Welcome to our newest member – Study Buddy Educational Tours
Interview with Kim Carvajal, Co-Founder
Tell us your story. How did Study Buddy Educational Tours get started?
Study Buddy Tours was created by my mother-in-law, Nitz Carvajal, in 1995, to extend Outdoor Education in Vancouver to students in the Philippines, to see for themselves the wonders of Vancouver. It was her son Mauro (now my husband) who inspired her to create a unique model of youth leadership for international students, centred on nature experiences and sustainability. Nitz was struck by Mauro’s excitement and enthusiasm for his rich learning experience each time he returned from Outdoor School in the 1990s. This was the seed of her business idea that would allow her and her family to flourish as a new immigrant to Canada in 1994. In 2013, I was given the opportunity to take over. Coming from an International Business background with corporate work experience and a passion for travel, I knew right away this was a perfect fit for me. Since 2014, I have hosted school groups based on word of mouth and personal referrals. It has truly been a transformational endeavour to provide youth and adults with life-changing experiences that make international travel purposeful and empowering. I feel so grateful that my hometown also happens to be a top-rated world class destination city. Sustainability practices, supported by engaging and empowering education, is a vital need in today’s world. We are now ready to expand our offerings and invite English speaking students from around the world to participate in our program. Students aged 11-18 are invited to experience Canadian culture, grow life skills, and learn sustainability practices during their holidays and are challenged and supported to make a difference in their communities.
What makes Study Buddy Educational Tours different from your competitors?
There is no other tour operator in Vancouver, Canada who offers experiential learning centred on sustainability that is designed with the purpose of building globally-conscious leaders. Touring with certified instructors to guide student-centred sustainability learning at Vancouver attractions is unique to Study Buddy Tours. We work closely with educational professionals with deep experience in leading educational practices and approaches to ensure we are providing high quality educational experiences and supporting regular professional development for our instructors.
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
It’s hard to pick one success story from so many stories over the years. What comes to mind, is to watch students’ progression from the beginning to the end of each program tour. A large part of the tours involve creative journaling and personal reflection with a final closing circle where students share their key takeaways. Witnessing students’ reflections in these circles are my favourite part – where their new-found perspectives evoke so much joy and inspiration, not only within me but to everyone involved. It reminds me that we have created an invaluable learning experience in many beautiful natural settings. Knowing that students are empowered and have a new sense of caring for the earth today and for the future adds a deep level of satisfaction in what we do and how we do it!
What can we expect to see from Study Buddy Educational Tours in the future?
We have several exciting new offerings. For participants, it is new age-appropriate intentional activities to etch their experience and prompt positive change. For strategic partners, we are finalising an outline of our process to communicate what it’s like to work with Study Buddy Tours. We are also in the midst of developing an educator specific tour – to support teachers from abroad to help lead change within their classes.
Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?
The power of youth’s voices for a healthy, just and thriving world – using Social Media, Youth Travel and nature-based sustainability education is on the rise. It is critical to use these channels to educate youth to see the negative impacts of climate change, habitat destruction and to curb high consumption lifestyles. As an avid traveller myself, I see supplementing traditional school with educational travel as the driving force of a more sustainable future.
How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with Study Buddy Educational Tours?
All tour leaders are strong in logistics/group management and have First Aid certificates. The educators specialise in Outdoor Education along with Wilderness First Aid. We take dietary restrictions seriously and communicate it to all the kitchens we work with. In small group cases, we mostly use local transit (skytrain and buses) which are high quality and closely-regulated. In large group scenarios, we use charter bus services with government safety certification. We communicate daily with visiting teachers to understand particular needs, build warm relationships with participants, and adjust our scheduling to meet group needs effectively. We also request participants to complete surveys on each tour to ensure continuous improvement with our programming.
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
In order to grow globally through strategic partnerships and increase our brand exposure, we thought WYSE Travel Confederation was the perfect way to start.
Have you attended a WYSE Travel Confederation event? If so, what was your experience with the event?
WYSE Edinburgh Scotland will be my first event. Please come and visit our booth. We look forward to meeting and sharing more at the socials or evenings at the Pub!
What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing at this time?
Finding accommodation In Vancouver connected to the transit system that aligns with the lifestyles and expectations of a school group. And ensuring that as a Tour and Education company we effectively meet the quality and expectations of both sectors effectively while each is evolving.
Study Buddy Educational Tours (SBT) design programs for students which is unique to SBT’s mission; develop young minds into confident conscious leaders. Youth groups have the opportunity for an interactive experience connecting with diverse people and beautiful places around Vancouver, Canada. Outdoor Education in nature is one of the ways they make influencing people toward positive change fun. They also use educational travel as a vehicle towards building confidence and life skills with the support of certified teachers as tour leaders. Their success is through the stories of participants who have had profound experiences during their time with Study Buddy Educational Tours in Vancouver, Canada.
For more information, visit their website: www.studybuddytours.com
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Associate Member
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