So, you’re ready to bring your students on an absolutely unforgettable adventure abroad. It’s an opportunity you’ll all be dreaming about each day before the trip — but before you actually get to your destination, there is (sigh) a lot of preparation for both you and the students to do.
While the process of prepping for the trip can seem daunting at times, it can also be a fun and educational experience for both you and your students. (Really!) Here’s how to prepare for an international trip, from recruiting students to finalizing your checklists.
Teacher's Guide to Preparing Students for an International Trip
Recruit Students for an International Trip with Q&As and Information Sessions
The first step to a successful international class trip is to get students and parents alike interested in the opportunity. Of course, it’s possible not everyone will be able to go, whether that’s because of costs or other personal reasons. Still, you’ll likely find the prospect of an international school trip will have your students leaping out of their seats to come.
Hold information sessions or Q&As for parents and students alike that emphasize the myriad benefits of this trip: Describe the destinations the students will see, the cultures they will interact with, and the skills they will learn. You can also give out pertinent information about cost breakdowns, fundraising initiatives, safety measures, visa and passport matters, and timelines at these sessions. Even better, if you work with an all inclusive school tour operator like Travel For Teens, they will host the informational session for you. An outside tour operator will know all of the questions to anticipate and the best way to market the trip to your students, making it the most stress-free option to consider!
Once Students Are Onboard for an International School Trip, Set Trip Rules …
Going abroad is an adventure for everyone, but as with any adventure, safety has to be emphasized first — especially in countries that will have different laws and societal expectations. For example, some destinations will have specific rules about alcohol or interacting with wildlife, while others may have unspoken but understood guidelines about behavior on public transportation. And of course, you want everyone to get through the trip safely, which means rules need to be followed.
Set clear trip guidelines with your class beforehand, as well as the cost of violating these guidelines. Keeping parents informed about these rules is crucial, too.
… But Set Trip Expectations, Too
Once the rules and regulations are out of the way, it’s time to focus on the fun stuff! After all, you’re all heading to a beautiful and interesting destination completely unlike your typical day-to-day life. Set expectations both as individuals and as a group. Ask them what they hope to get out of the trip — whether that be increased language skills, greater self-sufficiency, bravery in unfamiliar situations, or seeing specific sights, for example — and explain to them what you hope they will also take away from the experience, whether it be something specific or more general.
This way, everyone is going into the trip with clear targets in mind. Maybe have them journal about these hopes and expectations beforehand, so they can better reflect on what they’ve learned when the trip is over.
Research Cultural Norms as a Group
Going abroad can be a little scary and confusing, especially if it’s an entirely new destination. After all, cultural norms vary greatly depending on where you are in the world. Make sure to research this before the trip begins — you could also ask your students to help you with this as a fun project!
Then, as a group, discuss the ways the customs at your destination differ from your country’s — and how they’re similar, too. This preparation can help ease cultural shock and dissuade homesickness.
And speaking of homesickness: Encourage your students to bring mementos from home so they have comforting items if they need them. Make sure they know you’re a resource they can turn to if they’re not feeling well, and emphasize that they can still easily connect with loved ones while abroad.
Ensure Students Have the Practical Matters Sorted Out
Naturally, one of the most important aspects of preparing for an international trip is making sure you have the proper paperwork! Give clear instructions to parents and students about what forms they’ll need for this trip: Do they just need a passport or a visa? Are any vaccinations required? What about COVID-19 testing?
And it’s not just the paperwork to get into the country itself they’ll need to get sorted out. Make sure students and parents are also aware of how much money they should have and how they can access funds while abroad if needed. They’ll also likely want to plan cell phone service, whether that means parents allow students to use international data or stick to WiFi areas and avoid the charges.
The best way to help this process go smoothly is to set up a checklist for each participant along with a clear timeline. Once they’ve made their way through that list, they’re on their way to an adventure of a lifetime!
And of course, if this all seems like a lot … you don’t have to do it! Consider a tour operator like Travel For Teens, which will host informational meetings, provide information about cultural norms and expectations, and even handle all of the logistical details like finances, vaccinations, and paperwork. You can learn more about the benefits of using one here.