Colleen Darwish 2Evelyn Ross has been a program coordinator and tour manager at Carousel Student Tours for fifteen years.  In that time, Evelyn has shared many unforgettable travel experiences with us.

Recently, Evelyn escorted a group of high school students on a homestay/tour in France.  While visiting the Eiffel Tower, Evelyn had a first-hand experience with Vigipirates – France’s national security alert system.

Read on as Evelyn explains how two souvenir bottle openers almost set off a security alert in Paris.

Spring in Paris – my favorite!!!

It was a beautiful day. We had visited Versailles in the morning and just gotten off the “RER” to make our way to our next appointment at the Eiffel Tower. 

When we arrived at the entrance of the iron lattice, we presented our tickets and proceeded to go through security.  Just as the last two students were about to join the group, a guard going through their bags, confiscated their souvenir bottle openers that were planned gifts for family members back home.   

I tried to reason with the guard and talk him out of throwing the bottle openers in the trash. He finally suggested that if I would be willing to go back out and hide the two bottle openers on the grounds of the Eiffel Tower, he would give them to me instead of throwing them in the trash.

I sent the rest of the group on their way to be with their teacher while I took the two bottle openers and tried to find a spot to hide them. 

By the South Pillar of the Eiffel Tower there was less traffic, and I noticed a bush covered in white flowers.  I placed my back pack on the ground and pretended to search for something.  Pulling out the two bottle openers, I discretely hid them at the base of the flowers and covered them with greeneries.   I went back to the Eiffel Tower to join my group.

After our tour, we made our way down the tower to the West Pillar where we had entered.  I asked my group to wait until I returned, leaving them with their teacher.  Then, I made my way back to my secret hiding place.  Minding my own business and enjoying my surroundings under the Eiffel Tower, I stopped in my tracks, wondering what was happening at the South Pillar.

Soldiers from the Vigipirates, with full camouflage uniforms, were positioned, forming a perimeter around the white flowering shrub.  I started walking again toward the soldier closest to me.  While they had assumed a kind of “ready-for-action” position, the atmosphere became very tense. All eyes were riveted on me, and the Vigipirates secured their machine guns. Gulp.

 I greeted them and asked if we could talk.  I explained that I was with the group of students by the West Pillar, and that I had followed a suggestion of the security guard to hide the two bottle openers at the base of those little white flowers, and, if they would prefer, they could go and retrieve them for me or could come with me as I retrieved these gifts.  One soldier relaxed a bit, and I noticed a slight trace of a smile on his face. He told me to go and get the students’ souvenirs. 

As I walked toward the flowers, I could not help but feel their eyes on me like a cat watches a mouse, or even better, a lion watches its prey. 

As I reclaimed the now famous bottle openers, I waved them in the air shouting, “Merci les voila” (“Here they are!  Thank you!”)  

By now, everyone was relaxed and smiling. Grateful that the ordeal was over, I headed back toward the West Pillar where I handed the bottle openers to their respective owners.

Homestay Programs – a student’s point of view

One of our favorite things is receiving feedback from students who participate in our exchange programs.  Whether they submit a winning photo that captures their experience or write us a letter that illustrates the time they spent with their host community, we enjoy knowing that these programs create life-long relationships between students, families, and communities.

Here is a letter we received from Rouven Grenz, a student in Germany who came to the U.S. to participate in an exchange program with a high school in New Jersey.

In my opinion a school exchange is a great way to learn more about a different culture – whether it’s an exchange between America and Germany or any other countries you could imagine.

But especially an exchange between America and Germany is a great thing, because there are both a lot of differences but also lots of things both countries have in common. Germany is also especially linked to America through history, economy and science. Staying with a family in the United States was a great dream that became a  reality.

When I first heard about the possibility to travel to the United States in an exchange I wasn’t too confident about it: three weeks isn’t a long time, but still you are thousands of miles away from your family, from your home. What if my host family isn’t nice? What if I get sick? What if the food isn’t good (silly, how could I believe that?)  What if…?  What if….?

Nevertheless I decided to apply, as I really like America and just wanted to give it a try. Lucky me – because I was chosen to be one of the twenty German students going to the United States!

At first I was really nervous about it, but when I got to know my host student/exchange partner Brendan I was ok again -I knew this was going to be good.

Weeks passed – and then suddenly – I stood there in front of my American High School in New Jersey, and everybody finally got to know his or her exchange partner (in person). Brendan, his two younger brothers and his mum picked me up – I was so tired I couldn’t realize I finally arrived (also, there was Lasagna for dinner. Delicious!).

Everybody has been so friendly – everybody in school seemed to know me and from the first day treated me like an old friend they had known for years (although most of them just called me ‘Brendan’s German’, because they couldn’t memorize my name).

The next days were great. Some days I ‘shadowed’ Brendan in school – I learned a ton about American schools – and some days we had day trips to different destinations, like New York City (three times!), Philadelphia, Boston, and Princeton University.

During the three weeks of the exchange I learned a lot, had a lot of fun and also had a great chance to improve my English.

I even played American Football! I can’t tell you about all the things I’ve seen, but I’d recommend everybody who has the opportunity to participate in an exchange to America to use it – it’s definitely worth it.

 At this point I would like to thank Carousel Student Tours again for the amazing organization of all the trips, tickets and information. You did a great job!


Rouven Grenz


Outside of the Classroom Learning: When Travel Experiences Become the Curriculum

Whether you are planning a class trip to New York City or want to introduce your students to a cultural homestay exchange program abroad, as soon as you make the decision to take your students outside of the classroom, they are immediately opened to a new way of learning.

Studying Spanish takes on a whole new meaning when students are faced with the task of ordering local cuisine at a busy restaurant in Madrid.  Similarly, learning about America’s road to freedom becomes more personal when they stand next to the Vietnam Memorial or the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, DC.

Taking the lesson plan outside of the classroom encourages students to momentarily look up from their electronic world, and consider another point of view, while broadening their global lens. Additionally, students have the chance to put into practice the skills they’ve acquired through classroom instruction.

Domestic and international travel is crucial to a comprehensive, global education.  In most cases, the impact of these experiences can be seen immediately. Students appear to mature overnight and return more confident, receive better grades in all their academic subjects, and fully understand the relevance in what they are studying.

Mark Twain’s timeless quote reiterates the importance of travel:  

“Of all the reasons to travel, broadening one’s horizons is the most important. We live in a world with billions of people and rapidly diminishing resources, and our collective history is far less cooperative than it is competitive. Experience is the enemy of ignorance, and travel is a gateway to understanding the world”.

It’s undeniable that travel shapes a young person’s future and can be the foundation for creating global thinkers. This year, when you are putting together your curriculum, perhaps you will consider taking some time away from classroom instruction, and take your students on an  adventure that they will carry with them for a lifetime.


Dead Mobile Devices and the TSA – New Security Measures

How often have you boarded a flight with a cell phone, laptop, or tablet that was completely dead?

Under the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules, if you do so when returning to the U.S. from abroad, you risk having your electronic devices confiscated.

Travelers on direct flights to the U.S. from some overseas airports must be able to power up thier devices when they go through airport security. “Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft,” the TSA announced in a release Sunday. “The traveler may also undergo additional screening.”

Why has TSA enhanced their security measures? U.S. officials suspect that Middle East terrorists have developed a way to hide explosives from metal detectors, body scanners and pat-downs.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re flying home from an overseas trip:

 – Charge your devices before you depart for the airport.

– Keep chargers in your carry-on luggage, not in checked bags.

– You might want to keep a universal travel charger adapter plug in your carry-on luggage to ensure that you can power up in a foreign country. You can purchase these adapters at Amazon.

Remember, being prepared can prevent hours of frustration before heading home from your oversees trip.  Safe travels! 

For more information, visit TSA’s website at:



Becoming a host family……

This time of year is very busy for everyone at Carousel.  We are actively working on all our fall trips, which includes finding host families for the numerous homestay exchange programs at various school’s throughout the Northeast.

Each year, we meet families who open their hearts and their homes to an international exchange student. Hosting a student is a wonderful opportunity to provide your child with a chance to make a life-long friend with someone from another culture.

For many exchange students, going to a cookout, attending classes at an American school or participating in after school sports practice is a novelty, an experience they’ll remember for years to come.

 Cara Thissell, a mother who participated in one of our homestay programs, hosted a 16 year old student from Spain last year.  “We enjoyed the experience so much,” explains Thissell.  “I must admit, I was reluctant to join this program as we speak no Spanish, but she is such a sweet girl and we have lots of laughs trying to overcome the language barrier.  My daughter and our exchange student quickly became friends and she fit in with our family marvelously.  I truly hope she enjoyed being here as much as we enjoyed having her.”

We invite you to share your home and traditions with an exchange student and show them what life is like for an American family.

Why Host?

  • Meet exceptional students from another country
  • Introduce your family to a new culture & language
  • Build lifelong international friendships
  • Change the course of a young person’s life

 What is required?

  • Any family large or small with high school or middle school aged children
  • Share your home and your heart
  • Provide meals and a bed (students can share a room)
  • Weekends are spent with host families

If you school or community is hosting an exchange program with Carousel Student Tours, please contact us if you are interested in hosting a student. 

These programs provide a valuable cultural experience without ever having to leave your own backyard. Email us at:

Creating a travel journal

What are your travel plans this summer? Whether it’s a weekend getaway to the shore, a family trip to visit relatives, or a dream European vacation, journaling your adventure is a great way to remember all the experiences you’ve collected along the way.

Once you begin keeping a travel journal, you will look forward to filling its pages with mementoes, notes, and stories about your trip. Below, are a few guidelines to help you create a lasting memory.

1. Choose a journal that feels comfortable for you. Make sure it’s not too small – where writing is a challenge or too large that you won’t want to bring your journal along for the ride.
2. Start writing in your dedicated travel journal at least a couple weeks prior to departure. Note your itinerary, emotions, and expectations. You can even use these pages as a checklist to remind you of everything you need to do before you leave.
3. The journey itself may afford many journaling moments. If you’re the one piloting the trip, write a line or two about your progress and the environment whenever you stop for a break. If you’re in the passenger seat, try journaling more frequently.
4. Once you reach your destination, make journaling part of your settling in activities. Take a shower, get something to eat, and tell your journal all about your new surroundings.
5. We tend to be creatures of habit. As you enjoy your holiday, find that perfect moment in each day to reflect on your experiences in your journal.
6. Wherever you go, collect keepsakes that you can incorporate into your pages. Bits of nature, paper, photos, postcards, or ticket stubs. You’ll develop a keen eye for these small reminders.
7. When it’s almost time to go home, devote a special journaling session to outline the highlights of your trip. A few questions you may want to consider are: What did you enjoy the most? What was beautiful, fun or out of the ordinary? Was the journey difficult? Has this trip changed your point of view in any way?
8. Once you return home, make a final entry in your travel journal, and include your present thoughts about the vacation as well as how you are feeling now that you’re back to everyday life.

Your travel journal doesn’t have to be a written account of your adventure. If writing isn’t your thing, you can create a photo journal or sketchbook of the places you’ve visited. There are many online photo sites that will allow you to upload your photos and create a photo book.

Whatever vacation plans you have for this summer, make sure that you take some time to enjoy the gifts that summer offers. From the feeling of sand between your toes and the gooey sweetness of s’mores by a campfire to the carefree moments of riding in the car with the windows down, keep in mind that summer is a short season.

Fun Summertime Activities

Now that we are in the full swing of summer, many parents are often left wondering about activities that their children can do to keep busy. If you have a student in high school working, you’re lucky. But what do you do for their younger siblings? If you’re hosting a student from another country, you may wonder about activities that they might enjoy during their time visiting the U.S.

Here are eight free or inexpensive things you may want to consider doing with your kids this summer.

Visit a local pool or beach. Let’s face it – the dog days of summer can be brutally hot. What better way to cool off then by going to a local pool or beach. Many towns have public pools with lifeguards on duty. If you are lucky enough to live by a lake or beach, these locations can provide hours of entertainment for children. From looking for shells and sea glass to splashing around and just staying cool, a local pool or beach will provide much needed relief from the blistering heat. Just remember to bring the sunscreen.

Enjoy game night. Game night is quickly making a comeback in bars and restaurants around the country. Turn your own home into a hip, fun place and make “Tuesday Night Trivia” popular with your own family. Not only will everyone have fun – the trivia questions you choose can also be used as a teaching tool to help kids with various subjects including history, science, music and art.
Go to a free concert in the park. Cities and towns nationwide put on free concerts in parks and town greens during the summer months. These free concerts are a great way to introduce kids to live performances. Check out your community’s chamber of commerce or newspaper for local listings – and don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch or dinner!

Let the kid’s help you cook.
Not only does this sharpen math skills with school out, but also kids are more likely to eat healthy meals they help prepare. Who knows? Maybe this activity will help produce the next Food Network celebrity.
Share a hobby or sport. Do you scrapbook, write, paint or bike? Share that skill with your child or grandchild. If the child has expressed interest in a topic or sport you haven’t mastered, do the research and create projects or activities together.

Visit your town’s free attractions. Smaller, less popular museums or attractions may seem boring to you, but they’re magic to kids who have never seen them. An added plus is they often have much smaller admission fees than the most popular museums and zoos.

Give the kids a photography project. Photography is a great way to get kids to pay attention to what’s going on around them. Let your kids choose a theme or subject and take photos all summer. They can then use those photos in a scrapbook, storybook, collage online slideshow or gift for relatives or friends.

Explore your local library. Not only can you borrow books for free, you can also check out movies and download music. Plus, many libraries have story times, movies and other activities for kids and teens during the summer.

Hopefully, these tips will help give you some ideas about fun activities that you can do with your kids during the summer months. If you have any other suggestions to add to this list, please share in the comments section below. Happy summer!