EF Tours provide travel opportunities for students

Taegan Jacobs, Features Editor

EF Tours is an organization that seeks to expand international education and connectedness by providing travel opportunities to educators and students across the globe. Launched in 1965, the company has spent over 50 years focusing on one mission: Opening the World Through Education, according to their website

Latin teacher Leslie Hooper first heard of the company when she was in high school. Hooper, who traveled with EF as a student, said she wanted to continue the tradition with her own students. 

“It was life changing,” Hooper said. “I went to Spain with a bunch of my friends and I had the time of my life. I loved Spain and I loved the experience and the culture and it just really inspired a love of travel for me. And I wanted to share that with my students.”

EF guides must be teachers to take students on tours, according to Hooper. After contacting the company, they send those interested on a training tour to gain an understanding of their policies. 

“They sent me to Barcelona for five days to train me there and that was really, really cool cause they train you in a city,” Hooper said. “And the company feeds you and explains a lot of the policies to you and gives you some tips and tricks and stuff like that for leading students. And then after you’ve done that training tour you’re qualified.”

These teachers are qualified to take students on EF tours, but are not tour guides. After arriving at the first destination, the groups are met by an assigned EF Tour Guide who stays with the students and educators for the duration of the trip, according to their website. EF also takes care of all transportation, hotels, activity plans and guides — which is what the EF Tour Guides make sure the groups arrive to safely. 

But the trip isn’t free. Hooper’s next trip, which will be her second as an adviser, is a tour of Greece and Italy where students will get the chance to see landmarks like the Parthenon and Colosseum and costs $4,000. 

“I usually try to shoot between the three and five [thousand] range,” Hooper said. “Because it is overseas and you do get all the entrees and everything like that. I try to shoot for something that’s mildly affordable. And 4,000 seems like a lot, but it’s ten days and you get all of the amenities and all that stuff. Seems like a lot, but it’s worth it.”

Since the tours are not school sponsored, they are unable to do any fundraising through the school, according to Hooper, but raise money with food and community events to help students with the cost. 

For Business teacher Pat Hinkle, this includes job opportunities for students.

“If they’re wanting to work, I can certainly help them raise funds,” Hinkle said. “We have a catering company that absolutely loves our students and is willing to make donations back to their trip. And so when we’re able to do that; concession stands, we can do the food fundraisers if they want. But a lot of it falls on the students to be committed.”

Hinkle first heard of the tours from her sister, a former Nebraska teacher who took her own students on EF Tours. Hinkle started doing her own tours in 2011 and has since been on seven. 

Being able to see her sister, who now lives in Germany, was one of the reasons she decided to get involved with the company, as well as her love of travel. 

“I’m kind of adventurous,” Hinkle said. “I like to see new places and see new things. And I really wanted to expose our students here to things outside of the U.S.”

Students are able to earn college credit and gain a unique experience to write about for college admission essays, according to Hooper. 

Hinkle’s tours also provide students with the opportunity to attend a Global Leadership Conference in Switzerland, where they hear from key speakers, take part in workshops, and compete in teams to build a prototype that gets placed in the Nobel Prize Museum. 

Junior Tyler Roberts, who attended the 2019 “Power of Communications” Summit with Hinkle, said that he was expecting the Summit to be more formal.

“It was actually more like a party,” Roberts said. “Everybody was having fun. The first day we walked in and everybody was high-fiving us.”

But Roberts said the experience was also overwhelming.

“You get thrown into groups of people that you don’t really know and then you’re trying to communicate with them and learn from each other so you can work on this big project,” Roberts said. “It’s honestly really stressful and overwhelming, but it’s also really fun because you make a lot of new friends. And you get a lot of experience out of it, like, culturally and just in general. You learn a lot.”

For Roberts, the most impactful part of the conference was the speakers.

“Like, I’m never gonna forget — I can’t remember who said it, but,” Roberts said. “‘You have to take your own shoes off before you can put someone else’s shoes on.’ I’m never gonna forget that. That was just huge for me.” 

Hooper and Hinkle both encourage students to go on an EF Tour if given the opportunity.

“It is life changing,” Hinkle said. “I’ve seen it in my students. And even for myself it just kind of gets me rejuvenated for the next school year. To absolutely get away and disconnect, but at the same time learn. Always learning.”