Professional Learning

No-Cost Summer Travel for Teachers

January 29, 2014
Photo Credit: R. Mendoza
The author explores a temple complex in Japan.

As summer approaches, do you find yourself daydreaming about how you will spend your long summer months as a civilian? I enjoy enriching the minds of students for ten months, but as summer draws nearer, I yearn to act as the learner, preferably at someone else’s expense.

A plethora of travel opportunities await educators each summer. Fellowships, workshops, seminars and service travel can provide you with intellectually stimulating learning opportunities while on the road. If you plan to take advantage of the many travel options available to teachers, you'll need to explore your options and get started on your applications -- pronto. Deadlines are quickly approaching, and invitations are competitive.

What Experience is Right for You?

Are you new to the teacher workshop circuit? If so, peruse your options (see below for links to various opportunities). Are you interested in spending a week, month, or the entire summer abroad? Would you like to bring your family? Are you willing to pay your own way? Are you willing to share a room with another teacher? Do you have a passport? These are just a few questions to consider before determining which workshops best meet your needs.

Village dancers perform in Yap, Micronesia. Credit: Suzanne Acord

The Application Adventure

I usually apply to a few workshops each summer in the hopes that I will be invited to at least one. I never take it personally if I am not invited. Many workshop leaders prefer very specific kinds of teachers, but don't always share this in the workshop description. For example, they may be looking solely for new teachers or solely for experienced teachers. However, if your application is incomplete or late, it will not be considered regardless of your awesomeness. Many teachers apply to the same workshop multiple times until they are accepted. So try and try again!

Although each travel opportunity is unique, most workshops have similar application requirements:

  1. An essay
  2. Letters of recommendation
  3. A promise to teach what you learn

Do not be intimidated. I'm convinced that I see the same participants year after year because so few teachers are willing to jump through the application hoops.

Teachers learn how to use traditional cooking instruments at a NEH workshop in Oakland, CA. Credit: Suzanne Acord

Decisions, Decisions

If an international trip appeals to you, consider traveling with the following reputable organizations. I have either experienced each firsthand or heard colleagues praise them. While this list is certainly not comprehensive, it can provide a starting point for you to explore the perfect fit for your needs.

Peace Corps Response

Peace Corps Response provides the opportunity to serve a much shorter term than the traditional two-year Peace Corps commitment. Stints can span from a few months to a year. Teachers are frequently recruited for Peace Corps Response placements because many limited-term positions focus on education. Applicants need not have served in the Peace Corps, but are required to have extensive teaching experience. The Peace Corps pays for your travel and provides a modest living allowance. The application process is lengthy, so hop to it!

Mountain village in rural Japan. Credit: Suzanne Acord

Keizai Koho Fellowship Tour

Sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania, Keizai Koho offers two-week summer study tours in Japan with a focus on economics, business, and education. Fellows participate in lectures and visit cultural sites throughout the two weeks. A requirement of the program is to create a lesson plan using what has been learned during the study tour -- a small price to pay for a rich educational experience.

The Korea Society

The Korea Society offers study tours in Korea throughout the year. Most mornings consist of lectures, followed by afternoon cultural outings to temples, palaces, schools and restaurants. Be forewarned: the program requires extensive walking in hot and humid temperatures. Also, the Korea Society will expect you to create a unit on Korean culture or history upon your return to the U.S.A.

South Korean military personnel guard the DMZ in Korea. Credit: Suzanne Acord

Fulbright Programs

The Institute of International Education is one of the world's largest and most experienced international education and training organizations. Through its Fulbright Programs, it offers a variety of teaching exchanges. Program lengths and locations vary.

Teacher at Sea

The NOAA Teacher at Sea program provides hands-on learning experiences throughout the year. Teachers join a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research and survey ship to obtain "clearer insight into our ocean planet, a greater understanding of maritime work and studies, and to increase their level of environmental literacy by fostering an interdisciplinary research experience."

Gilder Lehrman

A nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education, Gilder Lehrman has developed an array of programs for schools, teachers and students that operate in all 50 states. Their workshops focus on American and world history. Private school teachers are expected to contribute to the cost of their workshops.

National Endowment for the Humanities

NEH is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States, providing dozens of workshops and seminars during the summer months. They range from 1-6 weeks and are offered in the U.S.A. and abroad. Longer programs provide meatier stipends.

Fine print: expect to receive a 1099 tax form for the amount the organization spends on your travel. You are required to report these "earnings."

Monks perform a drumming ritual at a monastery in South Korea. Photo: Credit: Suzanne Acord

I Have an Invite -- What's Next?

Are you interested in learning what to do now that you have an invite? I would be happy to share thoughts on pre-travel preparation and in-country travel. Let's talk shop!

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