During mid-winter break, many students from San Rafael High School went on a week long trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, while several others explored the vast jungles of Costa Rica. Both trips provided many opportunities for the students to learn about the different cultures from around the world.
Madame Truett led the trip to Asia, while Mr. Morales facilitated the trip to Costa Rica. “I think it’s really important for them [the students] to know what’s out there, and to experience other cultures and other ways of living and other perspectives,” says Madame Truett. Having been on trips abroad as a high schooler, she also thinks, “it helps them gain independence and confidence, and it helps them get ready for college as it gets them out of their comfort zone.”
Likewise, Mr. Morales adds, “I think it’s really important for them to see how people live in different parts of the world, the challenges they have in other places and how they deal with them.” “It gives us a better appreciation for how we live and deal with our challenges here.”
A couple of seniors from SRHS who went on the trip to Costa Rica said that they discovered how different the Costa Rican culture was compared with the culture of what they are accustomed to here in the Bay Area. “We got to feel out the culture,” says Fiona O’Neill. The SRHS senior goes on to say, “All of the tour guides were native, so half of them couldn’t speak English, but they told us what they could about where we were and what we were doing.” The tour guides exposed the students to traditional meals, transportation, and architecture in order to emphasize the Costa Rican lifestyle.
One major culture shock that stood out to Grace Jensen, an SRHS senior, was the bathroom situation in Costa Rica. “The biggest thing was that in some of the places you’re not supposed to flush the toilet paper, you just throw it away.” The reasoning behind this odd custom is due to poor plumbing, poor water tanks, and even poor septic tanks that are unable to consume anything other than natural products.
This goes to show the vast variety of new experiences the students were facing. From learning that pineapples are not fruits, but rather bromeliads, that some plants have 6 foot long leaves because of their placement in the forest, to understanding the reasoning behind throwing away toilet paper in a trash can rather than flushing it down a toilet like we are all accustomed to.
The two trips brought very different experiences to both groups of students. In Costa Rica, students explored the neverending jungle, and went white water rafting and ziplining. On the other hand, the students who went to Asia toured historic landmarks, such as temples and shrines, that were constructed centuries ago.
“It was really interesting to go see all this centuries old architecture from 700 years ago,” said Jonah Glickstein, a senior who went on the Asia trip. “We don’t have that in the U.S.”
These trips provide a once in a lifetime opportunity for students that cannot be captured without first hand experience. Seeing sights with historical backgrounds, that are unlike any other, can change a life forever.
In Madame Truett’s case, it can influence someone so much that they feel the need to share the experiences that they once had. “The first time I did a major trip abroad was in high school,” says Madame Truett. “It changed my life, so when I became a teacher I promised myself that I would do that for my own students.” Madame Truett got to experience another culture, a new perspective, and a different way of life for the first time during her high school trip abroad.
Knowing that school trips have a lasting effect on people years later emphasizes the importance of these trips for high school students. There is no better time to go on a trip of this quality than during one’s high school years.