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Student Travel Spotlight with Erik Kottom

April 22, 2014 Erin Stern No Comments
Every month we bring you a new travel changes lives story that highlights the achievements of our former student travelers. This month, we’re pleased to chat with Erik Kottom. Erik traveled to Greece and Italy on an ACIS educational tour in 2006 when he was a senior in high school.

Erik is currently employed as a foreign oral English and writing teacher at Southwest University in Chongqing, China. He credits his travel experiences as a young adult as the main motivating factor in his quest to explore the world.

Welcome, Erik! Thanks for chatting with us from all away across the world. Let’s start by reminiscing about your tour to Italy and Greece. Is there a highlight that still stands out to you all these years later?

Erik: Honestly, I have so many great memories it’s hard to single out one specific one.  I think I was the most spiritually moved while being in the Vatican, the most awestruck at the size of the Colosseum, and the most mesmerized by the beauty of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel painting.

I loved Rome and Florence the most out of all of the places we went to.  I am a real Roman history enthusiast, so naturally Rome had a great appeal to me. I also love Renaissance era artwork, which made Florence a perfect place for me to go. In Florence, I really enjoyed seeing Brunelleschi’s Duomo as well as Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise.
So in addition to your ACIS tour in 2006, you also visited France with your family on a separate trip. For those who haven’t been on an educational tour, what’s unique about the experience?
Erik: The entire trip itinerary is well-thought-out and the daily operations are carried out smoothly by professional tour managers. Students, however, still have the opportunity to be autonomous if they so choose to be. I think that this type of flexible and structured planning allows students and teachers to really feel like they‘re able to have a fulfilling trip based on their own individual travel needs.
Well said! What’s the most rewarding thing you gained from your tour?

Erik: I would say that this trip really re-enforced for me the value of living in the present. Even after reading and studying about all of the places we were traveling to, I was still amazed by their power to enrapture me. I was also again amazed at my innate ability to pick up on the unique differences between each place I traveled to. Truly, nothing compares to experiencing something in the moment.



Absolutely. Since you’re a man of the world, what advice would you give a first-time traveler?

Erik: I would tell anyone going abroad to have an open mind. Try to push yourself to try something new. Also, instead of looking at the differences between the cultures, try and find the similarities. On the surface level they may seem more allusive at first, but they are there. Once you find the similarities you tend to feel a greater sense of community with the local people and can start to build closer relationships with locals while you’re traveling. This type of camaraderie can really help to make your trip a fulfilling and potentially life-changing one!
That’s some great advice, especially coming from someone who lived and breathed travel from an early age. Ok, now I’m going to throw you a curveball question. What’s one thing everyone should travel with?

Erik: From my travel abroad experiences, I have found that having a positive attitude is a pre-requisite for enjoying your trip. ACIS provides all of the services necessary to allow you to have a worry-free vacation. If you have nothing to worry about, then what is getting in the way of having a great trip?


You nailed the curveball, nicely done. Now let’s talk about the future. What’s next for Erik Kottom?

Erik: I am currently in the process of planning a two-month trip to Europe this summer. I’m thinking of buying a two-month continuous Euro Rail pass, which will give me access to twenty-six different countries in Europe. I’ve researched about ninety-six different places I might want to go, and I’ve just recently whittled the list down to twenty-six.
Thanks to Erik for sharing his story with us! We wish him the very best as he gears up to explore Europe this summer. You can continue to follow Erik’s journey by visiting his blog. If you have a similar story to share, tell us on Facebook and you could be the center of a future student spotlight story.


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