This summer, Heather‘s son John, a student from New Jersey, traveled to Ecuador and the Galápagos islands on an ACIS Educational Tour. Upon his return, Heather shared a parent’s review of her son’s ACIS Educational Tour experience.
Hi Heather, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. First things first, why did you originally sign your son up for the ACIS educational tour?
I did it for the social aspect. Being an only child, I knew it’d break some of his comfort zones. He first went to France and Spain in 2019. I signed him up for a second trip because of how successful and amazing the first one was.
That’s great! We’re thrilled he enjoyed his first tour so much he wanted to travel again. Covid surely made the pre-tour experience for this trip different than usual. In fact, I know it forced travel changes. Why did you decide to continue on with the trip?
John was originally signed up for Costa Rica in 2021. That was changed to the Galápagos once Covid pushed everything. I went with it because he actually wanted that trip, but it was full. Then Covid came and he had the chance to switch so he actually got the trip he originally wanted. A small silver lining among the pandemic.
I’m so glad he got to travel. Now, speaking about the trip, what was your son’s favorite part of the tour?
Speaking Spanish. He loves being able to do that and in fact he’s going to college for linguistics. But playing a soccer game in Ecuador their last night there was a big moment for him. And then also at one point they were on a beach, and they went into the ocean and were standing in a circle and a sea lion just kind of came into the circle and swam among them. Also, snorkeling with sea turtles and sharks. In Spain it was seeing Segovia and France seeing the lights turn on the Eiffel Tower at night along with watching the sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
So many highlights! But I know it wasn’t completely smooth sailing. Can you share the story of your travel delay?
Omg I truly believe if not for ACIS it would have been a nightmare. First leaving, their flight was delayed but the connecting flight was held. THEN coming home delays and then the big one, cancelled. Not only did ACIS get another flight, but they also got transportation from a new location. THEN because bags were checked, and some were left in original place, the group leader helped the kids navigate how to get their bags and they were delayed BUT sent directly to the house.
Flight delays are unfortunately sometimes part of the experience, but we’ve found they can be a story the group shares together and teaches flexibility and resilience. Do you think this trip will have a lasting impact on your son’s future?
Yes. Trying new foods. Sharing a room. Doing things that seem scary but then you do and realize the pay off, just taking that leap and then also going out with groups and making friends. These are all things moving forward that will help him in life and college. How to navigate life and situations that you may be given. And how there can always be an upside.
Overall, are you happy with your experience and would you recommend travelling on an ACIS tour to fellow parents considering the opportunity?
Omg yes! By the end of the first meeting I was on board. I was so glad his teacher recommended this trip for him after seeing his love of language. And Mr. Saks, the group leader, made everything sound so amazing and safe. Only out in groups, bed checks, he’s super easy going and just made it feel safe to send my child overseas with. I never felt worried, and it was the best choice we ever made for our son—so many life changes for him including him wanting to study abroad in college now. What a great experience.
Heather, thank you for sharing your edcuational tour parent review with us. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
So much, grabbing hold of every opportunity and realizing that things can be scary but when you take advantage of them they’re really, really rewarding. I think we both grew while he travelled and I do know he came home a little more humbled by the experience, not sure how to explain that other than all the thank yous we got. But also, both trips were with Mr. Saks from Central and he himself couldn’t be more amazing. Always keeping the parents updated on the trip. and prior to the trip quick with email responses (with some pretty stupid questions at times too) but always there to help and never judging. Although ACIS is amazing it really was Mr. Saks that made me feel ok traveling the 2nd time among the pandemic.