Organizing an immersion with a company vs. on your own
Doug T., a Spanish Teacher from Arlington, Massachusetts, was unsure of what he was getting himself into when he decided to organize a Spanish immersion for his middle schoolers with Forum Language Experience. Prior to Forum, Doug organized his school´s trips to Mexico on his own and to Costa Rica using a travel agency. However, when the Costa Rica trip was unexpectedly cancelled, Doug looked for other options. We asked him about his process choosing a travel company and organizing an immersion program in Málaga, Spain.
As a teacher who previously organized trips on your own, what are the benefits of working with a company?
Working with a company takes a lot of the work away on my part. I like how parents can register online and pay directly to Forum, so I don’t have to get involved with the financial aspect. Having a representative from Forum who communicates to me everything I need and works directly with the school is very helpful, so I don´t need to keep the school and parents always updated. Another school in our district had travel delays because of snow, and Forum provided them with assistance and reimbursements, which gives me a piece of mind that if something happens, I don’t have to worry.
How did you hear about Forum?
When our Costa Rica trip was cancelled, I began to look for another program. I had no connection to Spain but a colleague of mine overheard me talking about starting a program and said that a high school in her town was doing a Spanish exchange program with Forum. The fact that somebody in a neighboring town liked and had done an exchange with Forum for many years, made me decide to give it a try.
With the option of a language immersion program or a student tour, why did you choose an immersion?
A tour is good for older people who want to learn the culture and history and see the landscape, but to improve in the language, a homestay is better. While a tour is observational, a homestay is hands on – seeing how families interact, experiencing the culture and practicing the language. I understand parents´ worries of sending their students, but our school has a great travel history, and it´s an important opportunity for their child to learn. Our parents are very supportive – when our Costa Rica trip was cancelled, they took the kids anyway, that´s what these programs mean to them!
“They come back not just knowing how to speak Spanish better but also as different kids, this experience allows them to grow independently, intellectually and academically.”
What has the experience been like for your students?
We prepped them on what to expect and how the first days may be awkward with the host family – not knowing the language, missing home and feeling anxious. The first day I had two boys experiencing that mixed bag of feelings, but now they are loving it.
A couple of kids have said to me, “I didn´t want to come, my parents made me, but now I am so happy I came!” This trip has been amazing for our kids; I envy them – I wish I could be their age again and have this experience.
What has been the best experience for you, as a teacher, during the program?
The best thing is seeing my students discover what they can do without their parents, like taking a taxi together to the city center. They come back not just knowing how to speak Spanish better but also as different kids – this experience allows them to grow independently, intellectually and academically.