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Group Leader Spotlight: Rachel and Amy transform students into global scholars

Rachel S. and Amy P., English teachers at a high school in Connecticut, came into teaching with very different travel backgrounds. Before leading her first tour with EF, Rachel’s only experience abroad was an alternative spring break trip to Nicaragua during college. Amy had traveled on EF’s Bell’Italia tour in high school and then studied abroad in Florence. “I knew that when I went into teaching, travel was something that I definitely wanted to bring to my students because I had seen how it had changed my life,” says Amy.

Even though their experience varied, they understood that travel, and the open-mindedness that comes with travel, would benefit the students in their small town. So they started a Global Scholars class at their school, a required course for the students who travel with them during the year before their tour departs in April. After they return from tour, students finish up the class by completing their weShare projects.

The class covers the cultures, customs, and languages of the countries they’ll visit, and students learn the importance of being open to worlds unfamiliar to them. “We want students to dig a little bit deeper and really understand the language and the history of these countries so that they have a greater appreciation for them,” says Amy.

The syllabus changes each year, depending on their upcoming tour destinations (right now, they’re focusing on Berlin, Prague, Krakow, and Budapest in preparation for their tour this spring). By the time the students board the plane, some flying for the first time, they’ll have nearly a year’s worth of preparation packed with them.

The teachers have seen the impact of their efforts firsthand. Students who had once considered certain opportunities off-limits, such as moving to a city or traveling independently, are now rethinking their post-grad steps. “Through these experiences, students really start to see themselves in a new light,” says Rachel. “It changes how they’re going to view the world from then on.”

Throughout the whole process, there’s one aspect that their students always ace: confidence.

“Our kids leave with this sense of empowerment,” says Rachel. “They think, ‘I made it through Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, and I was okay. I can navigate a college campus. I can navigate whatever comes next.’”

Hannah Sheinberg

Hannah is a copywriter at EF Education First. She's written about kava culture in Fiji, Jurassic fossils in Dorset, and mountain towns in Mallorca. Her favorite vacation spot is Kauai, where she likes to surf and eat her weight in shave ice.

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