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Student Travel Leader Spotlight: Merissa S., California

March 11, 2020 Sarah Bichsel No Comments

Tell us a little about yourself!

The French language has been a lifelong passion of mine. My mother, a retired French professor, instilled a love of learning and encouraged me to explore the world. After receiving my BA in French language and literature, I lived in Paris, France, for a number of years and taught English to elementary school children. It was during this time I fell in love with teaching and returned to the states to pursue a teaching career teaching French. I have now been teaching 9 years at La Canada High in the Los Angeles area.

Had you previously traveled with ACIS or lead students abroad?

I remember my first trip abroad was with ACIS. My high school French teacher took us to Paris and the south of France. It was incredible. The trip was so amazing that I found myself seeking out the same company, now as a teacher, so that I can give that experience to my own students.

What are the top provider qualities you look for when organizing a trip abroad? What made you decide to take a trip with us?

Safety, location and customer service. Whenever someone asks why I selected ACIS, I always come back to those 3 things. ACIS makes sure that our kiddos will be safe at all times, before travel and during the trip. The hotel locations are wonderful. They are always centrally located so when we have a few hours of free time, I can always take my students right out the hotel door in a safe location and get them speaking some French! As far as customer service, ACIS is number one. As a group leader, ACIS will address any concerns you may have. Many of my students’ parents raved about how great it was to work with the company. Happy teacher, happy students and happy parents – ACIS in a nutshell. It was because of these things I decided to become an ATA!

What classroom goals did you have for your trip?

My goal for my students on every trip is to make learning another language relevant. This is not an easy thing to do in a classroom. The best way is to have the students immersed in the language and use it in a real world setting. Hearing my students joke in French about things they see and hear, that is the best! Standard after standard is hit on an ACIS trip.

Any tips on recruitment and/or fundraising for a trip?

Start early and get the word out. My trips have grown in size each year I offer them. I section off a wall in my classroom dedicated to our trips, displaying photos of the last trip. Often kids will enjoy looking at the photo wall, seeing their friends in France and will want to be a part of the next one. 

Which aspect of the trip do you think your students enjoyed the most? Which aspects did you like best as a traveler and as an educator?

My students loved exploring the little villages and shopping in the big city. They loved ordering food in French and sharing the experience with their friends. As a French teacher, seeing the kids speak French or excitedly report to me that they successfully communicated in the language is my favorite part of the educational travel that ACIS provides.

Any fun stories you would like to share from the trip?

On our last trip to the south of France, ACIS set up an excursion to paint with local artists. There they learned about Paul Cezanne and painted in the same spot he painted his famous pieces of Mount St. Victoire. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the students that it was a highlight on their trip.

Where would you like to go next?

Summer of 2021 I will be taking my largest group, 42 students, to France and Italy. I cannot wait! My students are already super excited about going.

In 15 words or less, why would you recommend ACIS?

I want the best for my students, from location, cultural experiences and safety, ACIS offers the best of all these in the industry.

Sarah Bichsel

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