Four Tips for Bringing New Cultures Alive for Students

Sure, a lot is written about “bucket lists” and “doing it for the ‘Gram,” but students and their teachers today want far more than a checkmark and a photo from their international travel program. Seeing the sites is great, but experiencing a new culture is what makes travel transformative.

High school teacher Josh Lopez has been leading international programs abroad for ten years, and has taken his students to 15 countries on four continents. In honor of International Education Week, we caught up with Josh to learn about his top criteria for a perfect tour (and a great travel partner too). Josh happily obliged, and shared four tips for bringing new cultures alive for students.

Location, location, location
Mr. Lopez believes it’s important to stay in hotels that put students in the heart of the action and close to town center, particularly when in Europe. As he explained it, European culture comes alive at night, and that’s when locals spill out into the streets with their families and friends. He encourages his students to take these opportunities to stroll the squares, patronize restaurants, and fully immerse themselves in the culture. (Keeping in mind, of course, high-quality, well-located hotels are essential to be sure free time and especially nighttime walking tours are both convenient and fun, and also safe!)

Josh and his students take on London

Hands-on activities make tours more educational
Josh believes his students learn more when they go beyond simply visiting and walking around sites. Even outside the classroom, fatigue can set in while listening to an expert explain a culture. Josh strives to see his students engaged in what they are exposed to, and trusts our trademarked LEAP activities do an excellent job of helping students to actively participate with the sites, cultures, and each other.

Eat like the locals do
Meals are a surprisingly important way for students to stretch their boundaries and experience new things, and Josh is a major supporter of this. He says WorldStrides has always offered authentic cuisine in real restaurants. “In Peru, one of my students tried guinea pig for the first time. In China he tried scorpion. These kinds of firsts actually open my students’ minds to all the different things that are out there in the world,” he shared.

Josh and a student at the Great Wall of China

More than a tour guide
Without hesitation, Josh highlights the tour directors that he has worked with through WorldStrides as the heroes behind his tours’ success. He notes the Tour Directors’ encyclopedic knowledge of their respective countries and their palapable passion for sharing it. Josh says they often introduce subjects or ideas that he can bring back to the classroom and expand upon – something of major value for an educator! “It comes down to this: These people take pains to personalize everything for the kids. I don’t see that with other companies. Not only do I get to know my WorldStrides Tour Directors, but I trust them.”

At WorldStrides, we know that the team behind your program can make or break a travel experience, and much of what makes travel special and memorable is who you travel with! When asked what he looks for in a travel partner, Josh’s answer was instant. “Someone who’s going to work hard to give us critical things like scholarships and fundraising. A partner who truly wants the students to be able to experience the world as much as I do – no one has shared that feeling with me like WorldStrides!”

Well, gee, thanks for the kind words, Josh! We think you are pretty fantastic yourself!