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Traveling With Students for the First Time? What You Need to Know Before You Go
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Traveling With Students for the First Time? What You Need to Know Before You Go

You’ve finalized the itinerary with your Rustic Pathways Program Coordinator, booked flights, and you have a shiny new pair of hiking shoes (Don’t forget the moleskin! Seriously). While important, these details don’t even begin to scratch the surface of the things you’ll need to know when traveling with students, even before your boarding group gets called.

1. You’ll Support Students’ Emotional Well-Being

Regardless of the age of your students, and despite the amazing time the group is having, it’s possible someone will get homesick. Sometimes it’s the obvious candidate, like a middle schooler traveling without their family for the first time, but other times it’s a well-traveled high school senior who succumbs to the sensation of missing home. You are your students’ connection to home, so be prepared to be the person navigating these emotional scenarios.

Help prepare students for the possibility of homesickness. This post is a good place to start.

2. Your Students Will Get Sick

Despite taking all the necessary precautions, a student can become ill. Travel takes a toll on the body, especially when crossing time zones. All the excitement, action-packed schedules, and brand new food set the stage for illness. Even though your Rustic leaders will be in charge of administering medical care, your students will still ask you for things like Band-Aids at all hours of the day and night. So pack a lot!

In both cases of homesickness and actual illness, you, as the teacher and most direct relation to home, will be your students’ greatest source of comfort. This is all a gentle way of saying that traveling with students will not be your time to catch up on sleep or “me time.”

3. Students Will Mirror Your Energy

Despite traveling with Rustic’s dynamic and thoroughly trained Program Leaders, the success of your trip will also depend on you. While Rustic’s leaders shepherd you through the challenges and celebrations during your trip, your students will watch carefully to see how you react to every instruction, suggestion, and question. It’s your job to stay upbeat even when challenges arise and applaud the students when they’re working hard.

Ever notice at home when you walk into your classroom in a not-so-great mood or feeling a little bit off your game energetically? That class won’t go well. Similarly, you need to put on your game face when traveling with students. The stakes are high since your group is away from home and there’s been a lot of hype leading up to your departure. Time for you to set the tone, the way you do when your classroom atmosphere is right—everyone engaged, working hard together, and celebrating successes as they arise.

4. Your Students Will Surprise You

You’ll find yourself in the classic teacher paradox—who is teaching whom? Depending on your teaching style, sometimes the classroom can feel as if the transfer of knowledge goes primarily from teacher to student. Just wait until you’re out building a one-room school in a community of sugarcane workers in the most remote region of the Dominican Republic.

You’ll be blown away by your students’ talents, like their ability to assemble themselves quickly and work together as a highly-functioning team. Plus, you’ll get more opportunities to see other aspects of their personalities that you wouldn’t ordinarily see in the classroom. One student may take the initiative to arrange a pickup soccer game with local children, while another might blow you away with her engineering or architectural skills. Rustic’s programs allow for students to shine.

5. You’ll Return Energized and as a More Cohesive Group

After running a day camp for local elementary school children in the mountains of rural Costa Rica, your students will feel empowered upon returning to your classroom. They’ll have just the right amount of that good-kind-of-tired that’ll put them in the ideal state of mind for reflection and action planning. The shared experience creates the backdrop for an open, supportive, and communicative atmosphere in which your students can share their takeaways from your travel experience.

They’ll be asking for a second trip in no time. If a second trip isn’t possible in the immediate future, encourage your students to take action in their local communities. A major outcome of a Rustic Pathways trip is that students learn to look at the ways global issues affect those abroad and those in their own backyard.

What are you waiting for?! Reach out to a Rustic Pathways Program Coordinator today. And when you’ve figured out where you’ll take your class, don’t forget the Band-Aids!

To learn more about teacher-led trips through Rustic Pathways, visit our Group Travel website and browse programs or request a free catalog.  

About the Author

Marisa LaValette

Contributing Writer

Marisa served as Program Leader and Flight Leader for Rustic Pathways and always looks back fondly on Rustic's first summer in the Dominican Republic in 2012. Marisa shared her love for language and community service with students while working alongside them in the bateyes. Marisa is a former Spanish teacher who works as a yoga instructor and blogger in San Francisco.