There are so many things that students learn throughout their high school and college years, it is difficult sometimes to make educational experiences stand out. On of the most effective ways, whether at the high school or university level, is through educational travel experiences, whether that be through extra-curricular activities that specialize in such experiences, such as 4-H (it is more than just farming and animals), or through an institutionally sponsored program, such as study abroad at the university level. Regardless of how the experience is organized or by whom, they offer students meaningful ways in which to use what they learned in the classroom in unique settings. For example, a trip to Spain will surely help the Spanish student with his or her conversational abilities.
One of the biggest issues with regards to including travel into educational plans is simply the planning process. Students need to be made aware of the benefits of travel experiences in education in an effort to ensure that they are making the best possible choices for their educational plans. The earlier that students are aware of the benefits of study travel, the easier it becomes to not only include such experiences in their education, but they tend to have a larger impact on future educational experiences as well. For example, my initial study abroad experience in the United Kingdom inspired me to plan an entire year abroad in order to better study Spanish. There tends to be a multiplier effect.
I’ve spoken about the benefits of travel with regards to education in general terms up until this point, but what are the real benefits? In my experience, students not only learn the material more in depth, but travel also tends to spark academic interests as well. A small incident during a travel experience may help students realize latent interests that they may wish to pursue at a later date. For example, a family trip to Cancun, Mexico at the age of 12 helped me decide to pursue Spanish studies in junior high, and later, high school. It took something so ordinary as overhearing cleaning personnel speaking Spanish in an elevator at the resort to spark my interest. I wanted to know what they were saying!
Another great reason to pursue travel educational experiences for you or your children is simply this: it helps develop self-confidence, which helps in all areas of life. Think about it, if a student knows that he or she can not only survive, but thrive, in a new culture, what is holding him or her back at school? Quite simply, nothing. There are a lot of skills, many interpersonal, that are needed to participate in a study abroad program, for example. It takes a lot of organization, initiative, language ability (in many cases), and a willingness to try completely new experiences. For example, I was terrified of meeting my host family in Ecuador. It was the one part of the program that I was nervous about. As it turned out, my host family was the best part of the entire program! I learned more about the Ecuatorian culture from them than I would have from years of traveling to Ecuador by myself.
There are so many different ways in which to include travel experiences in your educational experiences; it is simply a matter of taking some time in order to determine which will work out best for you. In all of my years of experience with educational travel, I have yet to find a downside. All of my experiences have helped shape me into the person I am today. For that, I am truly grateful.