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During my time on EF’s free international training tour, it was a privilege to work with the EF staff from Boston, Denver, and Lucerne, and to meet the new group leaders who all had such interesting teaching and travel experiences. We were so fortunate to have Atto Suttarp as our tour director. Atto is also an actor in Germany who has many films, television shows, and commercials to his credit. In fact, we watched an award-winning commercial that starred Atto as a would-be ballet dancer (Ballet Dancer for R+V Insurance). Atto also portrayed a doctor in a popular, long-running television series that was set in a women’s prison (Hinter Gittern-Der Frauenknast). However, meeting and traveling with a group of like-minded colleagues from all over the United States was truly the highlight of the training tour for me.
Here are more questions I was asked during my weekend in Berlin.
• “I have a small group. What will it be like to share my tour with other groups?”
Group leaders should welcome a consolidated tour as an opportunity for their students to meet and travel with students from all around the United States. A consolidated tour has more pluses than minuses. It also allows you to travel at the same price with your small group as larger groups. Ask your tour consultant for the contact information of the other group leaders who will be on tour with you and share information with each other before you depart. Make plans to meet the other group leaders in person if you are flying out internationally in the same airport. It’s a good way to start your tour. Look for ways to get your students to mingle with the other groups. Don’t let the bus aisle become a “Berlin Wall.” Rotate the bus seats, especially the ones up front.
• “Should my students exchange their money before they leave?”
At one of your pre-departure meetings, collect at least $50.00 from each student and purchase the foreign currency for them before you leave. That way, you will only have to pay one fee for the currency exchange. Your arrival day (Day 2) will be an easier one if your students have money to buy drinks, snacks, and lunch. The airport may be very busy and the lines for the currency exchange and ATMs may be long. Discourage your students from bringing traveler’s checks and encourage them to bring 4-digit debit cards to use in the ATMs. They will get a better exchange rate, but warn them about the fees that will be charged with each transaction. If students bring cash to exchange, then encourage them to pool their money so that only one fee is charged. Your tour director will show you the locations for the ATMs and currency exchange bureaus.
It all depends on how far away you are from the airport. Many group leaders who live near their airports arrange to meet their groups there. Other group leaders make arrangements for a charter or school activity bus to take their groups to the airport.
• “What should I do if one of my students gets separated from the group in the middle of a city?”
Before you go on tour, provide each student with your international cell phone number and one for your tour director. Before you leave your hotel, make certain each student has a hotel card with the address and telephone number. Go over some possible “I’m lost, so what should I do?” scenarios. At the Berlin training tour, the new group leaders were shown how to use a “sweeper,” a teacher or adult chaperone or even your tallest student who brings up the rear for the group, “sweeping up” wayward students along the way. That’s an excellent way to keep your group together. Caution your students not to get distracted by souvenir stands or by an irresistible photo opportunity if the group is trying to get from point A to point B. If you are using a subway or train, tell your students to remain at the stop where they were left behind so you can come back and get them. If students jump on too early, they should get off at the next stop so they can be reunited with you.
• “Why does the tour director walk so fast?”
You are on a fast-paced tour designed for students. You will see how your students can easily keep up with the tour director. Sometimes you have to walk fast to get to your tour attractions. Everything is on a schedule and you don’t want to miss out on anything. Touring is hard work, so I would advise all group leaders to prepare themselves for the physical rigors of traveling abroad with students.
Judging from the wonderful photos and comments the new group leaders posted on our training tour’s TourLink site, a good time was had by all and we all learned a great deal. That’s the best kind of free international training tour to have.
Readers, how would you answer the questions posed by the new group leaders? What questions do you have?
(Editor’s note: If you have a question about for EF Group Leader Gail Ingram, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Gail here, and she will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)