What I Learned From Traveling Internationally With Students

In June, I spent twelve days traveling across western Europe with a group of students. We started in Barcelona, Spain and slowly made our way north, ending in London, United Kingdom and it was a whirlwind of exhaustion, excitement, stress, blisters. Like any great travel adventure, I gained a new perspective on the world and a better understanding of new culture, but most of all I understood the benefit of traveling with your students.

During those twelve days, I got to witness a whole new side to my students. I was used to seeing them in my classroom or in the hallways at school surrounded by their peers, but on the trip I got to see them away from their friends in a new environment, experiencing a foreign culture. Within the first 24 hours, one student had a meltdown because the Coke in Spain did not taste the same as the Coke in the United States; it was mostly the jet lag talking, but it became a running joke and we made him try Coke in every country, just to be sure. There was another student who surprised me by being the first to socialize outside of our group and make new friends. At one point, the tour
director thought two of them were brothers from the way the interacted with one another, even though they rarely hung out at school. Now I feel like I have a better understanding of these students, far more than what I would have learned at school in a classroom. 

As I understood more about my students, we also developed stronger bonds as a group. Anyone familiar with Barcelona and Paris know that pickpockets are a real and legitimate concern. Since the other travel groups that we were with were mostly women, my boys eagerly stepped up to provide everyone with extra security. They prided themselves on helping keep everyone safe and it started a lot of good conversations about safety, travel, and even the difference perspectives that men and women have about danger. There were some pretty stressful moments that we went through, but I know that these only brought us closer together. During one particular night on the Paris Metro, the boys took the lead to make sure that all of us got off the train with nothing bad happening. I became truly aware of how close we got as a group when one my students gave me a hug afterwards and asked if I was ok.

Honestly, I could go on and on about everything I learned this summer by traveling with students. Its been a month and I feel like I am still processing the trip. But one of the highlights of the trip was when we climbed the Eiffel Tower and took this picture. Before the picture, I asked a friend from another group to 'take a picture of me and my boys' and the boys got all cheesy and sentimental at the fact that I called them 'my boys'. It didn't seem like a big deal, but it definitely showed how much our travels had brought us together. 
After traveling with six students across Spain, France, and England, I can definitely relate to Henry Miller's quote that "one's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." I started the trip thinking that I knew all the tips and tricks about building relationships with students, but now I know that travel is an excellent way to bond and truly get to know your students. From this realization, I created Minarets Abroad at Minarets as way to promote travel for the students. In fact, I'm already working on the trip for next summer, which will take us to Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, and Austria to learn about the Holocaust in Europe in depth.


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