Global Experiences For All:
5 Ways to Make Student Travel More Equitable
By Erin E.H. Austin, NBCT
I will never forget my first trip to Paris. I stood before priceless works of art, I drank wine under the Eiffel Tower at night, and I even got locked in Père Lachaise Cemetery after hours. (Not my finest moment.) That trip changed me. It opened up an entirely new world and culture, and it fueled my desire to learn the language, make connections, and most importantly, explore the world.
Five years later, I led my first student group abroad, and I experienced that same wonder and magic through the eyes of my students. I was hooked! Again! I wanted every student to have that “I’ve never done anything so awesome!” feeling.
Over the years, I’ve seen those expressions of joy again and again in my student travelers. However, I realized that what I was providing isn’t adequate. It doesn’t reach enough kids, and it privileges the few, not the many.
Preparing our students to be global-ready is an essential piece of modern education, so how do we reimagine student travel frameworks to reach more students?
Here are five ideas to make student travel more equitable:
Promote Travel in Two Directions
When we plan student travel, we tend to hold a one-directional view: bringing our students abroad. But this view misses the other half of the equation: bringing international students here. Hosting an international student costs considerably less than sending a U.S. student abroad, yet it provides a rich cultural and linguistic exchange the whole family can enjoy. Organizations like Language & Friendship, AFS, CIEE, and United Studies bring students from other countries to the United States and offer different lengths of stay at different times of the year.
Vary the Cost
The length of the trip influences the cost and, therefore, who is able to participate. Not every family can afford to send their student on a two-week trip to Europe; however, more families can afford a 5- or 6-day trip. A weekend excursion is perfect for those who live near an international border. A summer or weekend program at Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota is an excellent in-country option that comes at a fraction of the cost of a trip abroad.
Vary the International Location
Varying the location often automatically varies the cost. Another benefit, however, is that varying the international location allows for more students to see themselves in the language they’re learning. For example, a French teacher who limits travel exclusively to France is only showing students one country, which is 85% white. What if that teacher’s students are 85% BIPOC? A trip to Martinique or Senegal allows for greater representation for BIPOC students. Moreover, varying the location of trips allows white students the opportunity to understand the ethnic variety in the francophone world.
Capitalize on Virtual Tools
If a pandemic, a high cost, or a travel-averse school board is putting a damper on student travel, go virtually! Use Google Earth to visit the setting of different novels or units, and if you’re unsure how to use it effectively, invite your resident media specialist in to show students the possibilities. A complete virtual reality (VR) experience in another country is leveling up from Google Earth. If your school doesn’t have a VR set-up, apply for a grant that supports equity and/or global learning to purchase them for your school.
Most student travel companies grant one free spot per X enrolled travelers. If you earn one free spot per six enrolled travelers, for example, work to enroll 18 travelers. Why? With 18 travelers, three free spots are earned. Use the first two free spots for leaders/chaperones, and use the third free spot for a full scholarship for a student. There is no bigger thrill than telling a student for whom a trip abroad is otherwise out of reach that they have a ticket to their dream destination with (nearly) all expenses paid!
The ideas above, of course, are just a start. The more we make global experiences available and equitable in our World Language classrooms, the more students are hungry for culture and exploration…just like we were that first time we set foot abroad and felt the magic. We absolutely have the power to change lives one click, one experience, one plane ticket at a time.
What other ways can we bring global experiences to more students? Post below in the comments!
Erin E.H. Austin is a National Board Certified French teacher in Fort Collins and the author of The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Original World Language Resources. Follow her on Twitter @Erin-EH-Austin.
Learn more ways to bring global experiences to your students at the CCFLT Spring Conference 2022 in the session “How to Create a Global Connection Plan with an Equity Lens”.