Why Travel is the Best Educational Investment
Traveling to other nations is ultimately the best education money can buy. Whether through internships, a semester abroad, taking a gap year, or class trips, getting out of the classroom is key to learning essential life skills that only exist in the real world. Travel is the type of learning that comes only by getting up and going because it’s not contained in the pages of textbooks or within the walls of a classroom. It offers skill development and learned competencies in a number of important areas.
An article by the WYSE Travel Confederation published results from a survey conducted by The Wagner Group entitled, “Travel Improves Educational Attainment and Future Success.” Four hundred adults who had taken an educational trip between the ages of 12-18 were surveyed, and the results conclude that:
- 80% of participants said their educational travel experience sparked greater interest in what they were learning in school.
- Over half of the participants received better grades as a result of their travel experience.
- Adults who took education trips in their youth earned 12% more than their non-trip-going counterparts.
- 57% of those who traveled as children went away to college.
The proof that educational travel is beneficial to children and young adults is evident. Therefore, let’s talk about the skills obtained through travel education that make it so vital to setting up our younger generations for success.
5 Key Skills Acquired through Travel Education
Travel education helps people grow, evolve, and mature in a number of areas including:
- Experiential learning - In this article I explain that learning through experience is vital to equip our children for the real world. This is something our schools are currently lacking.
- Problem-solving skills - Being in a foreign country forces one to be creative and resourceful when in a pinch. There will be new situations forcing one to solve problems and find solutions which helps develop critical life skills.
- Cross-cultural competence - The ability to effectively communicate with other cultures without bias, confusion, or fear is a vital skill needed in today’s real world, especially in a melting pot like the United States. By traveling, we are placed in settings that enable us to broaden our capacity to relate well with people of different backgrounds and experiences.
- Empathy - Visiting other nations helps one understand that their way of looking at the world is not the only way, and there is space to include each individual’s perspective on life.
- Adapting to change - Overcoming culture shock is a lesson in adapting to an environment. Whether you know the native language, find yourself lost in a strange place, or don’t know a single soul, time spent in another nation teaches a major life lesson one cannot learn in books or school: the capacity to adapt to change.
Tips and Tales of Education Ventures Abroad
For many US citizens, simply getting into Canada can be a harrowing experience. I’m not joking, as that is possibly the border that I fear most (other than perhaps coming home to the USA which often feels more like an interrogation). The intense questioning and scrutiny is an educational experience for sure. An American colleague in Iraq once told me not to worry about getting into Kurdistan. He said it was like walking into Canada. From my experience, Kurdistan was much easier than Canada, and so was China, India, and even Russia. Granted, many of these countries require you to get a visa which can be an ordeal, but once through the red tape, the world truly is your oyster.
But taking Kurdistan as an example, if you are a woman tourist where only 10% of the people seen in public are women (and most of them are veiled), it can be a very intimidating experience. Just by entering this context as an outsider, potentially aggressive or at least uncomfortable situations for a woman could arise. This is a good example of the importance of doing one’s homework in advance so that one can be culturally competent upon entering. The situation can be very daunting if you don't understand it, but it can be a greatest experience if you are open to it and aware of the context. The point is to always take common sense precautions and do your research, but not be overly cautious and forego a once-in-a-lifetime cultural learning opportunity.
Mumbai, Moscow, and Tokyo
I recall walking down the streets of Mumbai, Moscow, and Tokyo. In all of these places, I could barely communicate in the local languages but at least India has the benefit of English being the official language (leftover from the days of British colonization). It is widely spoken until you get off the beaten track, and getting off the beaten track is exactly the point. In these cities and others, I always leave my hotel without a map, pick a direction, and walk. I not only don’t mind getting lost, but that is actually my objective. Without fail, someone always notices when I am lost before I have gained the courage to ask for help. A stranger with whom I cannot communicate using words finds another way to express compassion, such as through intonation of the voice, a smile in the eyes, and other elements of humanity that leads me back to my hotel. It never fails, and each time restores my faith in humanity.
One must be aware of risks and the potential to be taken advantage of as a tourist. Be careful with money and do your research on local customs and known schemes (such as the Turkish woman on the streets of Paris asking if you speak english and wanting you to sign a petition...all while someone else picks your pocket!). This preparation can help you navigate in that context and is a good learning process that can help you evaluate other environments and different contexts, including entering a new employment situation. It just heightens your awareness and evaluation abilities. In most parts of the world, you are only an Uber ride away from being saved if you do get too far off track. So, make sure you are connected via mobile device and then forget you have that lifeline unless in danger.
When Traveling Abroad isn’t an Option
Not every family can afford to send their child on the semester abroad program or take an extended family vacation to Europe. However, a family’s financial status need not stop someone from receiving the benefits and learning opportunities associated with different cultures. That is why I created Ravi Unites Schools --a program I host that enables classrooms around the world to connect to cultivate cultural competence through peer-to-peer learning. These virtual field trips are viable alternatives to traveling overseas when leaving home simply is not an option.
The Best Education Money Can Buy
Traditional education does not have the full capacity to teach our younger generations the five paramount life skills needed to succeed in the real world: Experiential learning, problem-solving, cross-cultural competence, empathy, and adaptation to change. But travel does. These skills are learned in-depth through experiences of travel education. If you want to give your child (or yourself) the gift that keeps on giving, get them enrolled in a semester abroad program and start planning your family’s next summer vacation to a foreign land.
Ravi is available for keynote speaking how education must pivot for cultural competence & equity
Ravi Unites Schools Update
We have had an overwhelming number of new members join the Ravi Unites Schools network the past quarter. It has come to the point where the model needs to pivot in order to best serve all members and enable more students worldwide to interact. So, we are now looking into corporate sponsorships to help us elevate the platform to become self sufficient with a support team that can manage it.
If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other News and Announcements
Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.
Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference. It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools. Next month he will be giving the opening keynote for the North Carolina Association of School Administrators annual conference,
A large number of school districts have inquired about convocations. If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/