Sturgis Travels (Fall 2013)

Hong Kong

Marsha Yalden and Students in Hong kong

(l-r) Lillian Randall, Kaleigh Fallon,and Marsha Yalden – East,
Cameron Bass and Cole Silva – West.

Marsha Yalden and four rising seniors attended the IB World Student Conference 2013 held at Hong Kong University in August.  The theme of the conference was iResponsibility.  About 150 kids from 25 different countries were present (though we won the award for traveling the farthest – 24 hours of travel!).  The conference was from August 12 -16, but we left on August 8, arrived on the 9th and left (and returned home) on August 19.  We spent the extra days exploring the city.  The highlight of our trip was when we went to The Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island in Hong Kong

IB World Student Conference  
By Cole Silva, Class of 2014 – West

Earlier this year, in August, I traveled to Hong Kong with a few students and Mrs. Yalden, Theatre teacher at Sturgis East. I had been nominated to attend a World Student Conference by a few teachers and I even received a scholarship to go from the International Baccalaureate Organization. This trip was by far one of the most important and meaningful events in my life. Students in the International Baccalaureate program are told that the curriculum is broadening their world view, and it is, but learning about the world in a classroom can only teach one so much. To actually travel halfway around the world, especially with this trip being my first trip outside of the country, was unbelievable. To experience the culture of Hong Kong, and to experience all of the other cultures from the other students from around the world who showed up for the conference was like nothing I had ever experienced.

Hong Kong students

At the conference, I became friends with people from China, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Canada, France, Spain, and more. And while I couldn’t directly experience their culture, I asked each of them so many questions about it, and what their country was like. In this manner, it was like I was able to indirectly experience their cultures. This meant a lot to me in particular because I’ve always had an international curiosity, about what cultures are really like, not just reading about them online or in a textbook. Oddly enough, there weren’t many Americans there, but it actually helped a lot because we were surrounded with all of these cultures that were vastly different than ours. This whole trip meant the world to me at least in part because of the fact that after college, I’d like to pursue an international occupation. I’d like to become a translator or interpreter, or something like that, and I’d love to travel and experience all of these different cultures for myself. My trip to Hong Kong was an eye opening event for me, and made me realize that there’s still so much for me to see outside of America.

World Challenge Trip to Ecuador

By Will Mathews, Latin – East

IMG_0335The day after school let out in June twelve Sturgis East & West Juniors set out for our World Challenge expedition to Ecuador.  Founded in 1987, World Challenge is a British based company that sends thousands of high school students to developing countries each year.  Its mission is distinct from other tour companies in that it focuses on student-led experiential learning; under the watchful eyes of tour leaders and World Challenge representatives, students plan their in-country itinerary, budget money, coordinate travel, and in the process, experience the developing world in a genuine way.  Each expedition consists of a trekking portion and service project, both selected by the World Challenge team.

For our trekking portion, the 2013 Sturgis World Challengers elected to hike the ridge line of Quilotoa Lagoon, an active caldera volcano with a peak elevation of 12,841 feet.   After flying into Quito (the highest capital city in the world) and acclimatizing for several days we set out for Quilotoa.  Over the course of three days we trekked a total of 30 miles with local guides, setting up tents each night along the route.  The hiking was tough, but the views and experience well worth it.

IMG_0884_originalAfter some rest and relaxation we left the “Avenue of the Volcanoes” and traveled down to Tena for our service project.  We worked at a special needs school in downtown Tena to help build a therapeutic pool for students with neuromuscular disorders and helped beautify the campus with hand-painted murals.  We spent a day white-water rafting on a tributary to the Amazon river and another day following a local Quechua guide through the Amazon rainforest.  Our last day in Tena was a real highlight as we were able to spend some time playing with the students at the school where we had been working.

The quotes below are reflections from our 2013 team members on their time in Ecuador. All in all our challengers had an amazing trip and memorable experiences.  If you are a current Junior and interested in a 2014 World Challenge expedition to Nicaragua,  contact Ms. Williams at (east) or Mr. Tecklenburg at (west) to find out more! 

Student Reflections

IMG_0103“I feel the most important thing I got from World Challenge was a little more clarity about myself, my priorities and passions. Education is something that is very important to me. Seeing the school we worked at and those in the immediate vicinity of it made me realize how different education is in other parts of the world. I was obviously aware that less developed countries like Ecuador did not have the same structured, compulsory education system as the U.S., but I never really understood; it seemed like a distant issue, something I couldn’t comprehend. Seeing the lack of resources at these schools, and the children who spent the the entire day at recess because their teacher hadn’t shown up, all these things made me realize just how important education is.”

“I really enjoyed this trip and the time we spent together as a group, but I feel that we are still a team, even now because of how close we all got on the trip. . .”

IMG_0168“We had to figure out ways to work together to get over difficult tasks such as climbing through canyons, and also tasks that seem pretty menial in everyday life but were actually rather difficult, such as grocery shopping. Sometimes the everyday stuff was actually the hardest, which was really interesting.”

“For the trekking there were times when I honestly wanted to give up, but every time I felt like that I saw fellow teammates still going strong and I wanted to do this with them, as a team. It was thanks to them that I was able to make it through the tough spots and still be able to smile because they always offered encouragement and assistance whether I asked for it or not.  Even if I didn’t always say it I was very grateful for them doing this because it kept me going strong, and remember to think of the positives. . .”

“I learned a lot about myself during the trip as well, and realized I have the potential to do more than I thought. All in all, this trip allowed me to achieve more than I had originally hoped for, and made me want to travel as much as possible in order to properly learn about the world.”


Students build a therapeutic pool

“Being able to hike what we did in those three days [30 miles at 12,500 feet] is something I never thought I could’ve done. None of us expected it to be as hard as it was, but we all did it.”

“I really enjoyed watching and partaking in all the culture that was happened around me, and seeing how life can vary all over the world. I also enjoyed working together as a group throughout the trip, solving problems, making and carrying out plans and even digging holes. I feel that this trip has made me able to see a different way to see the world, and I feel it has made me become more mature in some manners, but also taught me to appreciate things as they are more.”

Experiencing the Czech Republic

By Katie Curran, Class of 2016
Originally published in Sturgis Storm Watch, September 24, 2013. Reprinted here with author’s permission.
Katie Curran with Host Sister

Katie Curran (r) with her host sister at a Czech Castle

I arrived at the airport in Copenhagen greeted by a foreign family that I had never met in person. I could never have imagined how close I would soon become with them, but the moment they gave me a big hug, I felt an instant connection and a part of my new international family. During my home stay, I lived with my Danish family, which included two sisters age 14 and 15 , my host “dad” and host “mom”.  My host mom was a refugee to Denmark from Czechoslovakia in 1968. Their family story of life behind the Iron Curtain was absolutely incredible. I was going to be spending my summer with a family that is living history of what Eastern Europe has endured. The lessons I had been taught in history class were coming alive too.  And so we traveled to Česká Republika, where I was able to meet their Czech family and witness an endless love that has survived through the tests of time.

To begin my Czech adventure, we spent nearly a week in Prague. I remember the first night we arrived at our pension along the Charles Bridge. Glowing lanterns lit up the cobblestone streets and the shadows of breathtaking architecture cast over us. As we took a stroll over the bridge, I could see in the distance the Prague Castle, watching over the city. The warm July air enveloped my skin and I felt a soft breeze. I could hear traditional Czech songs playing down the narrow roads and I instantly felt at home. It never felt as though I was a world away. Everywhere you looked there were countless nationalities, all exploring one of the best cities in the world. Prague isn’t like anything I have ever experienced before. It was like I was living in a dream.

An aerial view of Prague Photo credit: Katie Curran

An aerial view of Prague
Photo credit: Katie Curran

I definitely didn’t see the city as a typical tourist. I got to see the city from a perspective of a native Czech. Everywhere we went, my host “mom” would always speak Czech to the local people.  I didn’t seem like a foreigner, but rather a guest into my European family’s international world.

In Praha (as we say in Czech), everything was spectacular. We dined at authentic Czech restaurants and ate national delicacies like Schnitzel and Knedlíky. Some of the highlights of my stay were exploring the Prague Castle, taking a climb to the top of the Petrin tower (which resembles the Eiffel Tower), shopping in the main square of the city, visiting cathedrals, going to a Vietnamese market, and spending time at the Jewish Quarter of the city. Being in the Jewish Quarter really affected me. It was hard to keep back tears as I stood in the Pinkas Synagogue which is a memorial to the 80,000 Jewish Victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Moravia. I walked along the white walls inscribed in red and black with my host mother.  She took me to the part of the memorial where her hometown in Czech Republic was listed. My heart sank as we read the list of all the lives lost from her city.  Putting the face of a real family to a story was so powerful. I felt like I was part of the Kaderkova family now and that Czech Republic was a part of me. My heart was broken to imagine what this country so dear to me had been through. Afterwards we sat in a Synagogue and I reflected on everything that had happened in history right where I had stood. For one moment in time, I felt like I connected with an entire race.  Looking deep into the eyes of the lost in such a holy place like their synagogues was so overpowering.  I never expected to connect with humanity in such a unique way.

Katie Curran with host family

Katie Curran with host family

While in Prague, we visited my host family’s extended family. When we had dinner together, I could just feel the endless love radiating from each one of them. The Iron Curtain had separated them for so many years, but seeing them happy and safe together was one of the best feelings in the world.  Just the simple feeling of having your brother and sister by your side is something so many of us take for granted.  It’s something that has been robbed from so many over the course of history.  My host sisters do not speak the same languages as their little cousins due to growing up geographically divided.  Even simple things like communication have been hindered due to the lasting effects of the Soviet Union Era.

Our next stop across the Czech Republic was a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a city called Česky Krumlov. As we drove toward the city, which was not too far from Austria , I could see announcement speakers along street lamps from where the Communist regime once gave daily orders. It was eerie to see them still lined up on the streets, no longer used, but a constant reminder of the country’s past. However, aside from that, Česky Krumlov was a fairytale city with exquisite old buildings and rolling hills. My host sisters and I ran around the Royal garden, sharing laughs and taking in the beauty of the landscape.  We climbed castles, ate zmrzlina (ice cream), visited a Czech puppetry museum and went river rafting on the Vltava River.  In the Czech Republic, the sleepy city of Česky Krumlov is a must see for its exquisite views.    

Our last stop on our trip was visiting my host family’s mountain cabin in the Jeseníky Mountains along the border of Poland.  The quiet little village was very cozy and friendly.  There was one local restaurant that we ate at that was extremely inexpensive.  I could eat like a queen for under $5.  With ice-cream costing 40 cents a scoop, it was hard not to indulge.  We took an hour ski lift up to the top of a Mountain in Czech Republic.  You could see for miles on end the picturesque view of villages scattered around Poland and the Czech Republic.  It was incredible!

I fondly remember one chilly night under an endless starry sky, sitting with my host family and Czech neighbors singing along to Czech Songs. I began to believe that language isn’t a barrier that prevents us from becoming friends because everyone was smiling in the same language.  On that night, I felt as if we were all speaking the same language.  I was laughing with elderly Czechs who couldn’t speak a word of English, but we still understood each other.  I sat there looking at the stars, looking at Poland, looking at my new international family, and I saw that we as people aren’t actually that different.  I felt like I was being a tolerant, global-minded 15 year-old ambassador for the United States.  My host family that I had met just a few weeks ago was so similar to me, especially my host sister Carolina, and we have continued our international friendship. in my opinion, life is a chance to experience the wonders of the world through global friendships

Future Sturgis Trips

Costa Rica – February 2014

Nicaragua – June 2014

Attention all juniors and parents of juniors at East and West. In June 2014, a team of Sturgis East and West students, teacher chaperones Emily Williams (English teacher at East) and John Tecklenburg (science teacher at West), and a guide from World Challenge will be going on a ten day trip to Nicaragua. The trip will include a three day trek in the Los Maribos volcanic range, three days of service (a project in a school or helping to build something for the community), and a few days to relax before returning home. We are looking for juniors interested in this unique travel experience which blends adventure and service and puts the students in control of the budget, travel, and itinerary.

Italy – April 2015

Students Connecting Across Continents

Mr. Hodge and Mr. Hillebrand have connected Senior IB HL-History students with Arab IB and former IB students on Facebook. The purpose is to gain access to their views on key questions in the HL History Unit on Conflict in the Middle East. The students writing back are former Students of Mr. Hodge when he taught in Saudi Arabia (up through last year). Already some of our seniors have gotten lengthy, personal opinions from Palestinian students on some of the questions they are treating in class.

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