A Round Table Discussion About Travelling Abroad With Three Foreign Language Teachers

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I recently had the pleasure of meeting Martine Burg, a French teacher at Julius West Middle School during her school trip to Quebec. Martine is no stranger to travel and has visited Quebec plenty of times in the past, and this time around she traveled with nearly one hundred students to the Belle Province. As per usual, whenever I have the chance to meet any of the teachers traveling with Prometour, I try my best to inquire about why they take on the responsibility of touring with their students every year and more importantly, how they incorporate these trips into their curriculum. Martine was gracious enough to answer my questions via email and even went out of her way to recruit two of her colleagues (Francesca and Allie) to help provide feedback. Below is the conversation that followed.


Quebec Travel

Prometour: How have your travels affected the way you teach? 

Martine: I include many of the experiences I have had when travelling, or the various places where I have lived into my teaching.  One society’s adaptation, culture, and system of beliefs is not like other systems, and I try to bring that alive for my students, showing them that there are similarities among all of us humans, but our cultures are a vast panoply of creative adaptations.

Francesca: It’s been great to be able to give kids a personal perspective and share my experiences based on where I’ve travelled. It helps me clear up misconceptions and compare/contrast cultural differences and similarities. It gives me an opportunity to broaden my students’ worldview a bit as well.

Allie: After the trip, I feel more excited about teaching and, although daunting, looking forward to the Spanish dept trip next year now that I know how special the experiences are. The trip helped to keep things in perspective for me that we teach world languages so that students are better able to experience new cultures and talk to new people, including traveling to new places. This shift back to center has given me new enthusiasm and excitement in my classes.

Prometour: How has traveling changed your perspective on life and the world?

Martine: I started travelling when I was very young. It helped me understand different cultures, different adaptations that people have made to different living environments. It has always kindled my curiosity, and I hope it has made me a more tolerant and open-minded person.

Francesca: It’s made me more tolerant, for sure! It’s also helped me get a broader perspective on why things are different in other countries and why that works there but may not here at home. It’s given me quite an appreciation for the various arts, and contributions of the country/culture to the world.

Allie: I have traveled a lot in the past and as recently as this summer, but this is the first time I’ve traveled abroad with students. Traveling, in general, gives me new and deeper appreciation for my own culture and my own home and family, as well as encouragement to continue traveling. I love nature and architecture and languages, and traveling helps me experience these things in new and different ways and places. Every time I travel I remember how big the world is and I find that very exciting.

Student Tours

How does your curriculum influence your choices of places to travel to?

Martine: We reward our 8th-grade French students with the option of going on this trip.  We also take a good amount of seventh graders.  This gives our students a chance to put their French into action, to see that people who live fairly close by do speak a different language.  This makes something fairly abstract become real for them.  It also makes them feel good about their skills, and may encourage some to continue in the language.

Francesca: Yes, teaching French and being so close to a French-speaking neighbor makes visiting Quebec an obvious choice. We’re able to give them a much more “authentic” experience of French—using it, understanding it and enjoying the culture than we ever could in class. There’s no way to replicate in the classroom what you can do and learn while travelling.

Allie: My curriculum influences where I travel because I chose to be a Spanish teacher in order to travel more. This influenced me to study abroad in Spain in college and live abroad briefly in Chile after college. Since, I have not had the opportunity to travel by myself, but have traveled to other countries with my family and now with this school trip. In the future, I hope to go to Mexico (for myself and professionally to improve my Spanish) and then Costa Rica or Peru with the Spanish department.

Have you ever revisited the same country/city and if you did, was it the same experience?

Martine: We have visited QC many times, we have changed activities, and times of the year. It is never quite the same each visit.  It is also influenced by the students we bring.

Francesca: I’m basically going to “ditto” what Martine said above.

Allie: In high school, my school took a trip to Spain and then in college I visited many of those same cities when I studied abroad in Spain. I was blown away by how much more I appreciated everything about my second experience in those places; the architecture was especially magnificent and I don’t remember appreciating that at all when I went as a teenager. I also felt more comfortable since I’d been there before and I was better with the language the second time. It felt as if I had sketched out an idea of the cities in high school and then filled them in with color and detail when I went back. Overall, the experience was much more satisfying the second time, whether because I was older and because I’d been there before.

What would you say is the biggest challenge when travelling with students?

Martine: Lost items, and bathroom breaks!  Long days, and sometimes… drama!

Francesca:  Again, same as Martine!

Allie: I found the early wake-up calls challenging since we arrived back to the hotel late most nights.

Where do you want to travel next?

Martine: In two years, back to Québec City, next year, Costa Rica.

Francesca: I’d love to come back to Quebec. I’d also love to go to France or a European French-speaking country but I don’t know if middle school students (and their parents!) are ready for that—cost wise and maturity wise.
I would love to go back to Quebec! But I would also like to visit Mexico and Portugal.

What is the biggest highlight of your travels?

Martine: Getting to know my students better,… in a more three dimensional way because we are away from the classroom.  Seeing other facets of their personality, their strengths, their fears. Seeing that they will always rise to the occasion.

Francesca: Getting to share my love of French with the kids—seeing them try to use it and often do very well. I love interacting with the kids on a different level. It’s been so great!

Allie: Aside from adding a new stamp to my passport and learning the history and seeing the architecture of Quebec, I’d have to say getting to know the teachers and students on my bus was the highlight for me. I did not know any of the students and I enjoyed learning about them and my fellow staff members. It really made the experience special and memorable!

I’m just curious, why you chose Prométour?

Martine: A fellow teacher recommended I call them.

Francesca:  I work with Martine-she got the rec and we agreed to work with Prométour.
My school has worked with Prometour in the past, and now that I’ve been on a Prometour trip I know how organized and well-thought-out the trip was. I felt it was geared well toward around student population and it was very easy to follow and enjoy.


What was the biggest culture shock you experienced?

Martine: None so far, but sometimes the Québecois French throws me a little. ☺

Francesca: Other than the fact that Europeans close shop for a few hours in the afternoon to rest, not much. By the way—I think it’s a wonderful idea although my 19-year-old self, wasn’t impressed she couldn’t go shopping! Ha!

Allie: Not much, just the language barrier.

What is the best place you have traveled to?

Martine:  My favorites:  Corsica, … I just like to travel – anywhere.

Francesca: France, hands down. It was so beautiful and I saw my high school lessons in language, history, and literature all come to life before me. It was wonderful.

Allie: Spain, because I know the language, I love the history and the architecture, and I also love that it’s so close to so many other countries (and therefore easy to take Eurorail around!).

What countries/places are on your “bucket list”?

Martine:  Costa Rica, France, Spain, Peru, Japan.

Francesca:  Thailand, Australia, Austria, Great Britain, Argentina.

Allie: Korea, Japan, China, Ireland… anywhere, really! But I haven’t been to any countries in Asia so I’d love to go there soon.

What teaching materials have you found to be useful to your students prior to traveling?

Martine:  Our French curriculum is very good. What to expect in terms of politeness is also useful.

Francesca: Honestly, our curriculum is pretty good at covering the basics of travelling in terms of language content/grammar. Other than that, websites re: weather and appropriate clothing are really all I’ve used.

Allie: Websites, pictures, videos.

How have you integrated multi-cultural issues into the classroom?

Martine: Different educational systems

Different uses of energy

Different emphasis on recycling and the environment

Pace of life


Role of friends and family

Expectations in terms of politeness

Francesca: Not really.

Allie: We talk about language differences, history, and politics in other countries sometimes, but not too much.

In your own words, what should be the main goal of any teacher when traveling with students?

Martine: I like to take them away from what they are used to, and show them that there is a whole big world out there ready to be discovered, and enjoyed. Help them to see that there is nothing to be afraid of, but a lot to be discovered. In terms of language use, to show them that making mistakes is completely okay, and that improvement will come with practice.

Francesca: It’s to have students USE the language and engage in the culture as authentically as possible. It’s to be a risk-taker and get involved in activities that may be different than you’re used to (ex. New foods, dances, singing) and expand their horizons!

Allie: The main goal should be to emphasize tolerance and keep an open mind, especially if it’s a student’s first time out of the country. It can be scary and weird and frustrating, but as long as teachers emphasize compassion and tolerance, I think students can build their experience from that.

What’s your motivation for teaching?

Martine: I really enjoy being around middle school students, they are eager to learn and have a lot of energy, and at the same time they are a bit fragile as they are taking some of their first grown-up steps. I want to be able to teach them, and at the same time help them, or ease their way in any way I can. We all enjoy laughing, and learning together.  I learn a lot from them.

Francesca: I love kids…I love seeing them learn, and get that “ah-ha!” moment when things “click”. I love the middle schooler’s sense of humor and silliness. I love that I can influence one small part of their lives.

Allie: My motivation is experiencing new cultures, languages, and people and helping to shape others to appreciate these things as well. The world is so big and there are so many new things to experience and different and unique ways of thinking and doing things that we could spend our whole lives learning. I would hope my students feel some of that and would also like to travel.

Prometour: Thank you.


If you’ve never been to Quebec City, we here at Prometour can’t recommend it enough. Obviously, we are somewhat biased since our head office is located in Montreal, but Quebec really is one of the best destinations to visit in the winter.

A big thank you to Martine for helping us put together this article!

Quebec Student Trip