The 21st century educator is acutely aware that student engagement and connection to the wider world is vital to educational success. In addition to building academic capabilities, now more than ever we are striving towards fostering a culture of internationalism and global citizenship in our classrooms.
But in a time where technology allows us to be more connected to the world than ever before, how can we curate engaging experiences that lead to meaningful and purposeful engagement with the real world?
The simple answer is to go out there and experience the world firsthand. See it. Touch it. Smell it. Feel it. By taking your students beyond their borders and on an international school trip, you’re providing them with the chance to see a world beyond anything they’ve ever experienced.
At Educational Journeys, we’re passionate about learning through experiential activities and travel, so we’ve compiled for you our top five reasons you should take your students on an international school trip.
1. International school trips enhance academic performance
Great teachers are able to paint a picture for their students. They draw on a number of resources, teaching techniques and research to provide students with a perspective on the world. They can articulate to students what a place, event or time period may have been like.
Experiential learning activities provide access to real world settings that supplement a variety of school curricula. They create vital links to the lessons learnt in the classrooms. An international school trip allows students to develop a more concrete understanding of the world that they’ve learned so much about; the true magnitude of geographical barriers, the landscape of the battlefields, the thin air in higher altitudes, the smells and sounds of a bustling marketplace in South-East Asia or the texture of stone and marble of some of the oldest sculptures in the world.
Real world experiences have been demonstrated to improve academic performance. A 2013 US study found that students who participated in educational travel or trips were more likely to demonstrate superior academic performance, had higher rates of school completion and were more likely to go on and complete further education. An international school tour provides the opportunity for teachers to extend their students’ knowledge and attain ever greater academic achievement. Student engagement increases when presented with real world experiences, enabling them to take knowledge from the classroom and combine it with a sensory experience to create a more well-rounded understanding of the content that they are studying.
2. International school trips provide an opportunity to gain a global perspective
One of the first things that students will comment on when reflecting on their travel experience is their appreciation of an experience that they may never have had engaged in otherwise. It’s an eye-opening opportunity, one that students rarely forget.
One of the many benefits of international school trips is the ability for students to see the world from a whole new perspective. By learning about cultural practices, trying new foods, meeting locals and participating in their customs, students can observe and engage in way of life far removed from that of their own. For many students, travel becomes about being brave and crossing over cultural barriers and in many cases coming to the realisation that we can have a lot in common with someone, who on the surface, appears to be very different from ourselves.
International school trips provide context for global issues and allow students to develop perspectives based on evidence beyond that of which they can access in a classroom or through carefully curated media reports. It provides the opportunity to break down stereotypes and carefully consider the values system of another culture. This kind of unique experience allows students to develop their global citizenship. Perhaps even more importantly, students can return from their experience and share their key learnings with others, which in turn assists in developing the sense of global citizenship in their communities.
3. International school trips will help build vital life skills through experience
A huge benefit of an international school trip is the opportunity for students to develop some of the skills essential to taking on the world as an adult. For many, it is the longest that they have ever been away from home without a family member. Leaving the familiar confines of home and community is a courageous act, and in itself a fantastic learning opportunity.
Travel is about making choices, weighing up the costs and benefits of one option against another. Planning and organisation are vital to successful travel, and whilst Educational Journeys will ensure your trip itinerary is seamless, it will be the role of students to make many of the micro-decisions required along the way. Students can refine their decision making skills as they continue to live through the travel experience, and subsequently apply these skills to life back home.
When reflecting on their travel journeys, students highlight that they loved the independence of the experience; they loved making their own decisions and being able to move around wonderous new places independent of their parents. There were challenges, and at the time they could feel overwhelming, however, in hindsight the students are always proud to have overcome the hurdles of international travel. Students often reported that they felt like travel experiences improved their confidence and resilience in taking on other challenging situations in their day to day life.
4. International school trips improve student – teacher relationships and classroom dynamic
The power of travel is unsurpassed in developing teacher-student relationships. Ask any teacher and they’ll be able to highlight a time where they formed a bond with a student outside of the classroom that would have never been forged within four walls.
Travel provides the opportunity for teachers and students to engage on a different level, often in a more personal and meaningful way. International school trips provide the opportunity to connect through the shared experience, to learn about each other’s hobbies and interests, as well as see how people respond to different environments and experiences. On return to school, classrooms are often dominated by talk about the experience, either in linking their journey to the curriculum or in sharing those “Remember when…” moments over and over again.
The power of teacher-student relationships is more than evident in schools. Research indicates that students who have a strong connection to their teachers are more likely to demonstrate a higher level of academic achievement. An analysis of 46 studies into the link between teacher-student relationships and student engagement found that positive teacher-student relationships were more likely to result in improved academic performance (in the form of grades) and higher levels of engagement with school.
5. International school trips cultivate gratitude
Educators have a suite of tools that they can use to present the experiences of individuals and groups to their classes. Together with these tools teachers will try to develop a sense of empathy and connection between the subject and the student. Whilst this is often done effectively, international travel provides the opportunity to hear stories from guides, locals and storytellers around the world and provides rich and personalised understanding of events, time periods and experiences. In this context, there becomes an increased capacity to develop an empathetic connection
Empathy and connection garnered through an international school trip also allows students to reflect on what they appreciate in their own lives. A series of studies conducted in 2016 by Jesse Walker, Amit Kumar and Thomas Gilovich demonstrated that experiential purchases, such as travel, were more likely to inspire gratitude than material purchases, with Walker stating that “…. experiences are more likely to foster a greater appreciation of one’s own circumstances”. It isn’t uncommon for students, and teachers for that matter, to reflect on their own lives and come to the realisation that they often take what they have for granted. They come to realise the seemingly everyday things they miss from home and reflect upon the relationships that they are a part of in a whole new light.
The power of gratitude goes beyond simply appreciating the state of one’s own existence over that of another. Practicing gratitude has been demonstrated to be a way to improve mental wellbeing. It can also provide inspiration and vital learnings as to how one can improve their own life, or encourage change in wider society.
Ready to get packing? Get in touch with Educational Journeys to find out how we can support your international school trip!