Social-emotional learning

An unlikely friendship formed through travel

There’s a common misconception that travel is all about the places you go. Really, it’s all about the people you meet.

The amazing locals are the obvious examples. But sometimes, the most life-changing connections students make on tour are simply the ones they make between themselves and their fellow travelers. That brings us to the story of Joe P. and Aayush D.—an unlikely pair of student friends who never would have met if it weren’t for their EF tour to Spain. And who, by the end of the trip, were so closely linked that their teachers would simply call out to them as “JoeandAayush.”

On the surface, the two travelers couldn’t have been more different. Joe was a rising senior, Aayush a sophomore—and in any other situation, that alone could have been enough to keep them apart. However, as the only two boys on the trip, they were put together as roommates. And although they were both a little nervous to be rooming with someone they didn’t know, they quickly discovered that travel can help people form quicker, stronger, and more meaningful bonds than any other experience could. As Joe said, “I think travel creates a bond that’s kind of inseparable. You learn different things about each other and you’re going to have those memories with each other for as long as you live.”

Ready for even more warm and fuzzy feelings? Follow along on their tour journey to see exactly how this new lifelong friendship developed.

“I think travel creates a bond that’s kind of inseparable. You learn different things about each other and you’re going to have those memories with each other for as long as you live.”


Experiencing independence, together

For both Joe and Aayush, this EF tour was their first opportunity to travel without their parents. They were both unsure how everything would go, but they had each other to lean on. And soon, they actually discovered that one of their favorite parts of travel was being able to experience the world on their own terms. During free time, they got to explore on their own, choosing what to see and where to eat. That little taste of freedom led to the discovery of an amazing bakery—and even more importantly, the realization that they could take care of themselves out in the real world. Yes, they did get a little lost at one point. And yes, they were both a little nervous. But as Joe said, “We felt confident enough that we could figure it out.” Of course, figure it out they did—and by the end of the trip, that shared experience of losing and finding their bearings ended up being top memories for both of them.

The perks of peer-to-peer learning

Going into Spain, Aayush said his Spanish skills were “rusty” at best. But as the tour went on, he got better and better. He credits his friend for helping him get to the next level, saying Joe kept encouraging him to find opportunities to practice the language and even gave him tips on how to say certain things. Plus, as Aayush’s Spanish competency grew, so did Joe’s confidence in his own abilities. That’s because before tour, he’d never felt particularly strong when it came to speaking Spanish. But as he journeyed around with the younger student, Joe realized his extra years of classes really had prepared him for the situation at hand—and he was excited to be able to share his knowledge with his fellow traveler. “It was a learning experience for both of us,” he says.

The recipe to a lasting friendship

As Joe and Aayush know, one of the quickest ways to form meaningful memories with someone is to try new things together. And luckily, these newly formed tastebuds were down to try all of the new foods they could find. They sampled huevos rotos (their review: really good), tasted churros dipped in chocolate (really, really good), and even got to enjoy a traditional homecooked Spanish meal at a local’s house (absolutely incredible). Plus, their shared interest in food often meant spending their free time searching for the next incredible snack.

Delicious taste benefits aside, the two also enjoyed sharing this activity because they knew trying the local cuisine was yet another way they could immerse themselves in the culture. “It was an experience unlike anything else,” Joe says, speaking to the whole trip. “When you’re with someone for almost 24 hours a day for 12 days straight, you learn a lot about each other. It can be kind of chaotic and you can want to get mad at each other—but at the end of the day, we’re really good friends.”

With travel, social-emotional learning goes a long way

We love seeing friendships form on tour—along with all of the social and emotional knowledge, skills, and attitudes that come with it. Want to learn more about the ways EF tours can foster this kind of growth?

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Sarah 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).