Andrew K. coordinates global trips for his school in Massachusetts and recently discovered the benefits of ACIS Exchange Plus offerings, which enhance a school’s international exchange program. We interviewed both Andrew and ACIS staff member Tom Heigham to provide a full picture of what goes into planning these unique educational travel itineraries.
ACIS Regional Director of International Programs, Tom Heigham:
1. What is an Exchange Plus Program?
An Exchange Plus program is a creative alternative to our standard international programming. We take a school’s/Group Leader’s established relationships and connections and combine it with the infrastructure, expertise and experience of a professional travel organization.
2. How do you approach offering Exchange Plus as a potential travel option?
These programs are typically for those who have done international exchanges with sister schools overseas. Most have always done all of the logistics and bookings themselves and often don’t think of partnering with a larger travel provider. There’s often a misunderstanding that we’re able to help (or interested in doing so!) for a program that is a bit ‘out of the box’ of traditional student travel.
3. What are some of the benefits of doing an Exchange Plus?
You’ve built the relationships, but we take care of the rest! We use your exchange as the foundation for the program and build around it based on what you want and what you need. We book your flights, handle the logistics, assist with the marketing and promotion, provide insurance, manage billing, and give you the Peace of Mind of knowing that there’s someone to call when you need to. In doing so we make it an easy, efficient and streamlined process. Teachers are busy. They don’t have time to manage a million moving pieces. We’re happy to!
4. Any recommendations you have for teachers thinking about doing one?
If you’ve ever looked at your exchange and felt overwhelmed by all of the work involved, then this is the program for you!
Andrew, Global Trips Coordinator in MA:
1. How had you handled organizing your student exchange trips in the past?
In previous years, it was labor-intensive and we teachers could only fathom doing this trip once every two years. In addition to making all the travel arrangements (flights, buses, museums), I was especially happy that ACIS took the task of collecting money from families off our plate.
2. How did ACIS make planning your student exchange easier?
Using ACIS’s Exchange Plus program allowed us teacher-chaperones to focus on the crux of the trip–student-to-student interaction–rather than getting bogged down in the logistics of trip-planning. We were able to preserve a rich and long tradition of partnership with our sister school in Angers all the while taking advantage of ACIS’s relationships with airlines, hotels, bus companies, tour guides, etc.
3. What was the most valuable aspect of ACIS’ offerings to you and your group?
We originally contacted ACIS because of its sound insurance and payment policies for the participants, as well as comprehensive safety networks in the event of an emergency.
4. Did ACIS help you to do things on your exchange that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do? If so, what were they?
In our first edition of ExchangePlus (2018), we kept the standard itinerary from previous exchanges. However, now that we’re more familiar with the system, for next time we’re considering pursuing some more “unique” ideas, for instance visiting a dairy farm in Normandy or a ride on the TGV high-speed train.
5. What advice would you give to a teacher considering using Exchange Plus?
Save yourself some work and do it!