When you close your eyes and picture Europe, what do you see? Narrow laneways lined with small shops, vendors selling tiny trinkets on the side of the road, gelato stands, café’s filled with locals sipping espresso and reading the morning paper…
Even for those who haven’t been to Europe, we all see these images in our minds (thanks to the movies we watch and books we read) about what this magical land of mixed cultures in close proximity must be like. And our assumptions are pretty much spot on! Europe is filled with history, old and new buildings, and lots of little laneways lined with apartments and local cafes.
Take Paris for example:
Paris is one of Europe’s major centers of fashion, arts, commerce, and finance. It’s an “old meets new” kind of place, and gives off a very majestic vibe with its uniquely decorated buildings and perfectly kept gardens. This is something you probably already knew, even if you haven’t been there yet!
For those that have been to Paris, you will remember the moment you turned a corner and had your breath taken away by the magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower. Standing there in all its 324m of iron glory and creating that “wow, I can’t believe it’s right there” feeling. It’s almost hard to look away, let alone stop yourself from taking 100 photos from all different angles. We expect this when we go to Paris, and it is why we go back time and again.
Now, when we imagine somewhere like Lisbon, Portugal, what comes to mind? Perhaps a beach, brightly colored buildings and homes, and beautiful old churches. It’s interesting that so many educators and students can paint a perfect picture of Paris or London or Rome, but when it comes to less visited destinations in Europe and worldwide, that picture becomes a little foggier. While travel is about learning and opening your eyes to the world around you, why do we tend to visit the same places year after year or places where we can expect what each day will be like?
This is where educational travel comes in! We challenge you, as teachers, parents, students, and EF travellers alike, to step outside your comfort zone and plan to experience somewhere completely new to you. How about taking a canoe ride on the Rio Chagres in Panama City, or visiting the Great Buddha of Kamakura in Japan? Very different from eating traditional Italian pizza in Rome, or marveling at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – but equally as memorable and educational.
Imagine the endless learning potential for your students when they find themselves in a country so far from their own not only in distance, but also in development, culture, daily routine, and language. No matter where you travel, educational value is there but it’s the unexpected learning opportunities that stay with you, and with the students, forever.
We know it can be difficult to move away from the popular Europe tour in doubt that students would sign up or feel a connection to the itinerary simply because they don’t know anything about that country – but this is all part of an educational travel experience and what we strive to do every single day. Truthfully, taking a tour without pre-existing expectations of exactly what you’re going to see and do is the most educational experience of all. We can’t wait to see where you’ll go next!
Now that summer is here you may be starting to plan your next EF adventure – we encourage you to broaden your search and be open to the unexpected. We’re here to help every step of the way.