Maximizing Your Global Learning Experience (a series) Part II: While There

This is Part 2 of a blog post series on maximizing your learning during an opportunity to spend time in another country getting to know a community and a culture. Part 1 was all about preparing for your trip. Today, author Pat Elson provides tips for those of you traveling as a group on making the most of your learning experience while there. Check out Part 3, Meaningful Action after this one!

Tips for maximizing your global learning experience in a group While There:


  1. Set group norms before you go. You are on a brief, intense experience. Establish and review expectations of how you will relate to each other is helpful.
  2. Journal, journal, journal. Create space and opportunity for everyone to keep a personal journal. This will be a great resource during the experience, as well as telling the story when you return.
  3. Create spaces for reflection. Ensure there are regular times for solo and group reflection and introspection to help deepen the learning experience.
  4. Check in on hopes and expectations. Often expectations need to be altered and it is common to learn they were not realistic. Ongoing check-ins, personal support, helpful tips & tools, solo & group journaling, and in-depth orientation are key.
  5. Ask your hosts. Don’t assume you know what messages your host communities would like you to take home. Make time for the host community to tell you their wishes.
  6. Create a communication strategy. Decide ahead of time how you will communicate about your experience, during the experience. And, stick to it! People back home will be curious, interested and maybe even worried. Communication with your family, friends and communities is critical.
  7. As a group develop an elevator speech message that communicates the highlights of the trip, a few lessons learned, and a few areas where you were challenged. People don’t want to hear all the details, so share the most compelling things.
  8. Address areas of tension. You are a group of people who may or may not know each other well, on an intense experience. If there are areas of discomfort or conflict, address them as soon as possible. Don’t let unaddressed issues derail your learning experience or jeopardize it in some way.
  9. Take care of each other. Be gentle, loving and supportive of each other. You will need it!
  10. Make a plan before you get back about how you plan to re-connect. It is wise to do this not long after your return, and at least once. Debriefing about re-entry, lessons learned, sharing opportunities, and next steps can be extremely helpful.


Which of these tips have you found especially helpful?

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Pat Elson ( is the Team Leader for People in Partnership programs for The United Church of Canada.