As part of the MBS Global Studies program, 14 students and 4 faculty members traveled to Laos and Cambodia this past summer. (Ms. Deventer)
As part of the MBS Global Studies program, 14 students and 4 faculty members traveled to Laos and Cambodia this past summer.

Ms. Deventer

Transformed: MBS Travels to Cambodia

January 6, 2020

This past June, fourteen students and four chaperones embarked on an eight hour flight to Germany.  Then a 12 hour flight to Singapore.  Then a three hour flight to Thailand.  And finally, a two hour flight to their first leg of the trip: Luang Prabang, Laos.  

This was out of the comfort zone for many students.  Beyond the long journey, the foreign language and culture definitely pushed the group.  The faculty used this as motivation to go.  Zoe Jameson-Shea, chaperone on the trip and MBS History teacher, said, “I love to see the students experience an entirely new country and step out of their comfort zones. They are truly transformed by these trips.”  Samuel Kasmin, a junior on the trip, said “I chose Cambodia because I felt that it was the only trip that seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. There will not be many other chances to go to a place like Cambodia and really make a difference in people’s lives.”  Kailyn Williams, another junior on the trip, said “I thought it would be an interesting experience. I had never been to Asia and I had never gone on a service trip before so I thought it’d be a great thing to try.”  

Ms. Deventer
Samantha Grant ’20 makes sure to document her time at the Elephant Conservation Center in Laos.

On this exhilarating service trip to Laos and Cambodia, students and faculty alike experienced Southeast Asia.  The first week was spent in Luang Prabang at the elephant conservation center.  Jameson-Shea explained, “The first half of the trip was spent in Laos working at the Elephant Conservation Center. This was an eco-friendly organization that rehabilitates captive elephants and releases them into a government-protected preserve when the time is right.”  This was also Jameson’s favorite part of the trip.  “Each elephant had its own distinct personality.”  In fact, the students even saw the elephants on a date.  Kasmin also added “it was great to see the sophistication of the elephant’s mannerisms being that the elephant knew that waving to some hiking foreigners would be polite. Very impressive.”

In the second week of the trip, students flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia.  They then sailed to a floating village on the shores of Lake Tonle Sap, which sustains the livelihood of 80,000 people.  Darren Lovelock, chaperone on the trip and MBS English teacher, said that this was a memorable part of the trip.  He said, “Spending four nights in the floating village in Cambodia was unforgettable.  The owners of the house we stayed at kept crocodiles in cages–dozens and dozens of them!–and they made weird noises through the night!”

As a component of the service trip, students constructed bamboo houses in collaboration with a local NGO.  Jameson elaborated on the experience of seeing the village, “I was particularly struck by the lack of access to clean water. The people that lived in the floating village went to the bathroom and threw trash in the lake, but they also relied on that water for survival.”  

Students then visited the temples at Angor Wat, the largest global religious monument and the site of filming for the movie Tomb Raider, embracing each students’ internal adventurer.  For Andrea Deventer, chaperone on the trip, Director of Community Service, and dance teacher, said “My favorite part of the trip was experiencing the beautiful country of Laos and seeing Angkor Wat.”

Ms. Deventer
MBS Students pose for a picture with the temples at Angkor Was in Cambodia.

Of course, as with any MBS trip, traveling with classmates adds a unique facet to the experience.  Williams said, “It was definitely a new experience traveling with the school. You wouldn’t expect to be eating, sleeping and sweating alongside people that you only see a few times during the school day. It was a true bonding experience.”  Jameson-Shea echoed this sentiment, “Traveling with MBS is a lot of work, but it is very rewarding. This trip in particular took a lot of planning beforehand because we had to apply for visas to both countries. It’s worth the hard work, though.”

The service aspect of the trip left an impact on students and chaperones alike. Kasmin said, “The absence of basic necessities such as running water in the floating village made me realize how lucky I am to have seemingly little things.”  Lovelock elaborated, “Meeting one of the families who’d be loving in the house we built was also memorable.  We don’t always meet the people who will benefit from the service projects we work on.”  Deventer was also impacted by the trip, “As always, when doing a service trip, I come away feeling a little guilty that I take for granted small things like clean water, plumbing, and electricity. And I realize how fortunate my life is.”  Students were empowered by this trip.  Williams said, “It’s easy to be desensitized to issues that don’t effect you. But by going on this trip, I’ve been able to see the world through new perspectives and live through a different lens. Not having clean water, toilet paper and a bed is something that I don’t think often about but it’s an issue that many people face.”  

The service trip remains a fond memory in the minds of all those who attended.  Lovelock said, “Everyone on the trip, I expect, will remember what they saw, did, and ate for rest of their lives.”

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