Foreign Educational Tours vs. Foreign Exchange – What Suits You?

Feburary 7, 2019
Angela Reizovic

Foreign exchange and travel can be a big draw for any world language program. It can also be tough to know where to start with it all. There are quite a few things to consider, some of which are: what your students would be interested in (and financially able to do), what would be supported by your school’s community, and what it would look like, getting the support of your school district. I will look at possible methods of international travel that can be integrated into a world language program and provide some resources for each option.

Do you want a true student exchange with a homestay and the benefits of relationship-building and language immersion? Or is pre-organized group travel more your speed? There are benefits and drawbacks to each of these options. Let’s take a look at what each are and how those benefits and drawbacks might help decide what might work best for your world language program.

Homestay Exchange: A group or class of your students will partner with another classroom or school group in a different country (of a specific target language) and stay in the homes of the partnering classroom’s students. The opposite may then take place, where the partnering classroom will travel to the U.S. and stay in the homes of your students. Often, the students will visit the school and shadow their “partner student” as they go to their classes. This exchange will usually last anywhere between a few days to a month, and travel can take place either during the school year or in the summer. 

Educational Travel Tour:  A group of your students will travel to a destination country or countries with a specific target language and typically sightsee highlights with a dedicated tour guide and oftentimes with a dedicated tour bus. The group will usually travel, tour, and lodge together with possible “free time” for small group excursions in larger cities.

Homestay Exchange

Benefits:

  • Building lasting relationships with people from other countries.
  • Authentic opportunities to speak the target language are available for each student.
  • Unique and individual cultural experience for each student.
  • Typically less expensive for students, due to lack of hotel costs.

Drawbacks:

  • Can be a greater potential liability for a school district.
  • Possible difficulty finding and keeping a partnering school.
  • Can be more work to organize and plan for the teacher/coordinator.

Educational Travel Tour

Benefits:

  • Gets students exposed to the culture and language and provides the opportunity to travel that might not otherwise be available.
  • Less work organizing the travel for the coordinator/teacher.   
  • Many educational tour companies are very experienced in working with school district requirements.

Drawbacks:

  • Possibility for no opportunity available to speak target language authentically.
  • Decent potential to only stay with the group and not experience culture independently.
  • Minimal opportunity to build relationships with people from other country.

Now that we have an idea of types of international travel, lets look at what’s out there for travel resources. I have included reputable homestay exchange options, well known educational tour groups, as well as a third option for the independent student adventurer: independent student exchange.  

Homestay Exchange Resources

https://www.goethe.de/ins/us/en/spr/eng/gap.html – GAPP Exchange (German American Partnership Program) – German/American Classroom exchange for high school groups.

https://greenheartexchange.org/host/school-to-school-exchange/ – Spanish Classroom Exchange for high school – Mainly has partnerships with Spain.  

https://www.acis.com/homestay – ACIS provides short (3-4 day) homestay immersion opportunities in a variety of Spanish, French, and German speaking countries.

Educational Tour Companies

https://www.eftours.com/ – EF Tours provides tours to many locations for a variety of target languages. The company will work with the school coordinator/teacher to provide a trip at a customizable experience.

https://www.acis.com/ – Also a great educational travel company that travels to a variety of countries. A coordinator can choose a focus for their travel, whether it be leadership, service-learning, STEM, music, or a sports focused tour.

Independent Student Exchange Resources

This option is usually not the most sought after for teachers looking to build their world language program, but is a great resource for students looking to go further with a language. While there are endless resources for high school exchange, I have included just one resource that is no cost to the student and supported by the U.S. State Department.

https://exchanges.state.gov/highschool/ – These are full scholarship study abroad opportunities, supported by the U.S. State Department and partnering governments of various other countries.  Partnerships include countries of French, Spanish, German, Arabic, and other primary languages. The application process is rigorous, but the entire exchange costs nothing to the student. These opportunities can last anywhere between a couple of weeks to an entire year, all at the high school level.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

– Gustave Flaubert



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