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Tour Director Spotlight: José connects travellers to a bigger, broader world

by | Mar 8, 2019 | Cultural & Language Immersion, Europe, We Are EF

We have high standards when it comes to our Tour Directors. Meet one who exceeds every one of our expectations.
We have high standards when it comes to our Tour Directors. Meet one who exceeds every one of our expectations.

José Ramon Garcia, Tour Director, Spain

You know the kind of people who, if someone mentions their name, the whole room seems to light up? José is one of those people. He’s been a Tour Director with EF since 2012, and it seems like every person who has worked or travelled with him can’t help but sing his praises (the best one we’ve heard so far is, “he is a human angel”).

What makes José so great—at his job, at connecting with people, at making lasting impressions—is, in part, his genuine passion for breaking down cultural walls and helping every one of his travellers connect with the places they’re visiting. He has some tricks he uses, like giving his groups a language dictionary at the beginning of the tour and offering prizes for using Spanish words and phrases. He encourages them to try new food (Calamari! Snails!) and he teaches them the history of these foods to give them better insight into the culture.

Inspiring lasting connections

He also connects what travellers are seeing to what locals are experiencing. José says, “The Sagrada Família is a beautiful place, but I ask the students, how do you think the locals feel about the changes happening in the neighbourhood? This woman is losing her house so that they can build a bridge in to the Basilica. [It’s important to] give them perspective on the people and places and help them see things through the eyes of others.”

So, how does he connect first-time travellers to a bigger, broader world? Through new languages, new cultures, and new perspectives. But he also understands the importance of providing context. That is, connecting to the students he’s travelling with on a personal level, and sharing his own stories about the places they see. It helps them associate their time abroad to something real, and gives them something meaningful to take home. He says, “I share stories about my life as a Tour Director, because it helps travellers feel like part of your family. I’ll tell them, I lived in this neighbourhood, this is where I went to school. It helps the tour feel more immersive and helps the kids feel more connected to the places and culture.”

Creating joy through the unexpected

Someone described as a “human angel” is definitely known for going above and beyond. Through his pre-tour interviews with his groups and Group Leaders, sometimes he can make magic happen. “I was once told that [a teacher] likes Spiderman—what was I supposed to do with that?” Well, he found a Marvel exhibit in one of the cities they were visiting that he could take the group to as a surprise. Needless to say it went over well. “Even knowing which soda a Group Leader likes can come in handy to provide small surprises.”

All of the little extras he’s provided to his groups have really made an impact over the years. He stays in touch with his groups, and one of them even made an Instagram account for him (they even picked out his handle!) so they could share travel photos.

Just to make it clear (if we haven’t already): We’re proud of our Tour Directors at EF. They bring the journey to life for our travellers—and turn a week abroad into a life-changing opportunity for growth. And when you have people like José on your side? The opportunities for our travellers, student or otherwise, are practically limitless.