Kay is a Middle School Spanish World Cultures Teacher. She first traveled with EF to Costa Rica in 2009 and has been leading student groups every summer since. Kay believes that students should experience travel to help broaden their perspectives and allow them to see firsthand how tolerant, global and open-minded we should all strive to become.
I love traveling with my students during the summer. As a group leader, you can sometimes spend one or two years preparing to head out on tour, so actually getting to traveling oftentimes can feel long-awaited and returning home can be bittersweet. However, the fun doesn’t have to stop when your tour is over! Getting everyone together for a reunion party can be a fun way to bring the tour experience full circle. It is easy for this part of the process to be over-looked, but I personally insist on it every year.
What you do for your reunion doesn’t matter. Ours usually aren’t anything fancy. Maybe we will grill some burgers on a backyard deck or have pizza and play music at someone’s house. One year we all met at the community pool and had a pot-luck pool side. There are many fun ways to get your group together, but what really matters is the conversation and closure it can provide for the students – and even for you as the group leader! Chances are taking this trip was one of the best experiences of your students’ lives and it is important for them to have a bit of closure and reflection time as well.
Mostly our reunion parties are hosted at the end of summer before the new school year starts and everyone goes their separate ways, but it can also be nice to come together after the start of school once everyone has figured out their new routines. Mainly we use these parties as a chance for students to share pictures and reminisce about stories from the trip. Normally student-travelers have developed a sense of community within our travel group, so they are always happy to see each other again and once students get to talking, sometimes there is no stopping them.
What’s one of the best things about finding time to get everyone together? I’ve found that usually parents have no idea to what extent the trip has changed their student until they have the opportunity to listen to their son or daughter chat with their peers. As good teachers and group leaders, we know reflection and closure is a big part of the learning process. Reflecting on experiences enhances personal evaluation and encourages insight for your students. We need to foster their growth after the tour is over. Don’t let the magic stop just because the trip is over; relive the experience again through the eyes of your students in the form of a reunion– I promise; you will be so glad you did.
Reunion Party Tips:
- Have students send you their 5 favorite photos from the trip as their RSVP and create a slide show of pictures to play in the background.
- Get the conversation going in the beginning with a series of questions. Write out questions on index cards before the meeting and have students draw a card when they walk in. Below are some of my favorite questions that I like to ask:
Tell me one of your favorite memories.
How has traveling internationally changed you?
What did you learn about yourself on this journey?
What did you experience on tour that surprised you the most?
What was the most special moment of the trip that you tell other people about?
How will you use what you have learned in your life in the future?
What advice would you give to next year’s travelers. (You can even write these down and pass them out to your new group of students before they depart on tour for a fun personal touch.)
Getting excited for your own students? Find your next adventure here!