International experiences have allowed students to both visit, as well as host students from Japan and America.
The World Challenge team started their journey on the 26th of November from Melbourne Airport, to Laos. We had a long wait at Bangkok airport and finally made it to Laos arriving at Luang Prabang in time for an early dinner.
We started the 2nd day with an early breakfast before meeting our in-country agent Son, following this we made our way to the Tat Kuaang Si waterfalls. We climbed our way to the top of the mountain and went swimming in the water. We then made our way back to Luang Prabang and sourced new accommodation. After settling in our new hotel we made our way up one of the mountains to the Monks temple. Here we saw views of Luang Prabang, and enjoyed the sun set. As we walked back down the mountain we could hear the monks chants. We returned back to our favorite restaurant for dinner, the blue corner shop. The son of the owners gets sent to school so he can learn English so he can help them in the business. When they need him, he comes in to work to help translate for the family. That night we all did some shopping at the night market before returning to Sabaidee guest house.
The next morning we had a meeting with Siong and Dong our community project liaisons. We then shopped for supplies for our project, which included purchasing supplies for the local school. Returning to the hotel after lunch we made our way to the village via van and crossed the Mekong river where we were welcomed with flags and individual bunches of flowers by the children in the community. Son showed us a bit around the village before tea. After tea we had a group meeting to talk over our roles/responsibilities before preparing for an early night.
On Thursday we worked on the group project which involved us helping the community to build their water and sanitation systems. We spent time digging trenches in the heat with the locals and explored the village. Tomorrow we will spend the day at the school, engaging with the community and the school children. During our second week of the journey we will be making our way down to Thailand....
After another meal of sticky rice we made our way to the Huoi Sang school. Here we split into groups, teaching different classes ranging from kinder to Grade 6. There was also a group playing soccer with some of the older boys. We taught the kids a range of English words from body parts to getting them to sing Happy Birthday to a boy from the other school that came with us. After a 45 minute class we swapped classes. After the two classes the kids then got their break time where we played and taught them how to play duck, duck, goose; which they loved! We then got a photo and got the whole school to sing Happy Birthday to Tyler again. As part of their tradition, the village had a ceremony wishing us safe travels and good wishes and thanks for helping them with digging the trenches to lay the water pipes and for their new school supplies. They tied cotton threads around our wrists and said a prayer, these were to stay on for three days and either have to fall off or be pulled off, never cut.
At about 6:30pm the entire village came back and we all danced with each other until 9pm. Sunday morning we packed up all our belongings before heading back to the boat and to Luang Prabang. That night we went to the night market once again. On Monday we spilt into two groups, one group went to the swimming pool while the other group went around to look at all the temples and the old palace.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we took the slow boat down the Mekong river so we could then cross the boarder to Thailand on Thursday (we even passed elephants having a swim in the river!). That day we took private transport to Chiang Mai where we got fast food for the first time in two weeks. Friday we prepped for our trekking which took place on the Saturday. On Saturday, after breakfast we headed on the start of our four day trek in Thailand heading up towards the top of the mountain. We had overnight stays in villages, the last night, Monday, we spent in hammocks. After the trek we headed back to Chiang Mai where on Wednesday we went on a sleeper train to Bangkok. From the train station we travelled for a few more hours before getting on the ferry. The ferry took us to Koh Chang and we headed up to the Cliff Cottage Resort we got our rooms, which were yurts. We had to make sure we packed away our scented belongings, so that monkeys wouldn't get into our belongings in the yurts. Today we will spend the day snorkelling. On Sunday we will make our way back to Bangkok, before we fly back home on Monday.
The experiences we've had have been wonderfully life changing. We have also learnt lots of 'fun facts' by Hayley. We will leave with lots of memories, new friendships and inside jokes.
Year 10 Student Jacob Thompson Hope was on exchange in Japan in 2017. Here is an excert from an update on his travels:
" My host family is really nice and kind. My school is great, but I was surprised by the size – its larger than I’d imagined. So much happened. These have possibly been the most intense/busy months of my entire life, and I've loved it.
If you would like to read Jacob's complete update on his travels, please click here.