In EF’s “The making of” series, we explore what goes into the creation of an EF tour. Today, we’re focusing on Madrid, Paris & London: The Multicultural Experience, a vibrant itinerary that showcases these three metropolitan hubs through a more diverse and culturally inclusive lens.
Here at EF, we deeply believe everyone can and should experience the life-changing impact of educational travel, and we’re dedicated to making sure all students feel that EF tours are for them. However, our Group Leaders helped us realize we needed to do more. They have always been influential in holding us accountable, reaching out to their Tour Consultants to advocate for tours that highlight a wider variety of views and both appeal to and represent their communities. After the Black Lives Matter rallies of 2020 and the ongoing dialogue and reflection they sparked around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), these conversations became even more frequent and vital. We increased our focus on implementing Group Leader feedback, and met with even more educators to help ideate on ways to make these goals happen.
During these meetings, several Group Leaders said they were specifically interested in a tour exploring the African diaspora. They wanted students to learn about its vast narrative, see places through the lens of Black history and culture, and hear a wider range of stories focused on the Black experience. Madrid, Paris & London: The Multicultural Experience was one of the tours created from these discussions.
Why Madrid, Paris, and London?
To choose this tour’s destinations, our team collaborated with subject-matter specialists and educators from several different geographic, racial, socioeconomic, and academic backgrounds. Together, they looked for places that were home to a rich variety of cultural influences, while also considering what would be feasible from an accessibility standpoint.
Eventually, the group landed on Madrid, Paris, and London. All three of these multicultural hubs are inextricably tied to the Black experience—from Moorish contributions evident in Spanish architecture, to Paris’ adoption of Jazz music, to the rich history of African and Caribbean descended people in London. Just as importantly, they all have thriving Black communities today, ranging from the Chateau Rouge area of Paris to London’s Brixton neighborhood.
A multicultural tour requires a multitude of perspectives. As mentioned above, EF was particularly interested in hearing educators’ perspectives—and their thoughts quickly proved to be vital. For example, an early iteration had the tour starting in London, but educators advised reversing the itinerary to begin in Madrid. As Stephanie L., EF’s Program Manager for DEIB, recounts, the thought was to begin in a city with a history steeped in positive Black contributions. This way, the entire multicultural travel experience begins from a place of power, showing the lasting and positive ways Black culture has influenced the region throughout history. By ending the tour in London, students will still learn about the city’s history with the slave trade and colonization, but first, they’ll gain a better understanding that these topics are only part of the many stories surrounding the African diaspora and Black history and culture in Europe.
EF also presented the tour itinerary to students who had traveled with us in the past to make sure they saw themselves and their interests reflected in it. Their biggest takeaway? They loved the focus on multicultural travel experiences, and were especially excited to visit neighborhoods like Brixton that were filled with good food and music and weren’t as common on other guided tours. Of course, that didn’t mean the students wanted to forgo the more famous sites, either. As they explained, they still couldn’t wait to see places like the Eiffel Tower for themselves—and get that perfect Instagram pic.
Read more about the EF staff members and educators who helped bring the tour to life:
Former teacher and current EF Partnerships Manager
Before Roger came to EF, he spent 15 years teaching high school history and human geography. He partnered with EF to bring his students abroad—however, he felt the tours could offer more activities that better spoke to his Black students’ wants and interests. That’s one of the reasons Roger felt it was necessary for this itinerary to visit Black neighborhoods. “It’s important for African American students—and all students—to see Black people living all over the world,” he explains. “It’s important for them to gain exposure to our cousins across the pond to realize there are many chapters to the narrative of the African diaspora. Like any EF tour, this experience is just a sampling. But I hope students come back with the desire to learn more.”
Senior Itinerary Specialist at EF
When asked about her main responsibilities, Janae sums it up in a single sentence: “If somebody asks for something specific, it’s my job to make it happen.” Most often, that means working with Group Leaders one-on-one to create itineraries that align with their personal goals and needs. Because one of this tour’s goals was to share a wide range of multicultural stories, Janae focused on diversifying EF’s supplier base to make sure those stories were told by the people who knew them best and to find ways to support local communities and Black-owned businesses. “I’m especially excited for groups to experience the Black Paris tour,” Janae says. It’s run by an African American woman who’s a journalist, historian, and political analyst, and shows students places throughout the city that are key to Black history.”
Group Leader and Spanish and Social Studies teacher
Ever since Chaitra began partnering with EF, she’s reached out with suggestions for diversifying EF’s tour offerings. She searches for ways to highlight cultures that are often overlooked in the places her groups visit, whether that means exploring the wide-reaching effects of the African diaspora, learning about indigenous peoples, or studying the treatment of women in different areas. “Any tour can uncover the things you don’t hear about in mainstream media or history books,” she explains. For this new tour, Chaitra was particularly focused on including multiethnic neighborhoods where students could see how the area’s diversity impacted everything from its food to its languages. “I’m keenly interested in the socio-anthropological reasons behind the ‘whys’ of a place,” she says. “There are always layers. I like to peel them back to figure out how they happened, and what they mean for the people living there today.”
Chaitra C., Group Leader, Bowie, MD
To learn more about this tour, talk with your Tour Consultant or dive deeper into the itinerary.See itinerary