Some lessons are best learnt outside the classroom. Nine international school students tell us about their recent overseas school trips and what made them so special.
Student: Beatrice Pochat-Cottilloux, Year 7
School: EtonHouse International School
Location: Sarawak, Borneo
Duration: Five days
Out of all my camps at EtonHouse, the one that has had the most impact is the five-day trip to Borneo. The first night alone taught us independence, responsibility and awareness. Hearing all the heartbreaking stories of the endangered orangutans living in the wildlife centre where we were staying, as well as the ever-growing struggle to protect them, made us all want to contribute. One of the activities was to invent and construct an enrichment toy for the orangutans and the sun bears.
During guided educational treks we learnt about the disappearing rainforests and how this is affecting animal habitats; we were also told about specific plants that are edible and the ones you should avoid. At night, we slept in little outdoor shelters in the jungle – being surrounded by the sounds of nocturnal animals was an opportunity to truly connect with nature.
As fun as all the activities were, we learned to manage ourselves independently, away from our parents. On top of all that, we spent quality time with friends and bonded with one another through sharing cabins and helping one another out. We enjoyed downtime too, and had lots of laughs while swimming, playing tag and listening to music in our cabins. I have learned so much on this camp and hope these experiences and memories stay with me forever.
Student: Samantha MacMillan, Grade 12
School: Canadian International School Singapore
Location: Sedili Besar, Johor, Malaysia
Duration: Two days
I was one of 18 Biology and Geography students to take part in this educational trip to the east coast of Johor. The purpose was to collect data and gain experience applying the skills we had learnt in school. The data we collected will be used for our upcoming internal assessments.
During the trip, the Geography students focused heavily on coastal erosion and wave patterns, while Biology students looked at the biodiversity found on a rocky shore in Sedili. Both groups used sampling techniques to gather data, such as random quadrats and transect lines. As I was the only student on the trip who studied both subjects, it was an interesting experience for me, simultaneously investigating the concepts and drawing connections between the two.
Having the chance to make so many practical connections between our studies and what we observe in the real world was a great experience. It helped me gain a much deeper understanding of all the important concepts we’ve learnt in class. They are no longer just words on a page, but a valuable piece of knowledge that I gained from my hard work.
This trip was also a unique opportunity to visit a stimulating part of Malaysia, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of learning from our surroundings. After gaining so much from this trip, I hope that one day I will be able to return to Sedili, or travel somewhere new to explore further.
Tanjong Katong Campus
371 Tanjong Katong Road
Student: Grace Cunning, Year 6
School: Dulwich College (Singapore)
Duration: Five days
The moment my music teacher Mrs Munro announced the trip to Dulwich College Suzhou, I knew I had to go! Dulwich College Singapore has hosted this event previously so I had an idea of what to expect. Convincing my Mum and Dad to let me fly to China and stay in a hotel without them wasn’t easy, but I successfully used my drama skills to show them how much it meant to me. Before long, I was on my way to Suzhou with two amazing teachers and my fellow students.
MADD is a festival that brings together students from Dulwich colleges in Asia through Music, Art, Drama and Dance. The theme for this year’s festival was “Carnivale” and we were told to get our masks, feather hats and samba shoes on and to get ready for some fun!
I chose to explore the drama aspect of the festival and I worked alongside talented teachers, practitioners and former actors to learn new techniques such as shadow work, puppetry and how to use my body effectively on stage. I spent most of my time rehearsing in the Black Box Theatre, but I also knew that my artist and musician friends were busy putting together their own showcases. Hearing the sound of the samba drums and the orchestra filled me with excitement, knowing that our performance was coming together. On the day of the performance, the atmosphere was electric – I’d never experienced so many emotions at the same time. However, our fear, nervousness and excitement enabled us to deliver a show-stopping performance.
Having the opportunity to participate in an amazing event like MADD has been one of the best experiences of my life. I have learnt so much about drama, team work and overcoming my fears. I only hope I can convince my Mum and Dad to let me go again next year.
Student: Ashlynn Perry, Year 12
School: Australian International School
Duration: 10 days
In Year 12 there has been a lot of focus on where we want to go and what we want to study in the future. I’ve always considered the performing arts industry as a likely option, but at the start of 2016, my graduation year, I began to understand how hard an industry it is to break into. This fear of failure began to take over and made me doubt my abilities and myself.
This UK trip changed those feelings entirely. We got the opportunity to meet professional actors and directors and undertake workshops with them based on the shows we saw. One of the most enjoyable things for me was being able to meet all these people and understand what their life is like on a day-to-day basis. It was reassuring to find out that they started off just like me – learning about theatre and taking extra classes outside of school – and this has made the attainment of my goal feel very real and possible.
Other highlights of the trip included touring backstage at the National Theatre and the Harry Potter film studios, as this helped me realise the breadth of opportunity in the theatre and film industry. Not only has the trip confirmed that this really is the industry I want to go into, but it has also helped me understand what I have to do in order to get there.
Student: Eva Muquet-Vaillant, Grade 10
School: GEMS World Academy Singapore
Location: Udon Thani
Duration: Six days
Our trip to Udon Thani was an unforgettable experience. The six days were jam-packed with intense community service and cultural learning, but we were never too tired to enjoy some local entertainment by night. The sound of prayers woke us on the first morning, and we started the day by painting the local school. This was followed by a Thai “food adventure”, and later that afternoon we visited a Buddhist temple, and attended Thai cooking classes and Muay Thai lessons.
The next day, house building was on the schedule. We stirred buckets of concrete and poured the mixture, pausing only for refreshments, then got right back to work until we completed the flooring. The group spent the night bowling, which was a nice reward for our hard day’s work.
The next day consisted of a long lecture about the life of a monk, followed by cleaning a temple and repainting the walls. After lunch was the activity called “Meals on Flip Flops”; we helped the chefs cook meals in big woks, and delivered them to the poorest villagers. The women of the village received the food with laughter, eager to share their stories. Later, we toured the night market – we were exhausted, but still full of excitement and new knowledge.
On the final day, we caught fish and built nets for one family’s fish farm. We also tried foods such as durian and chicken embryos, and ended our trip watching traditional dance performances. The friendships and memories I brought back from this trip were absolutely priceless.
Student: Philipp Alex Gehrig, Grade 11
School: German European School Singapore (GESS)
Location: St Petersburg
Duration: One week
Every year, GESS’s Model United Nations (MUN) group takes part in the MUN Conference, a simulation of the work of the United Nations that offers high school students an opportunity to play the role of diplomats and learn the protocols of negotiation and debate.
When the team met at Changi Airport in March, it was obvious we had a big trip ahead: over 20 hours of travel including a five-hour layover in Amsterdam. When we finally reached St Petersburg, none of us were prepared for the culture shock that awaited us. Even the atmosphere in the airport was cold – it felt as though we had walked into a military complex.
When I woke up the next morning I was nervous. How will the people be? Is it safe? However, during the sightseeing tour my worries were proven to be unfounded. The people were friendly and the city was absolutely magnificent. The palaces were mind-blowingly huge and intricately decorated, and we even enjoyed a little snowfall.
The opening ceremony of the conference was held in the astounding Mariinsky Palace, and we all felt like members of the Legislative Assembly, which meets in the palace. Our delegation did a fantastic job, we met many great people, and we got to know a new country. We all agreed that we had to depart too early, leaving behind newfound friends and a city that we would all have loved to explore more. After enduring temperatures that hovered around zero degrees for the entire week, we were treated to a brilliant blue sky over St Petersburg as our flight soared out of Russia.
Student: Anya Parekh, Grade 11
School: Singapore American School
Trip: Casablanca and Zaouiat Ahansal
Duration: Eight days
Our trip to Morocco was part of SAS’s Interim Semester, where every high school student takes part in a service, global studies or eco-adventure trip in one of 28 countries. After several packed days experiencing the food, architecture, markets, mosques and local Moroccans in Casablanca’s Old City and Marrakech, we took an eight hour bus ride to the snowy mountains of Zaouiat Ahansal. There we participated in construction projects and taught English to village children.
I gained a new perspective on education by interacting with the students at the school. While they were learning the alphabet and numbers in English, they never complained when we asked them to repeat a word over and over again. They took what we were teaching very seriously and tried to memorise the words to the best of their ability.
This trip not only made me reflect on other children’s education, it also made me evaluate my education as well. Children who live in less developed countries are able to enjoy their education because of their outlook on life; they are very optimistic and understand that there is a whole world of opportunity ahead of them. Little things like grades and college acceptances do not consume their thoughts.
I am extremely thankful for my education and for opportunities like this that show me there is a world outside of Singapore – something I often forget in my day-to-day life. Life becomes more enjoyable when you see it not as a series of mundane events but instead as filled with meaningful experiences – and this is precisely what the children of Zaouiat Ahansal have accomplished.
Student: Aryeh Abergel, Grade 9
School: Sir Manasseh Meyer International School
Location: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
Duration: One week
Going to Cambodia was a truly amazing experience. Although our stay only lasted a week, we saw many different landmarks in this beautiful country, and I am forever grateful for my experience there. One of the places we stayed was an orphanage. We had a fantastic time with the kids, and the story of the orphanage was really emotional – it showed us just howmuch one person can do. Sean Samnang’s orphanage started off with about three kids. With nothing but compassion and care, he invested all his time into this major project. Sean had very little money and struggled to provide basic needs such as food. Over time, the financial situation improved as they started to receive donations from generous people. Now, he is a father figure to 50 kids who will continue to have a healthy and educated life.
Another meaningful experience in Cambodia was gazing upon Angkor Wat. It was truly magnificent. Watching the sunset after a long and tiring walk up a mountain was inspirational and breathtaking. I thank my teachers for supervising us while we were there. I hope their experience was as wonderful as mine.
Student: Chloe Long, Year 13
School: Tanglin Trust School
Location: Hong Kong
Duration: Five days
The National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA), also known as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, is an internationally recognised award for young adults aged 14 to 24. NYAA has four elements, all of which complement the academic aspects of Tanglin. For the Adventurous Journey element, students have to plan and execute a journey with a minimal amount of adult intervention, encouraging them to demonstrate the important qualities of independence, responsibility and integrity.
While NYAA is challenging, it is challenge by choice. It’s tough, but the reward and sense of achievement are tangible. Plus, if you reach the Gold level you are invited to a very prestigious ceremony where you get to meet the President of Singapore! For my Adventurous Journey we went trekking in Hong Kong. The hardest thing for me about this trip was lacking the confidence on the first day of trekking and struggling with my backpack weight, which set me behind immediately. The first peak we climbed was challenging – it really knocked my confidence and made me panic about the difficulty of the coming days. However, I persevered and completed the two harder trekking challenges that came next. What really got me through was the support of new friends and the teachers in the group, who helped reorganise backpacks and motivated me to keep me going.
After completing the expedition I felt so much better about myself in knowing that, even when I really struggle, I can overcome physical challenges with determination and the support of my peers.
This is an article that first appeared in the November 2016 edition of Expat Living. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!
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