HOW TRAVEL CAN ENRICH STUDENTS' MINDS
One of the ideas embedded in the academic approach at GEMS World Academy Chicago is that learning happens everywhere — not just within the classroom or school building.
That idea is manifest in our commitment to providing meaningful travel experiences to our Middle School students. The students embark on short Midwestern trips in the fall and a longer trip to Washington D.C. in the spring. In addition, in the fall of 2017, our Middle School students have the opportunity to participate in Week Without Walls, an international travel and education initiative organized by GEMS Education, the global network of schools of which GEMS World Academy Chicago is a part. The program leverages GEMS Education's international footprint to provide unique intercultural experiences to our learners.
Why work so hard to help our students see the world? We see travel as a pathway to a nuanced worldview, an important step in the journey toward becoming a global citizen. Travel aligns well with our International Baccalaureate curriculum, which combines rigorous academics and an emphasis on empathy and positive social action.
Below are some of the additional benefits of travel for students in both middle school and high school.
Seeing the world in a new way
Travel, whether a short jaunt to a new city or a longer trek to a different country, forces the traveler to view the world with fresh eyes. By connecting with other cultures on a school trip abroad or even immersing himself or herself in the needs of a community closer to home through a service trip, a teen's eyes can be opened to global issues. Stepping outside of one's comfort zone and being introduced to new cultures, foods and experiences can strengthen one's sense of a place in the world, while also introducing one to new ideas and ways of thinking.
After middle and high school students have spent some time discovering the lands and people of their destination, they'll likely realize they've discovered something about themselves as well. Traveling can make teens more appreciative of their roots, something any parent would be happy to hear. Studies have shown it can also bring forth a sense of openness and flexibility within their personalities, which would no doubt benefit them on the job or when going on school interviews. Finally, traveling can help middle- and high-school students gain a historical and cultural knowledge that they can bring back and share with their peers. This will add an important layer to their self-identity that will undoubtedly serve them in the future.
Learning a second language
Many students today begin learning a second language at a young age. Truly immersing oneself in a second language via travel deepens and enriches the experience. Language immersion has been shown to be a uniquely effective technique for language learning. For someone living abroad (as an exchange student, perhaps), this would be even more pronounced. Better yet? Knowing a second language gives college and job applicants an advantage over their competition. Languages such as Spanish and Mandarin are in high demand, so that class trip to Barcelona or Beijing might just be worth the cost.
Preparing for college and beyond
For many teens, college is their first experience living away from home for an extended period of time. For those who have traveled abroad, however, they've already had that experience and can turn their focus to other aspects of their college careers. Even more interesting is the fact that traveling has been shown to increase creativity, a benefit any professor would appreciate in her freshmen students. Beyond these benefits, high schoolers can talk about their travels on their college applications, using the experience to demonstrate how they have developed skills necessary to thrive in a collegiate setting.
Traveling has been shown to have numerous benefits for one's health, education and perspective. By having a positive travel experience at a young age, today's students will be better prepared for the increasingly global community they'll enter after school. In this way, they can truly call themselves citizens of the world.