Steamboat Springs When Lolo Thornton departed last month for Vietnam and Cambodia, The Lowell Whiteman School junior knew only two Vietnamese words.
But a language barrier didn’t stop her from connecting with schoolchildren in the rural village of Chay Lap.
“For hours, we would play with them and communicate just through sounds,” Thornton said Wednesday. “It still was one of the most fun parts of the trip. They were just so excited we were there.”
Thirty-eight Lowell Whiteman School students who are enrolled in the campus’ Global Immersion Studies program returned earlier this month from their adventures across the globe.
Seniors traveled to China, juniors traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia, and sophomores and freshmen traveled to Peru.
In Peru, sophomore Dylan Parsons hiked the Inca Trail, had a guided tour of Machu Picchu and went white-water rafting. In between all of his adventures, Parsons said he witnessed what life was like outside his “fortunate” life in Steamboat Springs.
“You see how grateful people are for the things they have, and it makes you grateful for the things you have because it’s so much more. I saw kids get excited when they found a beaten down soccer ball. They don’t have TVs, iPods and the other things we take for granted.”
Although the students got plenty of time to recreate on their journeys, their adventures weren’t just for play.
“It isn’t just adventure,” Lowell Whitman Head of School Chris Taylor said. “There’s a service part to it and an educational part.”
Taylor said that in recent years the school has worked to better incorporate the trips into the curriculum being used back home. He’s hoping the start of Mandarin Chinese classes next school year allow students to grasp the language before they depart to China.
“My hope is by their senior year, they can speak Mandarin and have much more appreciation of the culture,” Taylor said.
Several of the students reflected on their trips Wednesday afternoon. They said the opportunity to live in a different culture for more than a few days was a unique privilege.
During her trip to China, Senior Morgan Mertz lived with a Buddhist family on an organic farm, and witnessed one of their traditions on Buddha’s birthday.
“They would go to the local markets and buy live eels, turtles, fish and birds that were going to be sold to be eaten, and instead they released them into the wild,” Mertz said. “It was a culture I haven’t experienced before, so being part of it meant a lot to me.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com