5 things I learned before my first EF Tour

Abbey Lenardon

When I was in Grade 9, my mom pointed out a poster she’d seen outside my school promoting a service-learning trip to Peru. She asked me if I was interested in going. I told her, “Maybe?” but I wanted to learn more. Two weeks later, we were at the parent information meeting, and by the end of it, I was practically begging her to let me sign up. My parents knew it would be an amazing learning opportunity, but what none of us expected was how much I would pick up before the trip had even begun.

So, what did I learn?

1- Money management
2- Time management
3- Fundraising
4- Responsibility
5- A little bit of Spanish!

1) Money management

While my parents were excited for me to travel and learn about a new culture, they made sure I knew I’d have to contribute if I was going to go. From there, I planned out how much money I needed, and how I would earn it. The latter included fundraising, saving birthday money, and getting my first job. I created my first budget, had my dad teach me about fixed and variable expenses, along with how I could reach my saving goals.

2) Time management

Being in school full-time and having 25 hours per week already dedicated to figure skating left just enough room for 2-3 shifts at my first job: working the takeout counter at Portabello’s Italian Bistro. It was no easy feat, but through developing my time management skills, I was able to balance my obligations and still accomplish the goals I had set for myself in each area of my life.

3) Fundraising

My student group did a lot of fundraising! This wasn’t something I had a lot of experience in, and I quickly realized I had a lot of learning to do if I wanted to raise enough. We reached out to friends, family, and people in our community, expressing our passion for the trip we were embarking on and everything we hoped to learn while we were there. Little did we know, however, the learning had already begun. For eight months, January to June, we coordinated both group and individual fundraising events—in the end, I’m proud to say that half of the money I put towards my trip came from these efforts.

4) Responsibility

My tour took place over March break, but the length of the trip meant we would miss one day of school. As a result, I had to advocate for myself with my teachers, explain where I was going, and what accommodations I would require as well as how I would complete my work in a timely manner to stay on track with my classmates. While not much school or work was missed, it was an important step in my life where I took ownership over my education—to ensure I was still on track when I returned from Peru, but also seize the opportunity to immerse myself in a brand-new way of learning.

5) A little bit of Spanish!

I realized only after enrolling on this trip that I had never travelled to a country where I didn’t speak the native language! In a time before Duolingo, I compiled a list of common phrases I would need and created a cheat sheet to help me while I was on-tour. Preparing to navigate a country where I was uncertain I’d be able to communicate made me very nervous, but it also pushed me farther out of my comfort zone than I had ever been, and I understand now how incredibly valuable that was for my development as a student, a global citizen, and a human being.

It all seems so clear to me, looking back on things, but the changes students undergo before they embark on their first EF tour are often overlooked. Just the idea of travelling to another country, and the challenge of making it happen, was enough to get me motivated. I picked a direction, and along the way I leaned on my family, friends, and fellow travellers to get there, but it all started with the small, but crucial first step: signing up.

Topics: Student’s Perespectives

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