A Firsthand Orientation Tour Experience from a Tour Consultant: Part I – A Journey Begun

No matter how many times I travel, I always have to stop and appreciate the energy coming from first-time EF travelers. It usually begins right after we touch down. Imagine 40 professors from across America—strangers to each other and linked by one academically adventurous spirit—stepping out of the airport and into the streets of Paris. For some, today is their first trip overseas, while others plan to revisit their favorite cafés. Regardless of past experience, it’s during these first moments that everyone realizes they’re in for something truly different.

It all starts in the belly of the Paris metro. We get going right away to beat the jet lag and take a ride towards the Louvre. In full EF fashion, our Tour Director has been at our side since greeting us at the airport—smoothing over what gets lost in translation and easing the transition into Parisian culture.

EF Staff at the airportWe arrive at the Louvre, and find colleagues already engaging each other; charting courses through the museum and learning about each other’s institutions. First-time and experienced travelers alike head for the artistic mystique of the Mona Lisa, the history of the ancient Egyptian antiquities, and wander the halls scouting the right approach for their students, knowing they will be returning to this very place with their own group of travelers a few months from now.

Afterwards, the Tour Director familiarizes us with the streets on a short walking tour of Paris, following the winding Seine River up to Notre Dame. Professors jot down remarks on the gorgeous cathedrals and off-the-beaten-path landmarks, and an air of confidence begins to set in. Some venture into the heart of the cathedral, some break off in search of authentic baguettes and mulled wine, while others simply stroll along the cobbled streets, connecting with others in their field of study and share just how they’re integrating their international program into their class and coursework.

In the evening we reconvene for dinner at Café Latin, where a warm goat cheese salad prepares us for a savory duck confit entrée. After a delicious meal with new friends, we leave the restaurant to find a white blanket has transformed the cityscape. For one of our colleagues—a professor from Puerto Rico—this monumental trip has become twofold; he has seen both Paris and snowfall on the same day for the first time in his life.

As everyone gets to know one another, it becomes clear that both the educators and our EF staff share a common goal—to learn the path before teaching it to students. Luckily for our professors on their first Orientation Trip, the path has a local patisserie on it. As we sip delicious French coffee and indulge in fresh pain du chocolate, our Tour Director regales us with Paris’ storied history to brace us for our next stop- Versailles…

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