In the past few weeks, we've covered the process of getting started with international tours and creating experiences that are relevant. Those topics have focused more on the trip leaders themselves and what parents are looking for in investing in their students' experiences.
Today, we're going to talk more about what your students want out of travel! After all, they are the ultimate reason why you're interested in running international experiences in the first place. If this is a topic that interests you, please make sure to also check out our podcast session with David Lynn, the Director of International Studies at Charlotte Country Day School, as he chatted with us about Engaging Students in the Trip Planning Process.
So, what do your students want? Since you'll need them to re-sell the experience to their parents, they're going to need to be interested... Below, we've highlighted our 4 key areas to focus on when catering to your students!
#1 - Focus on Visuals
Your students have grown up in a world where there is less focus on detail and more focus on visual. Social media, and Instagram in particular, have contributed to this trend and the way that we market to students needs to change because of it. So, it's important to include detail on itinerary elements but also make sure that the pictures accurately portray the experience to immediately capture students' attention. Video, in addition to picture elements, is also an important factor in "personifying" the experience and and making it real from the student's perspective.
#2 - Accommodation is Key
Where am I staying? Who am I staying with? Is it a hotel or host family? Will I be with my friends, or with someone I do not know?
Although students understand that the experience is meant to be educational in nature, they also want to be comfortable. Transparency in accommodation logistics help relieve some of this anxiety for students and even parents. It's important to be able to answers questions revolving around where they are sleeping, and who the people they are sleeping around are. If these questions are not answered, the student may never bring the itinerary to the attention of their parents.
#3 - Subject Matter Focus
Getting into top notch universities is more difficult by the day--and students know this. Acceptance almost certainly requires some type of unique differentiating experience for the student, and an educational travel experience could be that x-factor. So, students typically want to make sure that the international experience has something to do with their area of focus for their career. An example for this could be medically focused project in West Bengal India, or a Spanish Language Immersion program in Peru. Either way, the student would be forgoing whatever other responsibilities he/she has during that time period (like sports, instruments, etc.). As a trip leader, you have the ability as an educator to contour this experience to the overall subject matter interest of your classes.
#4 - The Social Effect
Who else is going?
Perhaps, the most important factor to take into consideration when catering to the interests of your students. Students, like most people, want to be around other people that they like when they are embarking into the unknown. When developing an international experience, try to make sure you have buy in from groups of students already on potential ideas for experiences (Listen to Engaging Students in the Trip Planning Process for more). You'll find that it's always much easier to recruit more students when you already have some signed up. If it's an experience that none of the students in your classes have expressed interest in, it may be difficult to even get the ball rolling.