their classroom learning to the next level. Our first trip was a success! We visited London, Paris, and Rome. It was amazing for me to see the students’ eyes light up before Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, and the Coliseum. Even my breath was taken away by the Coliseum, since I was teaching ancient history at the time and had never been to Rome. That trip added value to my classroom as a teacher. I learned a lot from that trip about deadlines, tipping guides, being on time, keeping people on time, but mainly about how unique it is to be able to see the world. From the people on that trip, I know that out of the 24 students that went with me, 20 studied abroad in college. Two even live abroad now. I hope they remember the respect for cultures that I taught (and also to tuck their passports---inside joke for anyone that has been on my trips). Most of all, I hope they remember to take someone else abroad one day to give them that love of travel. Where would I be without my teacher taking me back in 1999? I have taken 5 trips abroad with students (and am starting to plan my 6th for 2018). I don’t think I’ll ever stop the love of learning that comes with the love of travel.
Stephanie Tewes is the Dean of Studies at Covington Latin School, an accelerated school in Northern Kentucky. She is also a history and speech teacher.