I think it’s safe to say that the fondest memories most of us hold from our school days are those we spent on school camps and day trips, away from the classroom and exploring the unknown. You are taken out of your comfort zone and challenged to show your independence, given the space to open up and let in new friends and knowledge, then sent home thriving from all you achieved.
With this in mind, we asked the schools in Shanghai about their experiences on student trips. Whether the children took a bus to a city museum or a flight to Tanzania, at the core of their adventure was a desire to create an appreciation for the world around them, and identify how they can make a positive impact in the future.
With passionate teachers, curious minds and inspiring locations, the students were given a solid foundation to view the world through a different lens and create lasting memories. Now, let's hear from Daniel Bell, IGCSE and IB English Teacher of Shanghai Singapore International School, about their journey to Inner Mongolia.
Silence. Piercing, unrelenting silence that assails the senses as noise, subsides behind another sand dune. Endless sand, intermittently peppered with haphazard swathes of grass that surrounds us while we hike further into the Engebei Desert. From the outset, the overriding emotion for many of the Grade 10 students seemed to be one of excitement and anticipation at the prospect of five days of shared learning and personal growth in a unique environment. For many, it would be their first chance to experience a diverse range of activities, including the opportunity to ride a camel, go camping in a desert and contribute to the extremely worthwhile ‘Million Trees’ project (ironically, it was only when we returned from the trip that I saw this advertised as a way of spending your collected points in Element Fresh, please do consider it!).
Perhaps what many didn’t foresee were the quieter, more pensive moments of reflection that occurred throughout the trip. Whether this was at the crest of a dune, illuminated by the last remnants of a sunset or in the numerous gardens and temples that we visited, the students contemplated and discussed topics that were deep and meaningful. Questions posed by the instructors took on a more profound meaning and a sense of calm permeated the atmosphere.
That was until the students were asked to clean their dishes with sand and we heard cries of. “Like, really?” “Are they being serious?”
In what would become a regular, gratifying feeling throughout the trip, the initial shock of the unknown subsided and students demonstrated grit, determination and an overwhelming resolve to meet the challenges head on. In their allocated groups, cooking dinner (and subsequently, breakfast) using a makeshift hole, was another task that allowed students to demonstrate their culinary expertise, or lack thereof, although it was clear that some of them would have appreciated a well-timed Sherpas delivery!
Frigid winds helped to dramatically drop the overnight temperature and, after the exertion of the day, everyone was happy to retire to the relative comfort of their sleeping bags. Despite this, early risers engaged in an impromptu volleyball training session against the backdrop of the sunrise piercing the horizon. As the week came to an end, reflections were shared by all the participants as an opportunity to show their appreciation. This was extended to each other, the Japanese man who shared his birthday cake with us (Arigatou gozaimasu!), the incredible effort the Insight Adventures team put into making the trip such a memorable one and to the staff who supported the trip alongside me.
From the moment we left Pudong airport, the comforts we knew were replaced with experiences that would last a lifetime. For a group heading towards their IGCSE examinations, it was a chance to work out problems independently while challenging themselves, and as part of the wider cohort, to adapt and thrive in an unfamiliar environment. For this annual Senior School’s Excursion Week, the Grade 10 students were the first to visit Inner Mongolia, and they returned with anecdotes about their experience that were underpinned by the almost immeasurable, intangible benefits that surrounded what felt like, clichés aside, a once in a lifetime trip.
Daniel Bell is the IGCSE and IB English Teacher of Shanghai Singapore International School