Training tour

Diary of a first-time Group Leader in Paris

Off to Paris!

What’s the best way for new Group Leaders to learn what to expect on an EF tour? By visiting incredible cities with other teachers who are new to educational travel on a training tour.

I’m Cheryl, a first-time Group Leader who’s a resource teacher at Marian High School in Indiana. I’m recapping my recent EF training tour in Paris, where I was with 40 other new Group Leaders. While I’ve traveled a lot personally (my goal is to see all seven continents, and I’m over halfway there!), I’ve never been on a planned tour with students before. It’s always been a dream of mine to lead students around the world, as I think that travel is one of the best ways to become an educated and compassionate human being. As other teachers in my school have led EF tours, EF seemed like the best educational travel company out there to partner with me—they’re who I can put my trust in and feel safest with.

I’m getting ready to travel with my students on Treasures of Central Europe this summer. I’ve never been to any of the cities we’re visiting on tour, and I’m really looking forward to going with wide eyes while also showing my students the beauty of other places and that they’re not the only fish in the sea.

In my personal travel, even if something happens, it’s always a great learning experience. So how can I make this tour the most educational for my students, and how can I ensure they’ll get the most out of it?

Going into my training tour, I was hoping to gain lots of knowledge from both EF and our Global Education Ambassadors about how to make our trip safe, memorable, and very meaningful for my students. I wanted to better understand my role in our student tour, and learn how I’ll interact with our Tour Director, local guides, and bus drivers.

Keep reading to explore my group’s adventures during our four whirlwind days in Paris together, as well as some key takeaways I’m applying for my upcoming travel this summer.

Sunday

Arrivals, the Latin Quarter, and the Louvre

Bonjour, Paris! 🇫🇷 What a long flight, but how nice to see Jess, an EF staff member, waiting for me and other teachers who arrived at the same time on the other side of baggage claim. We loaded our suitcases onto the bus and headed straight to the Louvre to meet the rest of the group.

After taking in the beautiful glass pyramids in the main courtyard, we had about two hours to venture through the world’s largest museum at our own pace in smaller teams. Seeing Venus de Milo, Athena of Velletri, and other statues of famous Greek gods and goddesses made me forget the jet lag and revived my passion for ancient mythology.

We then walked the streets of the Latin Quarter with our Tour Director, Mirka (who will stay with us during the entirety of our trip), where we saw landmarks along the Seine River like Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Conciergerie, St. Chapelle, and Pont Neuf. The day ended with our first delicious Parisian dinner.

It was easy to make friends with the other teachers as we explored the Louvre and the streets of Paris, since we’re the students on this trip! What an opportunity—touring one of the world’s most famous cities with other educators while learning how we will lead our own students this summer.

Monday

Training seminar, the Eiffel Tower, and a free evening to explore

While I consider myself a world traveler, leading an educational trip with my students is a completely different and new experience for me. Instead of teaching out of a textbook, our classroom will be Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, France, and Switzerland. So from this morning’s seminar, I learned lots of helpful tips—what to do if a passport is lost, how to help an anxious student, navigating morning wake-up checks, staying patient and positive, setting and repeating safety rules and instructions, etc.

This afternoon, we met our expert local guide, Brian, who showed us all around Paris. We stopped for photos at the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Les Invalides, rode down the Champs-Élysée, passed by Place de la Concorde, and more. I’ve seen these famous spots on a previous trip to Paris, but today I’ve learned much more about the history behind them, and connected with even more teachers.

Our group had the option to climb Montparnasse Tower’s 60 floors in 38 seconds (by elevator, of course) to get a 360-degree, birds-eye view of Paris, which was breathtaking. After that, the evening was ours to dine and explore some more.

Tuesday

Training seminar, Versailles, and a farewell Seine River Cruise

Before this training tour to Paris, I did not feel quite as prepared to take my students on a 16-day adventure, as EF tours are not the same as traveling with friends and family. But after gathering even more info during the second training seminar this morning and understanding that a highly experienced, positive, and friendly Tour Director (like Mirka!) will be with us 24/7, my level of confidence has risen dramatically.

We spent our final afternoon touring the Palace of Versailles with our local guide, where we saw the iconic Hall of Mirrors and admired the styling of the State Apartments of the Queen. We then had time to stroll through its sprawling gardens and weave through its fountains and shrubs.

After our farewell dinner as a group, where we all toasted to new friends and more travel ahead, we boarded an evening Seine River Cruise. We saw the sparkling Eiffel Tower up close and personal and got unique views of Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, Museé D’Orsay, St. Chapelle, and Place de la Concorde. It was the perfect way to end our trip, and makes me so excited to travel with my students this summer. I want them to come away with a never-ending curiosity to explore.

It’s been my dream for 20 years to show students a part of the world, and now I can do it professionally, confidently, and successfully with EF.

Wednesday

Returning home, reflections, and looking ahead

Fly-home day. As I sit on the plane writing this, I realize it’s already time to plan my tour’s pre-departure meeting. There are many details to cover with travelers and their parents, but I’m feeling much more confident in planning and leading this tour. What’s surprised me the most is how quickly the last few days have passed, and how educational our time together has been. It was way more than a vacation—I’ve never learned so much in my travels in such a short amount of time. I know that things are going to happen on tour that will be unexpected, and some of it will not be within my realm of control, but I know that I can count on my fellow chaperones and EF to help me solve anything that comes our way.

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Cheryl M.

Cheryl knew by age 10 that she had a passion for seeing the world, its people, and its cultures. She taught high school English for 15 years and is now a resource teacher and EF Group Leader. She’s traveled to Australia, Asia, Europe (quite a few times), and Central America. She hopes to cross all seven continents off of her travel bucket list.