When you’re planning an educational tour with ACIS, your International Program Consultant is your partner. It is their job to help you choose or customize a trip, recruit a group and prepare for the amazing adventure that lies ahead. Meet one of our travel wizards, Tricia Holda, whose love of travel and enthusiasm to share it with her teachers and their students is contagious!
Tell us about yourself. What’s your role at ACIS?
I am a Senior Program Consultant at ACIS and work primarily with teachers who are interested in traveling with ACIS for the first time – whether they’ve traveled with other companies before and trying us for the first time, or whether this is an entrée for them into the world of possibilities that educational travel can offer their career.
Tell us about your travel history and how it has impacted you.
I didn’t leave the continent until I was 19, for a study abroad program in the UK. I thought at the time that I didn’t enjoy foreign languages. Boy was I proven wrong by day 2 of my semester abroad – I fell in love with anything and everything “foreign” to my American upbringing in the Southwest. I immediately came home from that semester, enrolled in French classes, changed my major to International Affairs, studied abroad (again, two more times) in France, gained a decent enough level of French fluency – and made outstanding friendships along the way. Travel had changed me and my entire trajectory. In fact, I immediately packed up and moved to Italy after college graduation (thanks to my two Italian roommates from my UK semester) and spent almost 6 glorious years there teaching English, and eventually working in ACIS’ Rome office! I’ve now not only continued my work with ACIS for all these years (stemming back to 2005) I’m also fluent in Italian and have raised my two young children to be bilingual in our Italian-English home. I shouldn’t forget to mention that I was able to rediscover Italian family members in a small hilltop town in southern Italy due to my fluency in Italian – whom we’ve remained very close with since we met back in 2005. Yep, I’d say beginning to travel in my teens mildly affected my life in the long-term!
You work with teachers who are mostly new to traveling with ACIS, how do you ensure you are helping them plan their perfect tour?
This is a huge ball of wax because it always depends entirely on the teacher and their specific background, school environment, curriculum goals and personal travel interests. A crucial piece that makes the difference is spending the time in the beginning of the process to really understand one another and form a solid relationship of trust and partnership. I always ask for a bit more time up front from my new teachers, to chat on the phone so that down the road, we don’t find that there have been any assumptions made that lead to decisions that don’t ultimately align with what is best for the teacher, their school, and their students. This could also morph and change a bit throughout the process so I make sure to keep an open and honest line of communication going with my folks so they feel comfortable asking questions, picking up the phone to call me unannounced and tweaking a tour detail here or there if they get inspired with new ideas as we plan.
What’s a planning tip you always give to teachers?
Be prepared and think ahead to what your students’ parents might ask, or how they might question you about this choice for their children. You should always walk into this decision with confidence because you’re offering these students a unique opportunity for growth on so many levels. Taking this tour with you, at the immersive and thoughtful level at which ACIS crafts our itineraries, could quite literally change what they might’ve otherwise done with their lives – it’s got that much weight and potential. As a bare minimum, it will teach them curiosity, compassion, responsibility, independence, courage and provide them with the gumption to attempt new things. It’s a wonderful adventure that you should never think twice about offering, so be proud of it! And if you ever have doubts, that’s why I’m here!
What is a travel tip you always give to teachers?
My motto in life is “just ask” and that translates to travel, as well. The most beautiful moments while traveling are the ones that are unplanned. Being a kind and respectful traveler will always open doors that you wouldn’t have expected, to experience these places in a new way. Don’t feel intimidated by cafes and restaurants filled with just locals – be respectful of the environment and pop yourself right in there. Ask questions, be daring in your sense of curiosity and adventure (safely, please) and just see what happens. You’d be surprised what people are willing to help you out with and show you if you display a genuine interest in their culture.
Anything else you want to share?
I’ve always enjoyed feeling more like friends with my teachers than someone engaging in a business relationship. This truly is a partnership for me, an investment in someone’s character and career that has a similar mindset to my own in prioritizing the importance of travel and helping to foster a global mindset. Just ask the several people that I’ve cried in front of at school meetings – I’m such a sap for this stuff because of my own experiences and what I know it can do for young people. Everything about this is worth it, so let’s get to it!
Thanks Tricia! And thank you for helping so many teachers and their students plan their perfect tour.