Group Leader coffee break

Talking student connections, unreal views, and lifelong memories with Julie A.

As an EF Group Leader, you’re part of a community of educators dedicated to connecting students with the world around them. As awesome people (with a shared awesome mission) it only makes sense for you to connect with one another, too. So, whether you’re sipping a cappuccino in Italy, a hot cafezinho in Brazil, or a to-go cup o’ Joe in the USA, use this well-deserved coffee break as a chance to get to know one of your fellow leaders even better.

This month, we chatted with Julie A., a high school librarian from Michigan who describes her travel style as adventurous and spontaneous.

3 quick sips from your latest tour, Austria, Germany & Switzerland

Favorite moment?

My husband, Gary (who was a chaperone), and five of our travelers had never left the country prior to our trip. Seeing the trip through their eyes was wonderful!

Best thing you ate?

Pizza while sitting along the Grand Canal at Rialto Bridge in Venice.

Unexpected site or activity you loved?

San Gimignano! The Tuscan city is famous for its medieval towers. We climbed Torre Grossa and saw views that seemed like they must be backdrops. It was picture-perfect and will be forever engraved into our memory.

Collage showcasing Julie and the student connections she's made on tour

Top moment from any tour?

Taking the paddle boats out on Lake Lucerne on Austria, Germany & Switzerland. Our whole group went. When we got out to the center, people started jumping in the water one by one! Before we knew it, everyone was swimming. The memory of swimming on a hot summer day with the Alps surrounding us was surreal. We laughed so hard and had the best time. Even now, the pictures make me laugh out loud and bring laughing tears to my eyes. It was a moment we will never forget.

Most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?

Honestly, one of my students! I got to know him on a completely different level. I think this is one of the best parts of traveling. Even though I know these travelers as students, seeing them in the travel element is completely different—it’s a side of them we rarely see. I so enjoyed seeing a side of my student that I would have never expected. His perspective and knowledge captured my heart.

Top small moment from any tour?

Watching everyone slide down the shoot on the salt mine tour in Salzburg! SO. MUCH. FUN. And the tour was so interesting!

Favorite way to pass the time on the bus?

Journaling, playing Euchre, and blasting music for sing-alongs.

A post-tour student story that makes you proud?

Students who travel with me again and again and again. I think it says so much about the EF experience and the relationship we’ve developed during our time traveling together.

Group Leader Julie A. making student connections on tour in Salzburg, Austria

Julie and her group in Salzburg, Austria.

Three ways travel has helped you grow as an educator?

1. Getting to know students on a completely different level.
2. Experiencing new cultures, religions, and history right where it happened.
3. Learning new problem-solving techniques for in-the-moment issues.

An on-tour student story that will always stay with you?

The “Greek evening” experience during Athens & the Islands! The evening was the most fun I have had with any group. The establishment that put on the event was top notch. We had amazing food, great entertainment, and everyone got involved. Smashing the plates, learning dance moves, and seeing our students get dressed up in Greek clothing to join in the show was hysterical. Everyone was laughing, dancing, and having an amazing time. The setting above the city of Athens and everything about the night was perfect. A not-to-miss event. So glad everyone signed up!

Julie forming student connections with her travelers during a Greek Night in Athens

1/3 Julie and her group enjoying a Greek evening in Athens.

Julie's group in Athens making student connections and lifelong bonds


Travelers dancing during Greek Night in Athens as they bond and make student connections


1/3 Julie and her group enjoying a Greek evening in Athens.



Best tour planning advice for first-time Group Leaders?

Give up control and tell your Tour Director you’d like to do some unexpected things. Some of our different on-tour surprises have included swimming in Lake Lucerne, hiking to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, surfing lessons in Australia, and stopping for gelato or local fare. Just make sure to ask for a bit of extra money from parents for these fun adventures, about $50 per student.

The number one thing you hope your students or your community get out of educational travel?

The bug to travel more! The world has so much to offer and through travel we gain a sense of perspective and appreciation. We bond, make memories, experience new cultures, are humbled, learn, think globally, and escape reality. There is no better classroom.

Where in the world have you had the best coffee?


Feeling energized after your Group Leader coffee break?

Take that energy to-go on one of our educational adventures.

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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).

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