Student Jenny in Japan enjoying a life-changing travel experience

Student spotlight

Sometimes, all it takes is the offer of travel to spark something incredible

Jenny G. always wanted to see the world, but never thought she’d actually be able to do it. Not, that is, until she became a freshman at Indio high school and learned that math teacher Yolanda M. was leading a tour to Japan. The mere knowledge that a trip was happening was enough to make Jenny finally believe she could travel—even though she knew it would require lots of hard work, preparation, and fundraising to turn her dreams into a reality.

Watch the video below to learn why Jenny feels her teacher’s offer to travel opened a world of new possibilities—and why she’s passionate about helping even more students realize they, too, can have life-changing travel experiences.


Want to hear more from Jenny?
Read our Q&A.


You’ve said that when teachers or parents give students the chance to travel, they open the door to amazing possibilities. How do you feel your tour experience has opened new doors or helped you grow?


My tour has helped me grow in almost every single way possible. It’s helped me see the world with a new perspective. It’s helped me learn about different cultures. And it’s given me the travel bug—I’ve now signed up for every single trip that our school has offered.

Before my tour, I never thought travel was for me, because I grew up in an area where that opportunity just wasn’t given to me. But now, I know I can go anywhere I want to. And I want to give that opportunity to other people and let them know they have the chance to travel, too. So in that way, my tour has also helped me careerwise.

Tell me more about that. What are you thinking careerwise?

Next year, I’m going to UC Berkeley to study global management. I’ve always had a business side to myself, but I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do. Learning about EF’s mission statement has helped me realize I want to work with teachers to help other students have life-changing travel experiences and realize their dreams and possibilities.

You’re currently working as an EF intern. Can you speak more to that?

The internship allows me to do outreach work. My community and the community around me are largely Hispanic and Latino, and most of the time, we don’t come from families that preach travel. They don’t tell us that we can go places, and we’re just kind of stuck in this bubble. Whenever we think of travel, we just think of it in movies, and we don’t pay much attention to it. Like, “Yeah, that’d be great,” but that’s it, and you just move on.

So now, my internship is giving me the opportunity to communicate with other teachers from middle schools and high schools around me to start a conversation around travel. I can ask, “Are you willing to take your kids on a trip that will not only get them outside of their comfort zones, but also let them know they don’t have to stay right here forever? If they choose to, then that’s fine. But you can at least give them the opportunity to know there’s a whole world outside of where we’re from.” So this internship has allowed me to start a travel program at a local middle school, and we’re working on starting other programs.

Jenny poses for three photos during her life-changing travel experience in Japan

That’s great you’re having these conversations with teachers. Speaking of, some educators don’t offer tours because they don’t think their class will be able to afford it. How did your teacher address travel costs?

I want to say that Ms. Mendoza made it possible for me to travel. My mom was already allowing me to go, but after hearing Ms. Mendoza speak, she was even more comfortable with letting me go because she was like, “Yes, I understand that it’s expensive. And yes, we see a big number. But [EF] gives us the chance to pay bi-weekly or monthly, so they’re in smaller chunks to pay.”

Also, my teacher offered a lot of different fundraising opportunities. She was always on our side, helping us to come up with a template for donation letters, or holding dedicated time to talk about fundraising ideas. We were always thinking outside the box—like what could we do to fundraise, and how could we advertise it?

What were some of the fundraisers you participated in?

One of our chaperones is a ceramics teacher, and she helped us create little plates and place card holders to sell. We also sold tickets for things like car washes and food. I’d just keep asking for more tickets so I could keep selling them.

EF’s online donation page also helped a lot, because I could create letters and emails that would link off to it. Plus, I’ve always been a little hustler, selling candy and chips and things like that. So I kept branching out and thinking of my own different ideas, along with the opportunities provided by my math teacher.

How do you feel your tour experience changed your relationship with your teacher?

I have built a really good relationship with her. When I was in Japan, I started getting homesick toward the end of the trip. She was there, and she hugged me, and she was there as a mother figure.

Plus, I know she has helped me get to where I’m at now, because if it weren’t for her, I would never have gotten the travel bug, and I would never have actually had the opportunity to go to these different places—or even imagine it.

Thinking next steps, do you have any interest in studying abroad once you’re in college?

I’ve always wanted to study abroad, and I used to have ideas of places I wanted to go—like London, or Paris, or Australia. But then when my first international trip ended up being to Japan with my school, it got me thinking, “I don’t really need a bucket list. I’ll go anywhere.”

Jenny's EF tour group smiles together during their life-changing travel experience in Japan

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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).