By Joseph Alonso
If traveling with your parents isn't enough, new opportunities to travel with your best friends have arrived at Columbus: Education First Tours. These tours offer a wide variety of opportunities to travel abroad to countries all across the world and immerse in their culture.
Education First Tours, also known as EF Tours, was founded in 1965 by Bertil Hult. Their goal as an organization is to expand travel to everyone for the purpose of education. As described on the EF Tours website, "We believe travel is for everyone. When students go beyond the classroom it brings education to life, unlocks new potential, and opens a world of possibilities..."
At Christopher Columbus High School, trips abroad aren't a new thing. Since the late 2000s, Columbus has found itself in many foreign nations with students and teachers both engaging in culture immersion and travel.
According to Brother John Healy:
"[I started] these tours about 12 years ago... [through] ACIS."
And since then, this program and opportunity at Columbus has only grown. To note, ACIS is another educational travel company.
However, what is new about today is the upbringing of affordable and variety-driven trips which have only come through with EF Tours. Columbus religion teacher and debate coach, Mr. Gabriel De Tuya, the host of the EF Tour to Japan stated:
"I've done a couple of trips with ACIS but [EF Tours] was recommended to me and they just had such reasonable prices for what was being offered so it's a great opportunity for students to travel."
And Mr. De Tuya is correct, that while both companies offer similar prices (usually ACIS is more expensive by a few hundred dollars), EF Tours offers much more variety and activities that appeal to students and faculty alike who choose to go on these trips.
These tours abroad have transitioned from only taking place in Europe to having more variety in Japan and South Africa. These trips have expanded in their variation and their opportunity for students which allows them to further their cultural knowledge. But the main question for all of this is: why?
There are several reasons why Columbus chooses to take these tours and one very important reason is the benefit it has to students. In an interview, Mr. Ulloa, the leader and host of the English Literature tour, said:
"Number one, there's the cultural benefit through their immersion in that culture and number two, it counts as a dual enrollment credit so there is a cultural aspect and an academic aspect as well. It doesn't get any better than that."
After their tours, students are eligible to earn college credit for their time abroad. According to the EF Tours website:
"Students have the opportunity to build college confidence and earn college credit by enrolling in an exclusive online course from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). The course, PDHU 480D: Interculturalism and Global Exploration, helps students explore their destination, challenge their own assumptions, and discover connections between people, places, and cultures."
The benefit to students isn't just assumed either, it's known. Over the past decade, hundreds of students have participated in this program and almost all of them have said that it changed their life for the better. Whether it is the culture or the experience with their friends, students always take something away which makes it all worth it.
For example, senior Marcus St. John lauded his tour to Italy.
"I experienced many historical tours.. and [some of the things there] I've never seen anything like it before. The main takeaway of the trip was understanding the Italian culture and experiencing the food which was quite nice," St. John said.
And while every single student has a different takeaway from these trips, they all come to at least one consensus: the trip was fun. On his EF Tour to Costa Rica, senior Richard Sell enjoyed his experience.
"I had a lot of fun.. we did a lot of thing... [and] my favorite part was exploring the town because they let us roam free and [I got to] experience the culture through buying clothes and we talked to a lot of the natives," Sell said.
Whether it be cultural immersion or just a good time with your friends, these tours offer a wide array of opportunities for travel and world experience. Educational tours, through EF, have revolutionized the way in which Columbus travels. It has expanded opportunity and the ability for students to gain experience and immerse themselves in new cities and countries where they might have never gone to if it wasn't for these tours.
For any and every student at Columbus, participating in these tours offers more than a vacation alone: it offers the ability to learn and understand, a lesson that can only be achieved through this collective travel.