Airplane view of Ecuador from a trip that Franklin students took there during summer of 2023. This was a trip organized with Education First (EF) Tours, which provides students with first-hand experience in different countries and cultures around the world. Photo by Opal Rockett.

As you may already know, traveling internationally is a truly eye opening experience. Through collaboration with Education First (EF) Tours, Franklin is able to provide organized trips to a wide variety of destinations. Some trips are taken with a certain class, such as the Spanish program visiting Peru in summer of 2021, while others are service or culture-oriented. Upcoming trip destinations include Thailand and Costa Rica in summer of 2024, both organized with EF Tours. 

EF Tours was founded in 1965 as a family-owned business. Now, their guided tours can be found in 114 different countries and all 7 continents. According to the EF Tours website, the company “aspire[s] to bring people around the globe together through education.” EF representatives are tasked with providing guidance in the planning and execution of tours. For example, Beth Biagini, science teacher here at Franklin, commented that, “most of the activities were chosen by the company. But when we were in Ecuador, [the] tour director made suggestions of alternate activities several times.” Biagini adds that the director’s expertise proved helpful as they began to “deeply trust his ideas, because they always ended up being superb.” Although groups are made up of only Franklin students, the trip is not associated with the school, but rather solely with EF Tours. 

Activities vary across the trips, from service projects to safaris. All these experiences can  have a drastic impact on students and teachers alike. On the Peru trip in 2022, the group engaged in a two day service project with the Sacred Valley Project, a non-profit providing indigenous girls in Peru with education. “Meeting these girls was a profound moment,” said Annie Latterell, a Franklin student who went on the Peru trip. “I’ve always taken school for granted, but I got first hand experience [on] how it can be a luxury for others.” On the trip, students were able to help clear a yard for a new school building. This opportunity not only benefited the non-profit, but also students who were able to visibly see themselves make a difference in the community. 

Traveling also makes dreams come true, as it did for Sahnzi Moyers, a Franklin science teacher. Moyers organized the South Africa trip that took place in the summer of 2023, which included a wildlife safari. Moyers recalled, “I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it- it’s [been] a lifelong dream for me.”

People who have gone on these trips have found that one of the most valuable lessons from traveling internationally is getting an immersive cultural experience. From interacting with these cultures first hand, these trips go beyond what many people experience in their day-to-day lives. “[Travel] can help put our own lives— our itty bitty lives that feel so big— in better perspective,” says Moyers. “[It can] remind us that this is not the only country on the planet, we are not the only people on the planet, [and] there are lots of different ways to live.” Nothing is truly the same from one country to the next, although they may have similarities. Getting out and exploring the world is an incredible way to broaden your horizons. 

International travel teaches participants a lot about a new place, but also gives context to better understand their home country. Moyers explained that “learning about the history and what’s going on socially [in South Africa], and thinking about how it has some parallels with what’s going on in the United States was extremely impactful.” The trip focused on the social-cultural-political context of South Africa, including a visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Apartheid was a social system that limited economic and political rights for people of color in South Africa. The museum contained quotes from the Prime Minister Desmond Tutu describing the authoritarian government controlling the country from the 1940s to the 1990s. “It was kind of scary because if someone told me those quotes were from an American on current American politics, I wouldn’t bat an eye,” said Latterell.   

Travel also provides an opportunity to learn more about yourself, including “how you deal with obstacles and things that might scare you,” says Biagini. “I know a lot of us were super nervous about the boat rides in the Galapagos. Half of the kids were puking on the first boat ride…and we all had to get back on the boat the following day…we all had to dig really deep to get onboard that day.” She also mentioned that she enjoyed “seeing the students see and do things for the first time, like snorkeling or river rafting or ziplining… getting over their fears.”

Organization of trips exploring other countries does not exist without downsides, including skimming over certain components of the cultures. For example, Latterell commented that she “thought the food we ate was very white washed, instead of organizing our schedule to eat at authentic restaurants.” According to the EF Tours website, breakfast is usually the typical hotel breakfast, while dinner is either familiar dishes or local dishes. Food is an important aspect of a country’s culture, and on their website, EF states that lunch is an opportunity to “make culinary discoveries of your own.” These trips are limited by length and are only able to scratch the surface of what could be explored over a much longer period of time. However, EF Tours is able to provide organized trips with incredible opportunities, that would cause nail-biting stress if someone attempted planning them on their own. 

This is not to say that travel is not a privilege; it’s a luxury that many people are unable to partake in due to cost. Although companies like EF Tours do simplify the whole process, they are not without extreme costs. EF Tours cites on their website, however, that they do “provid[e] the lowest price on the market.” They also have a Global Citizen Scholarship, which is both need and merit-based, and gives out $100,000 to students across the world. Traveling also has a drastic climate impact. According to data from Our World in Data, air travel accounts for 2.5% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. While this may not seem like a lot, it encapsulates the fact that travel is costly in many ways. 

Costs can lead to inaccessibility for many, resulting in a barrier preventing global interconnection. In order to make education through travel more widespread, progress has to be made to make it both more environmentally friendly and more affordable. If traveling internationally with Franklin is appealing, there are two upcoming trips this summer led by teachers at Franklin: Thailand with Beth Biagini and Costa Rica with Ruben Navarette. The benefits of traveling are endless, and if you are privileged with the opportunity to experience it, make the most of it!

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