Interview with Valencia guide Kate Redding on her experience as an educational Tour Manager for over 10 years from the top educational tour company in the industry. 75% of these tours were with top-ranking American high school students and 25% with adults, specialty performance tours and custom tours.
Name: Sarah-Kate Redding
Hometown: Clinton, ME and Sosua, Dominican Republic
What do teachers and students seem to appreciate most about your role in their trip?
Participants of my tour groups seem to most value the amount of comfort I give them as a liaison between their world and this exotic, exciting and constantly-moving world of European travel. Not only do they have the assurance that I am there as their all-round group coordinator and go-getter as an experienced EU resident and traveler, but they also feel well taken care of with their more specific needs. Some groups (or parts of groups) may have more of an affinity to a certain historical period, some to Art, some to the sporting culture- and not to forget the teens who can’t get enough of European pop culture- which in itself offers a plethora of modern manifestations of all these other aspects. Of course an educational tour touches upon nearly every feature of a culture, but listening to a group or sub-group’s specific needs allows the individual to more readily internalize the educational experience, and thus take much more away from it.
Besides this, I’ve been told that my fun-loving and playful nature allows them to thoroughly enjoy and get involved in my activities, anecdotes and constant road commentary that continually point out and help them get perspective on that which might otherwise be overlooked or misunderstood. My teaching background has certainly shown me that an awake and entertained audience is retaining far more than an asleep one, even if (or especially if, depending on your taste) you’re James Michener.
What do you like most about being TM?
Apart from the obvious traveling, which all TMs must have a background in and a passion for, this is truly and honestly the ideal job for many people which might be a motley crew indeed, if it weren’t for this opportunity to express all our multi-talents at the same time. As I grew up traveling and have an international education from a young age, I was the perfect poster girl, like most TMs, for well-roundedness, Jacks and Janes-of-all-trades and multi-passions. My College years in the States certainly promoted that, however, over in Europe it’s certainly more difficult to be able to market yourself without one specific vocational preparation. However, working as a Tour Manager is this one great opportunity for people like me to use and hone all our skills at the same time. Where else can one combine an expertise in political philosophy, a passion for European Sports, a well-read interest in classical literature, awards for my acting, an odd capacity to retain quirky history, an extrovert’s love for conversation and social graces and a workaholic’s need for organization and call these compatible professional qualities? If you can think of another one, let me know.
What do you like most about working for ACIS?
Having been an American high school student on international tours myself at times, I am living proof that gaining insight into other cultures at the youngest age possible is beneficial not only to bolster the educational thought process through first hand experience but also for the development of the self. The teenage years are the exact time when we are most disposed to assimilating what we learn, see, believe in and thus
become. At this age more than any other, travelling in another country becomes more a part of our identity than at a later age when we are more easily prone to looking at another culture as through a window, detached and less affected. For a teenager, just a few days abroad becomes a pivotal point in their upbringing where life’s window becomes a looking glass that they will define and redefine throughout their lives and I still want to be a part of that. From my own experience, I honestly believe that ACIS manifests this high level of educational understanding that I have only seen at top level colleges who run their own specialized exchange programs. ACIS strives to keep perfecting this first-hand learning process not only for teens but for us adults too. The company itself treats us TMs with great respect and allows us to bring our varied knowledge and skills to tours in our unique ways, so that we may offer this self-building experience to the very best of our capacity- which keeps us and participants alike very happy and ready for more.
Describe (1 or 2 sentences) the most educational place in Spain or France you have visited on an ACIS tour.
I would have to say the city of Granada and the Alhambra in southern Spain. It is an utterly intriguing place which lends so much insight into the modern relationship between the Occidental and Eastern worlds, puts needed perspective on the West’s relatively small place in history and seems to answer major questions about how Europe came to be at the same time as it conveys an older empire’s splendor in all of its ancient glory.
The most beautiful?
So many to choose from! In the sense of modern architectural beauty and awe, I could most definitely choose Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia- especially at night when it is lit up with candescent rainbow colors. Placed in the city’s ‘river’ (now a beautifully groomed city-long park), it is a conglomeration of water landscapes and amazingly designed alabaster colored buildings that tower over the newer surrounding neighborhoods. Add some of Valencia’s world renown fireworks from it’s huge Fallas festival to this picture, and you certainly have dessert for the eyes.
The most unusual?
Not very typical Spanish or Catalan, but there is one that stands out among the many attractions in Barcelona’s most famous market, the Boqueria, where you can find fairly near anything that exists to eat: from cactus flower to pig’s feet to prettily packaged insects. Yes, a real insect stall exists, despite the city’s rumors of urban legend-hood. I had heard about it for years and thought I was being sent on a wild goose chase a number of times- it seems to hold an allusive quality even to other shop vendors. Finally, it was spotted and it is much more gourmet than I had assumed. As you can guess, I have a great many pictures of girls and boys gobbling down chocolate covered scorpions and caramelized tarantulas.