Renee Sumption is a Spanish teacher at Grant Elementary School in Redding, CA. The overseas trips she organizes are for elementary and middle school students, plus their families. We spoke with Renee about her experience of group travel, and about the recent trip to Ireland, she earned by organizing trips with ACIS. Renee blogs about her travels at ourgrantadventure.blogspot.com.
How long have you been traveling with students?
I led my first trip in 2006. I have taken students to Spain, Italy, France, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and New York City. This summer I will lead my 7th educational trip to Costa Rica. I am very excited to explore this beautiful country!
Do you enjoy the experience of traveling with students and their families (compared to a trip with just students)?
Yes, the majority of the students who travel with me are in grades 4th-8th so I do require a parent, grandparent, or older sibling to accompany them. I have several families who travel with me as an entire family. Our trips have a different dynamic and I love the fact that families are laughing, sharing meals, and making discoveries together as we explore the culture and language of a new destination. It has been fun to have parents and grandparents on our trips and I think having different generations travel together works well. I encourage all members of the group to connect with each other and become a part of one big team.
What inspired you to lead your first trip?
I had the opportunity to go on two student group trips when I was in college. I loved the experience and always wanted to participate in group travel again if I ever had the chance. When I started teaching Spanish in 2005, I met a colleague and she was planning a trip to Mexico. I asked if I could join her and I was hooked! There is nothing like seeing another place and experiencing new things through the eyes of a student!
What led you to choose ACIS as your student travel provider?
My first 3 trips were with a budget travel provider and I was very dissatisfied. I also learned the hard way that I was not saving money by using a “cheaper” company. On each of the 3 trips, there were so many hidden costs that in the end I was paying the same price for a trip that did not meet my expectations. I have absolutely loved traveling with ACIS; the tour directors, food, itineraries, and hotels are all fantastic! When you are asking families to invest their money and time, you need a company you can trust to deliver an amazing trip.
How do you structure your trips to accommodate your educational goals?
To be completely honest, ACIS puts together such a wonderful itinerary that the structure is already in place. That being said, I almost always make slight modifications to meet the needs of my group. ACIS is very accommodating and allows me to make the changes necessary to meet my goals and expectations for our trip. I also hold a pre-trip meeting and ask my group if there is anything in particular they really want to see that might not be on the itinerary. I think it is important to make a dream or wish come true whenever possible; I want it to be the trip of a lifetime.
What were some of the highlights of your most recent trip for you and your trip participants?
My most recent trip was to Spain, Italy, and France. I had never been to Rome before so walking through the Colosseum was a moment I will never forget. The Vatican was also breathtaking. The line to enter the Vatican seemed to go on forever but with ACIS, we had a reservation and were able to skip the line and walk right in. I have to admit, this is one of the great perks of group travel with ACIS!
What do students stand to gain from a life and educational experience perspective by going on a trip like this?
There are so many reasons travel benefits students. Students have to adapt, problem solve, learn to communicate in another language and learn to appreciate the differences in others. I took my daughter with me on my first trip in 2006. She was timid at times and she learned to grow and adapt while traveling with the group. Now, at age 22 she is living in Morocco teaching English with the Fulbright Program. Her early experiences in travel showed her what traveling to other countries can do for a person both personally and professionally.
You recently earned a spot at one of our global teacher conferences – how was that experience?
My husband and I went to Ireland for the global conference and it was incredible. I always learn from the other teachers in attendance but I also had so much fun being a participant and not being the leader. ACIS added so many extras that made our trip very special including the best Thanksgiving meal I have ever had!
What would you say to someone considering organizing a trip for the first time?
I am grateful for my partnership with ACIS. If you are considering leading your first trip, take the leap as you will not regret it!
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