Why Lead a Study Abroad Trip?

By leading a trip abroad, you are providing a chance for students to exercise their core competencies (Communication, Thinking, Personal and Social) as outlined in the new BC curriculum in a context outside of the every-day world experience of living in BC. In addition, you are helping students further develop intercultural competencies by learning about and engaging with people from other cultures, and in the process learning more about themselves. Further to this, you will also be challenged in ways that will make you think about how and what you are teaching. Planning and running a trip abroad is a lot of work, but it will be worth it in the end. Are you ready to do it?

Mobility Planning Tool

The Mobility Planning Tool is an initiative from the British Columbia Ministry of Education to encourage study abroad and exchange activities for BC students. The Planning Tool was developed with a sector working group of K-12 teachers and administrators with considerable experience in planning and leading study abroad and exchange activities with student groups.

The Mobility Planning Tool is not intended to be comprehensive for all types of study abroad activities, all school district and independent school contexts, or all contingencies. It is critical that you contact your school or school district administration to determine the necessary requirements for undertaking study abroad activities with your students. 

Download the Mobility Planning Tool.

Q&A on leading a trip

What are the benefits of study and travel abroad experiences for students?
  • Further develop students' intercultural competencies by learning about other cultures, engaging with people from other cultures, and in the process learning more about themselves
  • Provide a real-world experience in which students can exercise their core competencies (Communication, Thinking, Personal and Social) as outlined in the new BC curriculum
What is the benefit of working with an existing foreign partner institution?
  • Strengthens relationships that may open further opportunities for student and teacher exchange, as well as information sharing (e.g., curriculum development, cross-cultural engagement)
  • Allows BC students the experience of an educational context in another country, and in some cases a homestay experience with a local family
  • May alleviate some of the planning responsibilities on the travel organizer given the host institution will have local knowledge
How could a study/abroad school trip align or support a school or district's broader internationalization objectives?
  • Many schools and districts already have existing relationships with international partner schools and organizations. These relationships can support the schools'/school districts' priorities for internationalization
  • School trips can support these existing relationships, making them more meaningful for both parties
  • Leveraging existing partnerships can also lead to a better experience for students as the partner school may place greater emphasis on the trip
What are some suggestions for how to make contact with foreign partner institutions?
  • Check with your school/school district administration to see if any sister school or other forms of partnerships or relationships exist
  • Review the British Columbia Council for International Education (BCCIE) website or other associations dedicated to International Education and see if there are any professional development activities or travel opportunities that might be of help
  • Check with your local community/municipality to see if any sister city relationships exist that you can contact for school recommendations
What generally happens with last minute cancellations in terms of refunding money?
  • Your school district or school may have a policy regarding cancellation. Please check with the school/school district first
  • In many cases, visa, health insurance and flights are not refunded after purchase. Depending on your arrangements, sometimes tour packages will require a non-refundable deposit as will some hotels. If you are working with an agency, be sure to clarify their cancellation policy before moving forward with any bookings
How can we assist students with determining what to pack for travel?
  • Remind the students that whatever they pack, they will carry. So in some cases, less is more
  • Remind them to check and pack for the weather in the region(s) that you will be visiting and to consider cultural expectations when packing (Will you be going places where knees and/or shoulders must be covered? etc.)
  • Encourage students to do a bit of research and consider what can and cannot be purchased abroad; for example, is sunscreen easily purchased? If there are any lotions, shampoos or sanitary items that might be harder to find while abroad
  • All prescription and over-the-counter medication must be in original packaging that describes the drugs name and usage. Visit Travel Health on the Canadian Government website for suggestions.
  • Help students to carefully consider what electronics they will bring with them, what the theft and other risks are, and whether they will need adapters to charge their devices
How do I know if vaccinations are required?
  • On the Canadian Government website, you can find a list of required immunizations depending on what country and region of a country you will be traveling in
What considerations should go into daily scheduling while abroad?
  • Some items to consider when planning your schedule while abroad are:
    • Jet lag - the first few days the students are going to be tired. Consider a light schedule during this period to allow time to adjust. Also, encourage them to drink plenty of water and get as much rest as possible
    • Public/private transportation time in the destination country might be different than what you are used to here. If you have never traveled there before, do your research. One place to start would be looking at travel blogs or talking to others who have traveled there before
What are some of the most commonly overlooked details when planning student group travel?
  • Fully understand each student’s need and how to support them
    • Do they have any particular physical or mental health concerns that might be affected by travel?
    • How will a student’s daily medicine be administered? Who will carry it?
    • Is this their first international experience?
    • Is this their first trip without a parent?
    • How do they function in groups? (Consider using a partner or buddy system)
  • Refund policies in case trip is cancelled
  • A clear and detailed itinerary with a daily breakdown – consideration for ‘down time’ to allow enough rest and recuperation from travel
  • First aid considerations
  • Tips for tour guides
What are some good ways to keep track of all of my students while I am abroad?
  • The buddy system (i.e., partnering students at all times to keep track of each other) is a common practice
  • Grouping students into teams with assigned chaperones
  • Establishing a meeting place at each location visited in case of group separation
  • Periodic meetings in designated meeting place at set times (lunch, afternoon)
  • Check with other teachers who have led trips abroad to see what measures they used
  • Consider getting an in-country short-term cell phone for the group leader for emergencies and distributing the number amongst the group
What am I responsible for?
  • Speak with your principal for district/school policies on your responsibilities while abroad
  • As the lead chaperone you will be responsible for the students the entire time they are abroad
How many chaperones should I have?
  • Each school has different policies around this, please refer to your district/school policy
Can I screen the students coming on the trip?
  • This is a very important question. Be sure to talk to your principal about what type of criteria you would like to have for your trip as it may vary depending on many different factors
How much money should a student bring and when should I order it?
  • There is no clear answer for this because it varies depending on how long you will be traveling, where you will be going, what level of comfort you will be providing, etc.
  • However, some items to consider when outlining an appropriate student budget include:
    • Cost of meals that are not already included in the overall study abroad fee
    • Differences between students in terms of socio-economic means
    • How much free time students will have to purchase souvenirs, and school/school district policies, if they exist. It may also be a good idea to remind students about limitations for what will pass through security and customs on their return travel
  • It is also always a good idea for students to carry some local currency. In some banks, it can take up to two weeks or more to have currency delivered, so students/parents should be reminded of this possibility in advance
    • In addition, make sure debit cards are accepted and PINs match parameters in other countries (e.g., in Europe, PIN must be four digits as opposed to up to six here)
Where can I go for more information about travel advisories?
  • Travel.gc.ca continually updates its travel advisory webpage. It is good practice to check this periodically through the planning stages, before leaving on the trip and while on the trip. In addition, it is good policy to register your group on this website. If you and your students are registered and there is an emergency such as civil unrest or natural disaster, the Canadian authorities will then be able to contact you, update and assist if needed
How do I find out if a visa is required for the country to which I am traveling?
  • Travel.gc.ca has a comprehensive list of which countries Canadian passport holders need visas to enter.
  • If you are bringing international passport holders on the trip, be sure to check to see if they require a visa as it will not necessarily be the same as it is for Canadian passport holders
How long should the trip be?
  • This is very much dependent on the type of trip you are running, travel time, etc. A general maximum for time abroad may be up to 12 or 14 days, keeping in mind that students (and chaperones) may begin to tire and experience increasing homesickness the longer they are away
Is there someone that can provide me with more information on planning a trip and/or a country?
  • Start with your school or school district. Ask around and see if there is anyone that has run a trip before. Even if they have not run a trip to the same country, they may have some advice in organizing a trip that can help you with this process
  • Contact the Foreign Consular to Canada Office of the destined country (often in Vancouver) as they may recommend schools to “sister with” and student activities to do in their country while abroad. To find out where these are located visit, Global Affairs Canada.

Additional resources may be found in the educator’s section of the BC Study Abroad website – http://www.bcstudyabroad.ca/educators

What if the legal age for drinking alcohol in the destination country is lower than in British Columbia?
  • While on school-sponsored trips, all school rules apply regardless of the country. (i.e., no alcohol regardless of the local drinking age)
How early should I start planning and organizing for a trip?
  • This will depend on your school/school district in terms of what is necessary to obtain approval for student travel abroad and how long it takes to satisfactorily plan all aspects of the travel.
  • In general, most planners begin the process at least a year in advance of the travel dates, but it is never too early to begin
What is the most critical question to ask myself before undertaking this activity?
  • Study abroad activities can be excellent experiences for teachers and students alike. However, they are a great deal of work. Look in the mirror and be honest with yourself in answering this question: Am I the right person to do this?