After practicing law in Philadelphia for three years, Chris Seymore decided to change careers and become a teacher. Eight years later he says, “Without question I made the right decision. I look forward to coming to work every day. I’m a million times happier as a teacher than I ever was as a lawyer.” Today, Seymore teaches World Cultures/Global Studies and Constitutional Law at Ridley High School, outside of Philadelphia. Since 2006, he has traveled on eight EF tours, and in 2009, he visited 14 countries. Here he tells us about his travel experiences.
What inspired you to begin traveling abroad with students?
My only international travel prior to 2006 was when I visited Toronto during my sophomore year in high school. As a world cultures teacher, I decided it was time to experience other cultures with my students and do some teaching and learning outside the traditional classroom environment. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine what the next three years would bring! In the last three years, I have been to Europe 11 times (eight tours, one Paris Orientation, one Rome Orientation and one personal visit to Italy on my own). I also visited Jordan and Egypt in 2009 as part of an EF Teacher Convention Tour. In 2010, I will travel on three EF tours: Discover Costa Rica, European Horizons and a customized tour of Paris, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and the Greek Islands. The impact on me has been tremendous, and the experiences we have had through EF have been life-changing for so many of my students.
Why do you think it is important for students to travel on an educational tour?
In today’s interconnected global society, it is essential to have an awareness and understanding of different cultures and languages, and the way people live in other parts of the world. The experiences my students have had on tour truly have broken down barriers and opened their minds to a world that is full of opportunity. When kids are forced to embrace the culturally unfamiliar, they learn and grow in ways that simply cannot occur in the classroom.
What kind of an effect does traveling abroad have on your students?
Traveling abroad changes them in profound ways. It causes them to consider their place in a globalized world. It gets them to think of themselves differently, to develop a respect and love for different cultures and to see themselves as citizens of the world.
Do you have a favorite memory from tour?
I have so many favorite memories with my students: riding camels in Morocco, the night cruise on the Seine and strolling Las Ramblas in Barcelona on a sunny June day. Of course, there’s the time in Athens when four of my students decided to shave their heads as a tribute to me at the end of our Italy and Greece tour in 2007.
How about this one? This past summer in Madrid, my students and I met a Spanish woman who grew up in Atlanta; she lives in one of the apartments at the top of the Plaza Mayor. This woman, Roxana, invited my entire group to come to her apartment to view a concert in the Plaza Mayor. It was so wonderful to be welcomed into her home. My students knew they were experiencing something unexpected and truly special. We spent 17 days touring London, Paris, the French countryside and much of Spain, and without question, this unplanned evening in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor was one of the highlights.
You’ve spoken at Paris and Rome Orientation. Why do you think it is important for new group leaders to attend Paris or Rome Orientation? Do you have any good advice for them?
Attending an orientation is invaluable. You will get so many insiders’ tips and great ideas that will definitely enhance your tour and make you feel so much more confident leading your first group of students abroad. The EF staff and the experienced group leaders will make sure you’re totally prepared for your first tour. Plus, it’s just a fantastic time.
You’ve been very successful at organizing and recruiting students for your trips. Do you have any tips for recruiting students for your tour?
It is absolutely essential that you begin recruiting not only for next year, but for the following year. Don’t just recruit for the upcoming summer. If you recruit two years in advance, you will make travel financially feasible for many more students and families. A $3,200 tour may be impossible for a family if they only have eight months to come up with the money, but if you give that same family 20 months, there’s a good chance that that student will end up enrolling on your tour. I have 79 students enrolled on three tours in 2010 and 47 students enrolled on my 2011 customized tour of Italy and Spain. And, amazingly, I already have four students enrolled on my customized tour of France and Spain in 2012, which includes two places I’ve never seen: Normandy and Mallorca. If you want as many of your students as possible to travel with you, give them as much time as possible to save the necessary money to do so.
How do you get your students excited to travel and keep their excitement up until it is time to depart?
Well, I am never not talking about our upcoming tours. Enthusiasm is infectious. The passion I have for traveling and running tours really has rubbed off on my students. So many of them will stop me in the hallway to tell me how excited they are for our upcoming tours, even when the tour in question is 18 months away. Remind your students that their EF tour is going to be the most amazing and most memorable two weeks of their lives.