The making of

A multicultural tour focused on the Black experience

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. 

Where it all began


Madrid, Paris & London: The Multicultural Experience was born from a desire for greater diversity among EF’s travelers, their on-tour experiences, and the stories they hear abroad.

 

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.

Who made the magic happen

Three of the many experts who helped create this multicultural travel experience

From left to right: Roger P., Janae E., and Chaitra C.

A team of many voices, focused on raising even more


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:

Roger P.

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.”

Janae E.

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.”

Chaitra C.

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.”

What sets this tour apart

Stephanie L., EF’s Program Manager for DEIB
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

On-tour activities highlighting Black
and multicultural experiences

This multicultural travel experience includes a visit to Toledo.

1/10 Guided excursion to Toledo, Spain
An expert local guide will introduce groups to the former Spanish capital, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians once peacefully coexisted. Known as the “city of three cultures,” travelers can see the influence of all three in the 12th-century Synagogue of St. Mary. Designed to be a mosque but then used as a synagogue, it was finally converted into a church.

Learn flamenco during this multicultural travel experience.

2/10 Flamenco evening
Born of Indian, Moorish, Arabian, and Roma influences, flamenco is extremely important to Spanish culture. Students will get both a performance and a lesson, complete with all the dramatic poses, colorful costumes, and passionate music the art form is known for.

3/10 Visit an olive grove
Groups will learn about the diverse and complex history of olive oil today, which includes contributions from the Moors, Romans, and Phoenicians. “Students and teachers were especially excited about this activity because it blends history with something they’re already familiar with in their daily lives back home,” says Janae.

4/10 Black Paris tour
Led by an expert local guide, this tour explores the legacy of African, Caribbean, and American history in Paris today.

A student exploring an area of Paris known as Little Africa as part of a multicultural travel experience.

5/10 Free time to explore Little Africa
Groups will see how a plethora of African communities express their identities within Paris as they visit Chateau Rouge, a vibrant neighborhood known as Little Africa. This is also a great chance for students to chat with locals and gain a better understanding of their day-to-day lives.

6/10 Guided tour of the Louvre
No visit to Paris is complete without stopping by the Louvre. On this tour, an expert guide will teach students about some of the museum’s artifacts and collections, while focusing on Black history.

Afro-Caribbean food from Brixton makes for a tasty dinner during this multicultural travel experience.

7/10 Guided tour of Brixton
Known for its Afro-Caribbean roots, this vibrant area of London is an energetic melting pot filled with street art, music, and small mom-and-pop restaurants. For dinner, students will split into small groups so they can explore and support multiple local businesses at once, all while filling up on dishes ranging from curried goat to saltfish fritters.

8/10 The Black Cultural Archives Heritage Center
Groups will visit the current exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives Heritage Center to learn about its mission to collect, preserve, and celebrate the heritage and history of Black culture and people in Britain.

Students engaging in a multicultural travel experience in London as they watch a play focused on the Black experience

9/10 Evening theater performance
London is known for its vibrant theater scene. On this tour, groups will watch a performance that speaks to the Black experience and/or is produced by a local Black-owned business.

10/10 Sugar & Slavery tour at the Museum of London
The museum is giving groups a special gallery tour focusing on the role the city played in the transatlantic slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries.

1/10 Guided excursion to Toledo, Spain
An expert local guide will introduce groups to the former Spanish capital, where Muslims, Jews, and Christians once peacefully coexisted. Known as the “city of three cultures,” travelers can see the influence of all three in the 12th-century Synagogue of St. Mary. Designed to be a mosque but then used as a synagogue, it was finally converted into a church.

2/10 Flamenco evening
Born of Indian, Moorish, Arabian, and Roma influences, flamenco is extremely important to Spanish culture. Students will get both a performance and a lesson, complete with all the dramatic poses, colorful costumes, and passionate music the art form is known for.

3/10 Visit an olive grove
Groups will learn about the diverse and complex history of olive oil today, which includes contributions from the Moors, Romans, and Phoenicians. “Students and teachers were especially excited about this activity because it blends history with something they’re already familiar with in their daily lives back home,” says Janae.

4/10 Black Paris tour
Led by an expert local guide, this tour explores the legacy of African, Caribbean, and American history in Paris today.

5/10 Free time to explore Little Africa
Groups will see how a plethora of African communities express their identities within Paris as they visit Chateau Rouge, a vibrant neighborhood known as Little Africa. This is also a great chance for students to chat with locals and gain a better understanding of their day-to-day lives.

6/10 Guided tour of the Louvre
No visit to Paris is complete without stopping by the Louvre. On this tour, an expert guide will teach students about some of the museum’s artifacts and collections, while focusing on Black history.

7/10 Guided tour of Brixton
Known for its Afro-Caribbean roots, this vibrant area of London is an energetic melting pot filled with street art, music, and small mom-and-pop restaurants. For dinner, students will split into small groups so they can explore and support multiple local businesses at once, all while filling up on dishes ranging from curried goat to saltfish fritters.

8/10 The Black Cultural Archives Heritage Center
Groups will visit the current exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives Heritage Center to learn about its mission to collect, preserve, and celebrate the heritage and history of Black culture and people in Britain.

9/10 Evening theater performance
London is known for its vibrant theater scene. On this tour, groups will watch a performance that speaks to the Black experience and/or is produced by a local Black-owned business.

10/10 Sugar & Slavery tour at the Museum of London
The museum is giving groups a special gallery tour focusing on the role the city played in the transatlantic slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries.

 

For a full list of activities, read our in-depth tour itinerary.

“I think it’s really important to continue to develop these kinds of tours—for people in other parts of the world to see us [as African Americans], for us to see other people, for cross-cultural ‘aha!’ moments…and for kids to realize the whole world is out there for them.”

Chaitra C., Group Leader, Bowie, MD

Bring this multicultural travel experience to your students

To learn more about this tour, talk with your Tour Consultant or dive deeper into the itinerary.

See itinerary

Sarah Bennett McLaughlin

Sarah is a senior copywriter at EF Education First. When she isn’t writing, you can find her browsing through bookshops, trying to cook, or going to improv class (which is basically just an excuse for adults to play make-believe).

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