Sunday, January 24, 2016

What to Plan for When Taking Students Abroad - Once You Get There {Part 4 of 4}

This is my last blog post about traveling abroad with students. The first post focuses on why you should take a trip abroad with students (HERE), the second focuses on how to plan a trip (HERE), the third focuses on what to plan for before the trip (HERE), and this final post focuses on what to plan for once you get to your destination. This post is basically what I learned through experience, having taken teenagers abroad.

If you did a good job weeding out the students who can't behave themselves well enough for a trip abroad (from my second blog post), and you explained your expectations and incited enough fear into the students traveling with you (from my third blog post), then your problems should be minimal. However, there are a variety of factors you need to consider when traveling with a group of teenagers.


1.  Know the hotel.

As soon as you get to the hotel, check it out. Is there a terrace on the top floor? Where are the stairwells? Is there is a large lobby? Are there other rooms for teenagers to hang out in by the lobby? Is there a gym? Think like a teenager - where would you go to have private time with a pretty girl or cute boy? Find those places. Your students have already checked out the hotel online and those are the places you need to be wary of and look first when Johnny isn't in his room during bed checks, or when Jason and Mary have 2 hours of free time in the hotel after dinner. If everyone is hanging out in a big group, then they should be fine, as long as they aren't loud. But if everyone except Jason and Mary are hanging out in the lobby, then you need to be on Baby Watch in the terrace, the gym, the stairwells, and all the hidden nooks of the hotel. Find Jason and Mary!

2.  Know where your students are.

Know where your students are, even if you are not with them. Make sure that your students are traveling in groups when there is free time during the day and no one is leaving Greg to wander the streets of Florence by himself. No one goes anywhere by themselves! Knowing where your students are also goes hand-in-hand with Baby Watch if you realize that Jason and Mary have snuck off for some private time when you get back to the hotel at night. If you don't know where your students are, then Jason and Mary might be taking advantage of that.

3.  Set a curfew.

Set a curfew with students and stick to it. If students have to be up by 7am the next day, decide what time they should be in their rooms and check their rooms at that time to make sure they are there and quiet. They won't go to their rooms at 10:30pm just because you told them 4 hours ago at dinner that that was what you wanted. They will go to their rooms at 10:30pm because you are in the lobby breaking up their hangout, or knocking on their doors to make sure they really are in there. Someone has to be the Rule Setter and the Bad Guy. That person is you.

4.  The wake-up call from the front desk doesn't always work.

Sometimes it doesn't work because María, who was working at the front desk last night when you requested that all your students get a 7am wake up call, forgot to tell José to make that call in the morning, so the call never went out. Sometimes it doesn't work because Thomas picked the phone up, immediately hung it up, went back to sleep, and none of the other boys in his room even woke up at all. Ask the front desk to make a wake-up call for whenever you want your students up, tell your students what time the wake-up call will be, encourage them to set alarms on their phone for the same time, and then personally knock bang on all their doors 5-10 minutes after the wake-up call so you are 100% sure they are up. When you have finished breakfast and still haven't seen Melissa or any of the girls from her room, bang on their door again to make sure they really are up. Maybe they all decided they didn't need breakfast. Maybe they all went back to sleep after you knocked on their door the first time. Make sure the whole group isn't going to be waiting at the bus because Melissa overslept.

5.  Plan for free time.

Plan for what to do during free time. You will almost certainly have some free time, besides just time to eat lunch, in some of the cities you go to. Look into what cool museums or parks or other free (or cheap) activities there are in each city, just in case you find yourself with 3 hours of free time and 15 faces staring at you asking what's the best thing to do. Think about what teenagers would like to do - art museums are not going to be a hit. Teenagers will gladly stay in their hotel rooms and play on their phones for those 3 hours, but let that be plan B. They may never get to see Rome again and it would be a shame to not take advantage of those couple extra hours and see something cool.

6.  Be flexible.

Be flexible with the scheduling each day. Some things won't be decided until the night before and you have to be fine with it. Also, know that you will be waiting around a whole lot. Traveling with a big group requires patience.

I sincerely hope this series of blog posts has encouraged you to consider planning a trip abroad with students! It's a wonderful experience for everyone and something your students will never ever forget!

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