Our educational travel blog is a way for us—and our travelers—to share ideas and tips about traveling the world. It’s a place to learn the latest news in travel and education, or to just read a good story. So, don’t vegetate “in one little corner of the earth,” let us know what you think. Share your opinions and ideas with a comment below any blog post.
Bruce Bell
Bruce Bell
How did you first get introduced to EF?

I was introduced to EF Tours by the dean of the School of Business when I arrived at my university in 1996. When we retired four years later and I replaced him, I was thrilled to be able to take over our school’s annual European trips and have been leading them ever since.

When did you first take students abroad?

My first trip was in May 2001, and I took 19 students to Italy and Greece. I made a lot of mistakes on that first trip, and I only wish that I’d had the opportunity to take an International Orientation Tour, since I could have used some expert advice as I took those young people to Europe 12 years ago.

What are your teaching interests/educational background?

While my undergraduate and master’s degrees are in English, I earned a Ph.D. in Applied Management. I’ve taught Business Communication and Writing for Public Relations, but more recently I teach Grammar and Composition to international students, Study Abroad in Humanities, and Technical Communication for the Professions.

Your favorite travel destination? Absolute dream destination?

It is nearly impossible for me to narrow my “favorite” travel destination or a “dream” destination, but I have to place Rome very high on that list, as well as the Greek Islands. The Mediterranean feel of those locations is unparalleled, but my wife and I were equally enchanted by our tour of Slovenia and Croatia on one of the teacher conventions. Then there’s Norway and the fjords. . . .

Why you continue to choose EF

The student educational tour industry is extremely competitive, and most faculty will be courted by other tour companies who would like to lure us away from EF. Frankly, as I’ve examined those other companies, the price is usually higher, the quality is no better, and the customer service cannot match what I get from EF.

Your favorite moment from a tour

Several years ago we were entering the Colosseum with our students when one young man, Ben, suddenly stopped and appeared to be catching his breath and collecting himself. “Are you okay?” I asked. “Absolutely,” he answered. “All my life I’ve seen pictures of this place and I’ve read about this place, but I can’t believe I’m actually here!” That is my favorite single moment on tour.

The one thing you bring with you on every trip
Without question, I bring a photocopy of everyone’s passport. Only once did I have a student lose her passport, but when it did happen, we took that photocopy of her passport to the American Embassy and got her a replacement passport in about 45 minutes. I would never leave without having a photocopy of every traveler’s passport.
Matt Billett
Matt Billett
How did you first get introduced to EF?

After graduating in 1996, I was working in a bookshop in Winchester where I had studied. After a horrendous Christmas filled with annoying shoppers the bookshop burnt down one night (it wasn’t me, honest). All the staff were suspended with pay and during that time I completed a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course in London. After this, I saw a job with EF at the residential language summer school in Oxford. The job was a mixture of teaching English and also planning activities.

Tell me a little about your first travel experience as a child

At the age of 5, I grandly announced at school that I had indeed been abroad. A fact I was very proud of and the reality was that the furthest I had been was the Isle of Wight. This is a very small Island approximately 2 miles off the South coast of England, not quite foreign travel. Later on however, I remember the excitement of family holidays to Spain. I remember the thrill of the take off on the runway, the different smell and heat as soon as you emerged from the plane. It is still those new sensory aspects to travelling I love especially when visiting different places.

What is your educational background?

I studied History and Drama at University and was based in Winchester, a small ancient City that is both beautiful and very historic. After leaving, I studied to become an English Language teacher and that led straight into the World of EF.

Your passion and/or hobbies?

I love old houses and old furniture. I have just moved to a wreck of a house probably dating to the 1700’s, no one seems to know. It is in a bad state with no bathroom or kitchen and just one working tap at the moment. Real struggle but think it will be great. I am now the European leading expert on woodworm and other related wood boring creatures so if anyone has any questions on that please email me.

Your favorite moment from a tour?

All Tour Directors are motivated by seeing students visibly grow while learning and travelling, this might be working out how to use a new transport system or watching the proud glow on the face of someone who has successfully ordered something in a foreign language. I remember getting a letter from a student’s mother who could not believe the change in her son and asked what we had done to him! He joined the tour, shy and reserved and came back fired up about all the places he had been to and with more confidence.

Something you do with your group, regardless of where you are

Always food related. I love to share my favourite foods with people. No matter where you are on tour, just round the corner is something great to eat or drink.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I have a drawer in my desk that hardly shuts now, filled with thank you letters from students on all the tours I have done over the last decade and a half. They are recollections of their favourite moments on tour, some cards, some on scraps of paper all with amazing gratitude about their experiences on tour.
Rebecca Hayes
Rebecca Hayes
Tell me a little about the first time you ever traveled overseas.

When I was 18 and had just completed my first year at college, I went with a former high school teacher on a summer trip to England and Scotland. I was still deciding on my college major and this helped convince me to switch from journalism to history. After having read about English history since I was young, I was now experiencing it first-hand! Touching the stones in the Tower of London, walking the streets of Edinburgh, standing on the grounds where kings and queens once stood – I was enchanted and enthralled. For the first time I realized that I could actually feel history come alive. It made me want to return and visit other countries’ ancient sites and wonders.

What are your teaching interests/educational background?

I have a PhD in Early Modern British History with minor fields in Medieval Europe, Classical Greece & Rome, and the Middle East. While in graduate school, in the spring of 2002, I taught our school’s semester abroad program in London. I taught undergraduates from all over the U.S. and was able to conduct research. I stayed for several months after the students left, traveling to Oxford and Dublin and completing my dissertation research. So for me, the cities of Rome, Athens, London and Paris, are not just beautiful centers of cultural, but living, breathing monuments of ancient history.

Your passion and/or hobbies?

Reading – I read all of the time. It’s a way to never stop learning. I always call it my “super power,” as I can read, on average, around 250 pages an hour. It certainly helped when completing my PhD! I have a voracious appetite for books and it is truly my passion. I also love to dance and ride horses – both hobbies from my childhood that have continued throughout my life.

Why you continue to choose EF

I am always impressed by the knowledge of the tour directors and local guides. I want my students to receive the best education possible while on tour and so far EF has never disappointed. Their directors and guides tell fabulous stories that engage and excite my students – even when all they want to do is sleep on the bus! I also appreciate the little extras that our tour directors are willing to provide – whether it’s helping make a trip to the Moulin Rouge possible or providing a swim in some amazing Santorini hot springs – my students and I always feel special and appreciated.

Your proudest moment from a tour

After our first visit to the Louvre, one of my students chose to use his free time that next day to go back on his own. He spent 4 hours there and declared it to be the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Another student recently told me that she has decided to become an International Studies major and go on to graduate school so she can travel the world and never stop learning about other people and cultures.

Something you do with your students on every single tour, regardless of where you are

We always sing in the streets – the songs are always different – but the sheer absurdity of it always makes us smile. There is nothing like singing, “We are the Champions” through the streets of Pisa. I think we laughed for hours afterwards.

Anything else you’d like to share?
Being able to teach history in front of Westminster Abbey or the Parthenon allows me to share my love of traveling and history with my students. For many, they describe our trips as life changing, for it awakens newfound desires to study history or art or world politics. Past students I have taken on tour have gone on to experience semester abroad programs at their four-year colleges. To be part of changing their lives like that is incomparable and I feel lucky to be a part of it and to have a company like EF to help make that transformation happen.
Guest contributors
Periodically, EF staff members from around the world will share their thoughts on living, working and traveling abroad. Experienced teachers, college professors and student travelers will also write about their experiences in the Global Classroom. We’d love to hear from you, too. If you would like to contribute, please email us at abroad@ef.com.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>