Almost anyone who’s had the opportunity to travel as a student will tell you: traveling abroad was the defining experience in their development from a young person to an adult. Getting outside their comfort zone, seeing just how big the world really is, it’s the kind of experience that accelerates maturity and growth for years to come.
More than anyone else in our society, teachers shape our future leaders. We hear from teachers all the time: beyond teaching their students French, Spanish, History, Art, etc. etc. they’re responsible for teaching them how to be young adults, how to grow up and be responsible members of society, and most of all, how to become leaders in their community. At ACIS, we’re extremely proud to play a role in helping teachers in that pursuit.
Here are 5 Leadership Qualities Students Gain by Traveling:
When we say “Travel Changes Lives,” evolving young people’s perspectives has a lot to do with it. Everything from seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up at night all the way to helping paint a school in a Costa Rican village will help a young person evolve their view of the world and the people who inhabit it. Learning that people who speak a different language, look different, have a different cultural identity, or simply live on a different continent experience all of the same day-to-day challenges that they and the people from their hometown do is a life-changing experience. It promotes tolerance, cultural awareness, and broadens their perspective in a way that gives them the opportunity to grow into a leader.
Nothing builds confidence like getting young people outside of their comfort zone. Experience is always the best teacher, and giving young people experiences that prove to them how capable they are of overcoming challenges and accomplishing things they didn’t know were possible is priceless. We hear from parents, teachers and students themselves all the time how they come back from trips abroad more capable, confident and ready to take on new challenges. Confidence is vital to leadership. As Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Angela Duckworth in her book, Grit, defines grit as a passion for a high-level, long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve a respective objective. Duckworth also debunks the myth that passion is something with which we’re genetically imbued. Her research proves that passion is something we discover through experience, trial and error. Traveling abroad helps young people discover their passion for a particular global issue or subject matter that can foster a sense of determination and dedication that lasts for years. Educational travel is about much more than a fun trip abroad; it’s a way to ignite a passion and high-level vision in young people that pays dividends for years to come. Leaders lead by example, and developing grit, determination and passion are vital to leadership.
There’s no better way to build empathy than to make a personal connection with a given person, place or culture. When students gain the opportunity to come into contact with people from foreign countries with whom they share commonalities, they develop an irreplaceable sense of empathy and compassion. That capacity to connect on a deep level with people across cultures (or within their own) is an invaluable trait as a leader. The ability to go deeper than the surface and tap into the things that really move people is an essential skill for a leader, and traveling is one of the most effective ways of building it.
For many of the kids who go on ACIS trips, it’s their first time out of the country. For many others, it’s not their first time abroad, but it’s their first time traveling without their family or their first time in an environment where they have the freedom to make independent choices and explore on their own. They get the chance to practice language skills or exercise fiscal responsibility. They gain a small taste of what it’s like to be on their own and make decisions for themselves. Forming those patterns of thinking where they can exercise their executive function and make adult decisions can foster an important sense of independence that comes naturally to leaders.
How have you noticed your students evolve through their travel experiences and develop leadership qualities? Let us know in the comments section below!