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Ten Tips For Traveling Abroad With Your Students
Por Kenneth R. LaBrant, II, Ph.D.
Número 21

1. Investigate

When considering this venture you must thoroughly investigate your desired destination. You should be somewhat of an expert on the region. You should have ample information on customs, culture, exchange rates, transportation, have local maps, (these are readily available off the internet), ideas on food, drinks, and restaurants. Anticipate the questions a parent and/or a student will ask. How much will the museum cost? Can I drink the water in the hotel? Can I use my hairdryer in the hotel? Can we purchase film in this country and where? Use the web, use a local travel agent, perhaps visit AAA (American Automobile Association), find a native from that country and speak with the person at length. Talk to someone who has traveled before to this area.

2. Interview

You will have many students who will express an interest immediately, yet many will not be able to commit to paying for the trip by giving a deposit. Before you exchange any money, you should have an interview process. The teacher should formulate, along with the principal, dean, chair, etc. a method by which the student is interviewed. This can be an oral interview, a written interview, or the student must provide a list or recommendations from other faculty, staff, and other pertinent individuals off campus in support of the student.

3. Insurance and Waiver

Before students can sign themselves up, they must provide proof of health insurance before they can begin the process. The student must have as part of the policy provision for repatriation of remains. This is an unpleasant yet important element. Make a copy of this proof and keep it on file. Also, the student should agree to sign a travel waiver, drafted by the attorney for the school or school system for whom you work. The student and/or parent must sign this before signing up for the excursion. This is to release you and the school from any responsibility.

4. Sign -up

You should make very clear from the beginning the number of students who will be permitted to travel. Once you have narrowed the students down from the interview process, the instructor should have a clear beginning and ending date for submitting deposits and final payments. Sign-up is easiest on a first to pay - first to travel policy. You may have a waiting list if you like, in case someone who has signed up drops out. Signing up means that the student is committing to the trip and understands that he or she must submit a deposit by the required deadline, or he or she will be removed from the list and the next available person will be contacted. You will want to enforce this strictly or you will have an uncertain group until the day you travel!

5. Deposit

The deposit should be made within a very brief time period. Extending this period too long will only make it more difficult to finalize your plans for travel. Two weeks should be plenty of time. The deposit will most likely be non-refundable and be between $100 and $200. All payments should be made directly to the travel agent if you are using one, or they should be made out to your institution. You do not want cash or checks going through you directly. Payment is easiest in check or money order form. You should keep a list of those who have paid and the date they paid. Also, you should make a copy of the check submitted and keep for your files and the schools files in case a problem arises. An account set up at your school's administrative, finance, or payment office will take you somewhat out of the loop. Also, if payments are make directly to the travel agent by the students or the parent, this will be easier for you too.

6. Regular Meetings

You should have regular meetings with your students and/or parents to discuss updates on the trip, updates on the country to be visited, and to hear any concerns or questions. This will keep you from having an onslaught of questions as you near your departure date. You will still have questions, yet they will not be as numerous. These should take place immediately after the deposits have been given.

7. Instruction

There should be ample time for the instructor to teach the students some important facts concerning the country you will visit. A brief study of the history, the culture and civilization, the important historical figures, the important architectural structures, the local customs, the foods, the dress, and other ideas you feel would be appropriate for your students to become familiar with before traveling. This instruction should begin immediately after the deposits have been given. Students can be given independent research and opportunity to collaborate and share ideas they have researched concerning the country.

8. Final Payment

The final payment should be made ahead of the time suggested by the travel agent. If the student is to get all or part of the refund (if they decide not to go after paying the final amount) ample time is needed to get as much money as possible back and to find a possible replacement. For example, if you travel June 15, the travel agent will require full payment 45-90 days before travel. You should collect your final payment before this date. This should be stated from the beginning so the students know the exact date. The best time to collect for a June 15 departure would ideally be before they leave for Christmas. Otherwise, the students should pay in full as soon as possible after they return back to classes in January. If you wait past March, you will run into problems. The sooner you lock in, the more certain your prices will be for travel. You can avoid potential price fluctuations of hotel, airfare, etc. by having your trip paid early. Also, if there are any cancellations, they can be made with ample time to find a replacement for travel or to refund money.

9. Budget Training

When taking your students abroad, you should help them to develop a personal budget. You should share with them the daily expenditures they might incur. These are expenditures not included in the trip price. These might be some or all of the meals, tickets to a museum, a ride on a bus or in a taxi. Also, you must figure in the money for tipping. This is important to share with them. There is a fee (a tax) for most countries to enter and exit. Sometimes this is pre-paid, and other times the departure is a cash only tax. Let the students know what kind of money to bring. Have them divide their spending money between cash, traveler's checks, and credit cards. You should also go over exchange rates with them and how to convert money (in Costa Rica colones for dollars). Practice this in class. Perhaps encourage them to carry a calculator if needed. Students many times do not budget well at home and this is more difficult abroad.

10. Documentation

This last item, yet probably one of the most important is documentation. The student will most likely need official documents to get in and out of the country. I suggest that you have your students go ahead and purchase a passport. This will cost about $70 and it will last them 10 years. This will be one of the most important items they can have. It will make the trip and future trips easy, and, it will be fun for them. It is important to make several, five, copies of the passport and have them hidden in various places in case the original is lost. You might even have them give you a copy to keep in a little file folder. This folder should have copies of students' documents and important information. You should make a copy of their airline ticket and/or any voucher that is issued for travel. This will help in the event something is lost. They should have a picture I.D., driver's license and student I.D. The student I.D. will help for discounts. You can have your students purchase an international student I.D. card. This is about $20 and can save your student some money depending on the country and depending on what is not included in the price of the trip, i.e. fees for museums, national parks, etc. This is not usually necessary though and may be an additional and unnecessary expense. Investigate to see if the expense is worth the purchase. In any case, make copies of all important documents for you and your students and keep them on file with you in a small organizer. Tell your students to make copies too and to organize their documents in a small folder or file.

Kenneth R. LaBrant, II, Ph.D.
Department of Classical Modern Languages
Troy State University