Activity: Questions to Consider When Traveling Abroad

Here’s an interesting question:  When you have students who are going to be out of school for a week or two on a family vacation or a trip to an exotic location, what kind of work—if any—should you give them to do?

That’s exactly the situation that I’m in this week, as two of my favorite boys are heading to Sweden to play in an international youth soccer competition.

Recognizing that traveling on a youth soccer team isn’t always conducive to reflecting deeply about other cultures and countries, I whipped a few questions together for the boys to think about.

Figured I’d share them here.  Maybe you can adapt them somehow the next time you have a student hit the road for an interesting destination vacation.


Dear Luke and Kurtis,

Trust me on this: When you travel to another country, keeping a journal to reflect on what you are seeing and learning is REALLY important—and really valuable.

Every time I’ve ever travelled to a new land, I’ve kept a journal and I LOVE going back and thinking about what I’ve learned even today.

So here’s your challenge—and your homework: Write about AT LEAST 4 of the questions below while you are travelling.

Sit down at night before you go to bed—or while you’re sitting on a bus before a game, or a train travelling from one city to another—and just write.

How long should you write for?

As long as it takes to work through your thoughts about what you are seeing and what you are learning.

Don’t go cheap and get it done quick. Really work at it. And do it every day—don’t leave it all until the very end of your trip.

Respect reflecting. It works—and it’s what smart people do.

Mr. F

Questions to Choose From:

Eat something uniquely Swedish—a piece of food that you definitely COULDN’T get in the United States.

Describe it for us. Was it a sweet treat or a piece of meat? Is there anything that we eat on a regular basis that you can compare it to?

Was it worth the money that you paid for it? Will you eat it again? Are you happy that you tried it?

Find one person from another country and ask them to give you three different words that they think of when they think of America or Americans.

Ask them to explain the reasons behind their choices. Then, react to their choices.

Are you surprised by anything they said? Offended? Proud of?


Spend some time paying attention to how people move in Denmark or Sweden.

Do they drive bigger cars or smaller cars? Are there more cars or fewer cars? Do they have more busses and trains or less busses and trains?

Is their system of movement better or worse than ours? Why? Would their system of movement work in Cary/Apex? Why or why not?

Americanization is when American people, products and/or goods spread to other countries.

List at least five examples of Americanization that you see while in Denmark or Sweden. Then reflect on Americanization.

Is it a good thing for America? For Sweden? Does it make our world a better place or a worse place? Why?


For geographers, “place” is usually described as the characteristics that make a country unique.

Another way to think about it is if someone woke up in Sweden tomorrow, how would they know they were in Sweden?

Make a list of five things that you see on your trip that are “uniquely Swedish.” Explain what they are and why travelers might find them interesting.


Pay attention to the races of the people that you see while you are in Sweden.

Are most people of one race (a homogenous country) or is there a good mix of people of different races (a heterogeneous country)?

How would Sweden’s racial makeup help its country? How might it hurt its country?


After spending time in Sweden, what are you most proud of about the United States?

What do we do better than the Swedes? How are our people different? Our cities? Our sports?

10 thoughts on “Activity: Questions to Consider When Traveling Abroad

  1. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Karen,
    Thanks for the kind words on my questions.
    Ill have to let you know how they worked when the boys get back from Sweden! They are still there until July 6th.
    Im hoping they will have done great work. I told them that their only grade was going to be feedback from me on how thoughtful they were while they were on the road. For these boys, that ought to be enough to get some pretty good results!
    Rock on,

  2. Karen janowski

    Hi Bill,
    I’m finally catching up with RSS and reading this post today. How did it go with the students? What did they choose to do and what was their reaction?
    Curious to know the follow up based upon your excellent questions.

  3. Julie C

    I had a student go to China a few years ago. I asked him to make a voice thread with pictures and his voice as an interactive photo album of the trip. It was a wonderful final product that spurred much discussion for the class. I wish I had also provided your questions as well. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Bill Ferriter

    Thanks, Derek…
    I always want the kids to think intelligently when they’re traveling!
    Here’s to hoping that they’ll actually take the assignment seriously. They asked me how it would be graded.
    My answer was, “It won’t be. Instead, it will determine how much respect I have for you as thinkers.”
    They seemed to care more about that than anything else!
    Rock on,


    I love the assignment that you gave these two lads! It is totally do-able for them and not too onerous. I think they will enjoy the assignment and will have notes to refer to when they come back to NC and make a presentation to the class. I admire your approach with this situation…many teachers get upset by students taking holidays during the school year.
    You definitely care about your kids and you want what is best for them. They are lucky to have you.

  6. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Mindy,
    Glad that the questions look useful to you! I know that Im always trying to pull something meaningful together for my kids to do when theyre traveling. If I can put these kind of questions at the center of their thinking, its got to be better than anything else that Ive had them do in the past!

  7. Mindy

    Awesome questions that really get them thinking and continue their development into (hopefully) the thoughtful adults I want making decisions in my country in the future.
    Thanks for sharing. Just about every year, I have students travel out of the country. I definitely want to use these.

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