Did you travel in high school?

This article talks about how high school students traveling abroad can broaden their horizons but I am a bit skeptical. I didn’t travel abroad when I was a high school student, but if I had I doubt that I would have really taken advantage of the opportunity the way I could now.

The article implies that travel experience will help the students get jobs:

“A recent survey of employers published by LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise) indicates that prospective employers want college graduates to possess strong intercultural competence and the ability to appreciate global perspectives,” Dr. Laney said. “Global travel programs open the door to cultural exploration, intercultural competence and appreciation for diversity.”

I suppose that a college student who did a semester or two abroad might have some intercultural competence but keep in mind that competence goes way beyond cultural knowledge or awareness and involves using these things to work effectively in different cultural contexts. You might get some of that from a semester or two abroad but I don’t think a few weeks with the French club in high school will do much for most high schoolers.

I’m not saying high school students shouldn’t travel – I think they should. And I think trips like the one described here are excellent learning opportunities. Interestingly, my sister went to Europe with her French club in high school. They saw some cool stuff but let’s face it – with constant chaperoning and guided tours how much can you really learn from the locals?

So let’s not pretend that a typical high school tour will turn kids into sophisticated global citizens. Let’s set more realistic goals like getting a little cultural knowledge and maybe beginning to develop some cultural awareness. If all students get is a little curiosity or a little desire to see more of the world, isn’t that enough?

Filed Under: Meaningful Travel

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  1. Laurie says:

    I agree. When I went abroad in high school I was with my mom and a large tour group! It wasn’t exactly the cultural immersion experience. lol

  2. nora says:

    I went to high school for a couple of years in Germany and traveled with my best friend every spring and winter break. Forget Daytona. We went to the countryside in France for one week. Paris for another week where we walked for miles every day from sunrise to sunset and saw every museum possible. The next year we went to coast of Spain (fell asleep on the train back home and ended up up in Geneva Switzerland…what a great way to get lost. Met great people and eventually found our way back home). That winter, I learned to ski in Innsbruck Austria. One Halloween a bunch of friends and I decided to go to Prague. What an amazing city! I not only learned about other cultures, their food, the people, but learned to love and appreciate other countries for their differences and beauty. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world and would do it again and again if I could. I highly encourage high school and especially college students to travel abroad if they can. Backpack across Europe. You’ll be glad you did. I learned more traveling to foreign countries for a week or weekend here and there, than I ever did an entire year in school.

  3. As a homeschooled high school senior, I had the privilege of spending 2 months living in Seville, Spain. I learned so much more than Spanish during that time! I know most people aren’t fortunate enough to have a connection or relatives in a foreign country where they can go and live, but if you are, and you’re young, it is most certainly worthwhile to take advantage of the opportunities that you have.

    I also studied in Oxford, UK during my university years and loved it so much that I returned for a short term work assignment through BUNAC after graduating.

    Living abroad, visiting abroad, even just touring are all valid ways to explore foreign cultures. Even in large groups you learn valuable lessons, not just about the culture you’re exploring but about yourself as well!

  4. Larry says:

    My father was a flight engineer for Pan Am, so my family and I got to travel quite a bit throughout my childhood, including a trip around the world when I was 15. I attribute my current appreciation for world cultures and my love of travel to this amazing opportunity and can’t imagine what my life would have been like had I not had an early and continued exposure to international travel.

  5. Sharon says:

    My Dad worked for Exxon (Std Oil of NJ) in Aruba where we lived while growing up. I was extremely fortunate in being able to travel with my parents to Europe and South America on several long vacations of great cultural exposure. Although still in high school then, I gained a lot from these trips. I might add that these were not guided tours, which can be far too structured at times to be of real benefit. For a well-rounded education, I feel that travel is just as important, if not more so, than “book learning.”

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