Eastern U.S. Explorer Tour the Ultimate Student Travel Experience for Chinese Students

The Eastern US Explorer tour is a great opportunity for Chinese students to tour the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. This tour is longer than most student tours, spanning a 10-12 day period, rather than just a four to seven days. The student tour was specifically designed for Chinese students to experience college tours of select U.S. universities, see cultural and historic sites in the Eastern United States and shop at some of the most desirable locations in New York City, Washington D.C. and other destination cities.   Encompassing everything from camping and outdoor activities to visits to Harvard and Yale to the glamour of NYC and Broadway, this is a fully integrated cultural immersion tour students are guaranteed never to forget.

Fully guided tours of NYC and Boston provide firsthand look at American history

The adventure starts in Boston, with a day scheduled at Thompson Island Outward Bound.  There, students will learn about the environment and experience the fun of the outdoors with the Trust and Self-Reliance program, which includes a ‘high ropes challenge’ and a ferry ride. Students will also take a guided tour of Boston’s Freedom Trail, which includes Boston Common, the State House, and the USS Constitution, famously known as ‘Old Ironsides.’ While in the Boston area, Chinese students will visit Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau, and spend an afternoon at Plymouth Plantation on a reproduction of the world famous Mayflower ship, on which the pilgrims crossed. These activities will expose them to unique aspects of American history.

From Boston and surrounding areas, students will travel to New York City. The guided tour of the Big Apple includes trips to Madison Square Garden, Chinatown, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, NBC Studios, Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange, the Empire State Building, and many other notable sites. Students will also experience the thrill of a night on Broadway, which includes dinner and a musical.

College Tours of Ivy League Universities and Top Name Schools

During the course of the trip, students will tour Harvard, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), New York University (NYU), Columbia University, and others. All tours include lunch and/or opportunities to sit in on classes.  A full portrait of the academic landscape is presented, including an opportunity to see what typical day-to-day life at various campuses is like. At Harvard, students will lunch with others in the freshman residence hall. At NYU, they will request to sit in on a business or women’s studies class. At Columbia University, they’ll attend a journalism or marketing class. And at Yale, they’ll have the opportunity to meet with the Yale-China Association and the SOM Program for Social Enterprise.

Exploring Humanitarian, Social, and Environmental Causes

Exposure to different aspects of existence is essential to education. So, students will have the opportunity to volunteer at a NYC soup kitchen or homeless shelter.  They will also volunteer at a retirement center or senior home. Interacting with others in these environments will provide students with a chance to see sides of American life that is not immediately visible to a traveler, and to develop a deeper appreciation for the value of service to others. Students will also visit Honey Brook Organic Farm in New Jersey, where they will have the opportunity to learn about sustainable living.

The final leg of the tour will be in Washington, D.C.—a visit that will include a full tour of the US Capitol. Student tour leaders will also be given the opportunity to schedule a visit with a U.S. Senator or Congressman, up close and in person.  And they’ll enjoy an Illuminated tour of Memorials and Monuments, which includes the Lincoln, Jefferson, Vietnam, World War II, and Korean memorials, among others. They will also visit the Supreme Court and the Smithsonian Museums, and may tour the White House, depending upon availability.

Chinese Student Travel in the U.S.

The U.S. Explorer Tour has been consistently described by students and educators as the ‘ultimate’ tour for students wanting to be introduced to America’s educational system, history, and culture. By being fully comprehensive and interactive, it has served to help students acclimate to U.S. culture more easily, and provided a vivid and unforgettable portrait of what academic and cultural life in the U.S. is like.

9-11 Museum Slated to Open in New York City Fall of 2013

by Howard Clemens

Thousands of student travel groups have visited the 9-11 Memorial since it opened on September 11, 2011. Now, the 9-11 Museum—tentatively slated to open in September of 2013—promises to offer an even more comprehensive and significant experience for students and teachers.

The 110,000 square foot museum will be housed in the ‘heart’ of the former site of the World Trade Center. It will contain a vast amount of archives and material related to 9-11, as well as to the World Trade Center attack of February 23, 1993. Students will be able to learn about this pivotal point in American and World history in a fully integrated, instructive, and—in many respects—‘hands on’ environment.

Displays of Personal Artifacts Provide a New Perspective for Student Travel Groups

Displays will include personal items and memorabilia found in the aftermath of the attacks, such as clothing and photographs. In the Museum’s oral history collection, students will be able to listen to recorded interviews given by survivors, first responders, witnesses, and the families and loved ones of victims. They will also be able to watch videotapes and view documents and personal emails, many of them donated and provided by the families of those who lost their lives. All of this will be presented in respectful ways that educate and enlighten students of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

The museum will also offer a full digital timeline of the tragedies and the heroism so many demonstrated in response to them, right up to recovery efforts and the construction of the Memorial itself.  Some of the larger displays will include FDNY ambulances and fire trucks, as well as beams and other building structures recovered from Ground Zero.  Some student travel group leaders may want to schedule detailed, comprehensive guided tours to provide students with an opportunity to ask questions and have them answered.  There will also be a gallery showcasing the work of artists addressing the tragedy through a variety of mediums, from music to visual art.

Visiting the 9-11 Museum and the 9-11 Memorial

Over the years, many teachers have attested to how profound the experience of visiting the 9-11 Memorial was for their students. And many students have said that actually being at the site has afforded them a perspective they could not have gotten in a classroom.  Despite the tragedy of 9-11, the Memorial is presented in the spirit of hope, so student groups have almost always described their experience there as being as life-changing and enlightening.  A trip to the corresponding museum will surely be a way to enhance that experience, and bring it full circle.

Though it has only been open for a little over a year, the 9-11 Memorial is now one of the most visited sites in the world. Student groups have come from across the United States and beyond to understand what happened that day. The tragedy affected people on a personal and international scale. In the words of Joe Daniels, the 9-11 Foundation president,  “The museum will be a place for education and inspiration” that will “commemorate the lives lost, preserve the history of what happened that terrible day, and tell the stories of courage and compassion that were so much a part of the response to 9/11.”

Teachers wanting to give their students a full portrait of the historic significance of 9-11 should consider including a trip to the Memorial and Museum in any NYC-based student travel trip planned for the coming year. To synchronize the opening of the Museum with student travel dates, find updates here on the Memorial and Museum website.

To learn more about student trips to New York City, visit http://www.educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Student Travel Tour to NYC Introduces Foreign Exchange Students to American Culture

by Howard Clemens

Recently, Tim Dougherty, Director of Admissions at Cathedral Preparatory School and Villa Maria Academy, took his international and foreign exchange students on a tour of New York City.

The tour was included as part of a package designed to encourage international students to enroll in both schools. It was also an attempt to introduce students to American culture, by exposing them to historical American landmarks like the Empire State Building and the United Nations.

With the help of his student travel company, Dougherty worked out a tour that turned out to be a great success, and a wonderful way for his students to make the transition into the United States. I interviewed him about his experience recently, and he went over some of the details of the trip.

Q. What is your official position at Cathedral Prep?

A.  My title is Director of Admissions at Cathedral Preparatory School and Villa Maria Academy.  Cathedral Prep is an all-male school of approximately 600 students and Villa is an all-female school of over 300 students.  We have one common administration, one curriculum, one school calendar, but we have two campuses…one for boys and one for girls.  Both Cathedral Prep and Villa belong to the Catholic Diocese of Erie in Pennsylvania.

Q. When you planned this student trip to New York City, what was your vision? How does the trip tie into studies?

A.  The trip was purely for entertainment and sightseeing for the students, many who had never been to New York City.  We were not covering New York City in the classroom, and it was not tied into any educational program we have.  When planning the trip I envisioned seeing all the famous sights in the city and allowing the students to have a real “New York” experience.

Q. Many of the students traveling were foreign exchange students. Can you explain how this came about? Give me some background on your school and families and their relationship to foreign exchange students.

A.  We have recently initiated an international program (consisting of mostly Chinese students) at Prep and Villa.  The students are exceptional in the classroom and pay top-dollar to study in the USA, so in order to entice them to enroll at our schools we included a yearly trip to New York City as part of the tuition package.  All of the 28 students on the trip were international students, mostly from China.  We had one student from Denmark and one other from Slovakia.

Q. The Empire State Building was on your itinerary. Why did you think it was important to bring the group here? What was their experience like?

A. The Empire State Building is one of the most recognizable images of New York City, and in America.  All of our international students were familiar with it—they’d seen it on television and in movies.  When we told the students we would not only be visiting the building, but would also be going to the top of it, they were more than thrilled.  I thought it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to visit the building that has been a symbol of NYC for so long. It allowed for several awesome photo opportunities, and an excellent view of the entire city.  We went at night, and the view was breathtaking!  The students, many of whom live in large cities in China, agreed that it was one of the most beautiful city landscapes they’ve ever seen.  The fact that we saw the city lit up at night made it extra special.

Q. The United Nations Audio Tour must have been interesting.  Was this narrated on a mobile device?  If so, how did it enhance the tour? Did students get to see people in the UN at work? I imagine UN sessions are closed to the public, but please describe what you saw and learned in detail.

A. The United Nations tour was interesting, and the students and chaperones were both moved by what they saw.  The work that the UN does in order to provide children and the under-privileged with school and medical supplies is amazing, and unknown to many people.  Many of the students and chaperones were teary-eyed at the end of the tour when they saw the images of the people in need, and how grateful they were for the hard work of the UN.  The fact that the tour was given with the assistance of an audio device was immensely helpful considering that the international students were able to listen in their native language. Unfortunately there were no ambassadors working and nothing in session during our visit.  But we were able to visit the main room in the UN that everyone always sees on television.

Q. How did students like the visit to Central Park?

A. Our trip to Central Park was brief, but a lot of fun. There were still a lot of leaves on the trees, and the weather was comfortable considering the time of year. We stopped at the Alice in Wonderland statute, and got some group photos.  There was a woman playing the guitar and singing beautifully while we were there, which added to the ambiance.

Q. The 911 Memorial is a site most student groups visit.  Why was it important to you to bring the group to this site? Also, what were their reactions?

A. The students were anxious to visit the 911 Memorial because they are all familiar with the importance of that day to Americans.  On 9/11 the entire world was impacted, so the memorial is special for everyone around the globe.  The students were very impressed with the beautiful memorial, and took time to reflect on the tragedy that changed America and the rest of the world forever.  For the most part, the students were reverent and respectful during the visit, and asked the chaperones several questions, which showed they were sincerely interested in learning more about what they were witnessing.

Q. Did you give any post trip writing or oral presentations projects to students?

A. The students were not given any assignments to do for this trip.  They’re very scholarly and have plenty of other homework to do, so we did not require them to do anything on this trip.  Most of them used their free time at the hotel to catch up on the work they were missing while they were out of school.

Q. What was your overall impression of the tour guide and your experience of traveling with your particular tour guides?

A. Our tour guide was excellent!  She knew the city very well and took great care of us during the entire trip. She always had a good attitude, and when we had to make slight changes to our itinerary, she did an outstanding job of getting us all set.  Not only was she knowledgeable about the landmarks and sightseeing hotspots, but very helpful with guiding us through the best traffic routes. Our travel company definitely had the best itinerary, services, and overall plan for our trip to New York City.  Every detail was planned and taken care of.  It was reassuring, and each night at the hotel I slept a little better knowing we had the support of the night time security worker that had been arranged. I can honestly say that I’m thrilled with our experience, and that we plan on taking more trips in the future.

Student travel can help facilitate innovative and imaginative ways to incorporate students into American culture. Itineraries may be designed to accommodate a variety of backgrounds and educational goals, and are by no means limited to American students alone. With a little ingenuity and planning, teachers can create travel tours that can open doors for students and help ease their transition into exciting new academic environments that will open doors for them.

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