Roxannah Hunter is an English Teacher at Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This past June, she traveled abroad with her students for the first time to Ireland and The United Kingdom. As a British Literature teacher, she wanted to expose her students to the world from which the literature she teaches comes, as well as expose her students to cultures outside their native Pennsylvania. The timing of their trip coincided with the Brexit vote in the UK, so there was a unique opportunity to teach her students about international relations and how the political landscape of the UK compares to the United States.
We interviewed Roxannah about traveling with her students, global citizenship, and the highlights of her first trip abroad as a group leader:
How long have you been traveling with students?
This summer was my first year traveling with students although I have been thinking about it for many years. I am hoping that this summer is the first of many summers traveling and experiencing the world with students.
What inspired you to lead your first trip?
I have always wanted to combine my passion for education with my love of travel. I believe that travel is one of our best teachers, and I wanted to bring this aspect of education to the students that I teach.
What led you to choose ACIS as your student travel provider?
I chose ACIS because a colleague of mine had a positive experience with the company. Like me, he led a trip to the United Kingdom with many of his students two years before my own trip. He highly recommended ACIS and could not say enough about the amount of expertise and support the company provided.
How do you structure your trips to accommodate your educational goals?
While specific educational goals can be aligned to ACIS trips, I have an open-ended approach. I teach British Literature and therefore enjoy watching students experience many of the places where writers gained their inspiration for the works we read in class. The Lake District in England allows many students to revel in nature the same way that the Romantic Poets did in their work.
At the same time, however, I let student interest drive the individual goals. In London for example, some students find that their interests are more literary and theatrical. They may therefore wish to watch a live performance or find 221B Baker Street. Other students who are more interested in history might spend an entire afternoon in the Tower of London. In any case, I try to be knowledgeable about the destination and draw literary connections, but ultimately allow students to chart their educational journey.
The timing of your trip coincided with the aftermath of the Brexit vote this summer. What was it like being abroad during such a time of transition in the UK?
My students and I were able to experience a dynamic aspect of history as we were in the UK immediately following the Brexit vote. What would otherwise be a noteworthy article in the news for American teenagers became a complex conversation about global interdependence and responsibility of nations. Rather than view single countries as islands making decisions for themselves, students learned that there is a ripple effect that has lasting consequences.
Our tour manager was able to explain the political climate in the UK and offer some insight on current immigration trends fueling the UK vote. I listened in amazement as students drew parallels between Brexit and ethnographic conversations in the United States. Without the opportunity to be in England during this time, my students would not have been able to make these types of connections and become the type of global citizens our 21st century needs.
What were some of the highlights of the trip for you and your students?
Unquestionably, most students will look back on their travel experience and remember the Irish dance lesson in Dublin, the never-ending walk up Arthur’s Seat, and the spectacular view from the London Eye. If asked, they would also mention our tour manager’s uncanny ability to conduct the best photo-bombing known to man. What I will remember as their teacher, however, is the look of accomplishment and confidence on by students’ faces at the end of the journey.
What do students stand to gain from a life and educational experience perspective by going on a trip like this?
As we scurried from Abbey Road to Platform 9 3/4, I had the opportunity to ask one of my students what she thought of the trip. She told me this: “You know, Ms. Hunter, I don’t think I’ll be afraid to go into downtown Lancaster when we get home. I have always had anxiety around cities. I was uncertain about how to get around and interact with all the people. After this trip, all that anxiety has gone away.” Her remarks capture the transformational power of educational travel. This student went from being fearful in a small, Pennsylvania city to navigating the streets of major cities like Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. The same student went on to tell me that she could now apply to her top choice medical schools whereas before the trip she was reluctant because they were situated in cities. There is no doubt that educational travel increases student awareness and builds confidence allowing them to have greater choice in determining their future.
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