Here at EF, we could speak about the lifelong impact of student travel experiences all day—but it’s far more powerful when you hear directly from educators who get to personally witness (and experience) their transformative effects. That’s why we met up with Stephanie R., a Spanish teacher from Iowa, on her EF student tour to Spain this past summer. While abroad, she told us all about the impact travel has on students and teachers, how experiencing the culture in person bring her lessons to life, and how showing her students the world keeps her passion for teaching Spanish burning bright.
Why Stephanie keeps going (literally and figuratively)
Teaching has always been an incredibly challenging job, but the past few years have been unlike anything else. Burnt out educators are leaving the profession in droves, so it resonates when Stephanie says you simply can’t be a teacher in this day and age unless you absolutely love what you do. That’s one of the reasons Stephanie keeps taking her students abroad. Because between seeing them practice their Spanish in real-world situations, broaden their cultural connections and understanding, and grow as more confident, independent, and empathetic human beings, traveling perfectly encapsulates all the reasons why she wanted to become a teacher in the first place.
Seeing real growth in real time
Over the course of her 29 EF tours, Stephanie has seen her students grow in countless ways. But the moments that made her proudest during this last trip were simply watching her students socialize with one another and make new friends, as that wasn’t something they were able to do during the pandemic. She watched as they formed new friendships over food, or by taking pictures together, or even helping one another practice the language—which, as a Spanish teacher, was especially fulfilling. She absolutely loved when her student, Joe, noticed another traveler he didn’t know well struggling to ask a vendor for something, and immediately jumped right up to make the request in Spanish. “That’s really what I wanted to see,” Stephanie gushed. “That this kid felt comfortable enough to go up and help.” And if you think that’s heartwarming, listen below to hear about one of Stephanie’s all-time favorite student growth moments that happened on a previous tour to Italy.
Lasting change back home
Year after year, Stephanie’s travelers return home from tour more confident, independent, and culturally aware—and nothing makes her prouder than when their parents comment on how much their children have changed. Stephanie believes the impact will be even more noticeable for this group, as they’re finally getting the chance to have meaningful interactions with each other in person again. “I think it’s changing how they’re going to be at school next year,” she says. “And how they’ll be in the future.”
Watching Stephanie lead her students abroad, it’s clear the only things she loves more than the Spanish culture and language are her students themselves. She’s meant to be a teacher through and through. But if it weren’t for her own college trip to Spain, she may never have come to this conclusion. That’s (yet another) reason Stephanie keeps leading tours—so she can give her students the same opportunity to discover what in the world they’re most passionate about. Listen below to hear more about Stephanie’s career path, along with the story of one of her former students whose EF tour helped her find her larger purpose.
Read more of our blog to learn why educators from all around the world partner with EF to promote their students’ growth and development.Read more