1. Service, service, service! I have planned three trips with students and the number one thing they continue to talk about, even years later, is the service learning portion of the trip. We have visited adult male orphanages in Puerto Rico, helped a 6th grade organic farming project in Costa Rica, and played with students in an orphanage in Puerto Rico. Each experience was heartwarming and memorable. I have had students tell me that their experience cemented their desire to help others in the future. And they actually go on to do it!
2. Everything is new and bright! Many of the students I travel with have never been on a plane, seen the ocean, or eaten new foods. Experiencing these events for the first time with students is a great reminder of how big and wonderful the world is.
3. Modeling good traveling behavior is important. We don't know until we experience it how draining and difficult traveling can be. I love when I have the chance to model the appropriate response for my kids. Flight delays, missed connections, and lost passports are all things that happen when you travel. I love showing students that it doesn't have to be a terrible experience and that you aren't the only ones going through it. It's all in how you approach it!
4. Yes, Susy, some countries still run on "task time" and not "clock time!" Believe it or not, not every culture is obsessed with being on time. I would say the number of countries I've visited that do not worry about time far outweigh the number of countries that do. In Costa Rica last week, I don't think we arrived on time to a single activity. Not a single vendor or provider was upset that we were late. It was just kind of expected (have you SEEN the mountains in Costa Rica?). The only people bothered were the travelers due to OUR cultural sense of time. It is very valuable to learn that our way of doing things is not the only way.
5. Have I mentioned service learning yet? It really is the difference between a good trip and a fantastic trip!!!!
6. You are braver than you know. I love the quote from Winnie the Pooh, "You are braver than you think and stronger and smarter than you know." I am shown this by students every time we travel together. I am terribly afraid of heights and have been able to zipline in some pretty high cloud forests due to encouragement from my students. I love having the chance for the kids to show me how to be courageous!
7. You build bonds to last a lifetime. Holding a hand in line for zip lining, handing out medicine to those who have caught the travel bug, giving a hug and an "I love you" at bed checks (and yes, even talking about the last time they "did number 2!") are all things that will stay with those kids forever. You get up close and personal in ways you never dreamed of! You were there when they needed you and they will remember that always.
8. New friendships are formed. It is always fun to see kids break out of their cliques, even momentarily, on trips. They are there to encourage someone they see is down, offer a hug, and spend the day with someone they had not spent time with before.
9. Home stays. This really ranks #1, but they aren't readily available. Of my three trips, we were only able to arrange home stays for one. Seeing the worried looks when you drop them off and then listening to the triumphs and pure joy when you pick them back up is the best feeling! Students can communicate very well due to the input they have received via CI and TPRS. They feel so empowered and brave and strong! And they come to realize that they can be quite comfortable without all the electronic gadgets and air conditioning.
10. Seriously, service learning!!! Having a purpose and a reason for being and doing are very important. I believe they are key components to good mental health and are sadly missing from our culture of instant information/gratification. Putting in a hard day's work is draining, tiring, and often times hard. But you know what? It's also extremely rewarding, even if it's just a few hours of your time.
Do you have a school board that won't allow you to travel outside the US? That's easy! Vamonos Tours has trips to the San Antonio, TX missions, Miami, FL, and Puerto Rico. All are reasonably priced and all include service learning.
On this most recent trip, my students and I were complimented not only on how well the students behaved but also on how well they communicated. I am always complimented on student behavior on my trips - and I really can't take credit for that. Being able to follow directions and say please and thank you are core attitudes taught at home. However, being able to communicate in Spanish? Yeah, I'll step back and be super proud of that! If I hadn't jumped into the world of CI with both feet two years ago, we would not have received those particular comments on this trip. I was told by adults at home stays and teachers at the service learning school that they don't usually receive students who can say anything at all, let alone have real conversations. They were truly impressed and I can only say, THANK YOU CI / TPRS!