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FIB trip brings UWC values alive: Students joining UWCSEA in Grade 10 are offered a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the UWC values

Cathy Jones, Head of UWCSEA East (Interim)
21 February 2020

UWCSEA's Foundation IB trip brings UWC values alive for students.

From the sleepover in Grade 1 to Project Week in Grade 11, UWCSEA’s Outdoor Education programme offers students experiences that stretch them personally, physically and socially. But happens happens for students who join the College in Grade 10, who have not had the opportunity to experience this gradual build-up?

UWCSEA's Foundation IB (FIB) programme includes a 10-day trip to Northern Thailand that combines outdoor education adventure activities with service projects designed to build community among the students, provide opportunities to develop the qualities and skills of the UWCSEA profile, and to help prepare them for the CAS (Creativity, Action, Service) requirement in the IB Diploma Programme.

From 2–11 October, the 23 FIB students from East Campus spent 10 days in Thailand. The first half of the trip was ‘adventure’ which included trekking, white water rafting and camping. The physical activity, immersion in nature and disconnecting from technology helped students to recognise new strengths and capacities they didn’t know they had—a core philosophy of outdoor education at UWCSEA.

The second half of the trip was spent working on service projects with the NGO Where There is No Doctor. The projects included building latrines and supporting other sanitation and education projects in the Burmese refugee hill villages outside Chiang Rai.

Because the relatively small cohort of FIB students are new to the College, the trip not only serves to build community and help prepare them for CAS in the IBDP, it also helps to ground them in the UWC mission and ethos. There are also links with the academic curriculum, in particular the Integrated Humanities course which explores the UWC values and more specifically with the Development unit in which students learn about the Human Development Index and economic indicators they see first hand while working in the community. The unit looks at how communities can develop in a sustainable way—economically, socially, environmentally and through well being. This year, the students were able to do hands-on research earlier in the term in two communities on Bintan, and then compare the sustainable development model with the communities in Northern Thailand.

The impact of the trip can best be understood through the reflections of the students themselves. East FIB students Bethany Blakemore and Arjun Mehrotra share their experiences.

Bethany Blakemore

“The Thailand trip was an experience I will never forget. I believe the whole class was brought closer together by the strengths and weaknesses each of us have … We also learnt new skills, and because of this we will look at
new tasks with a different perspective. I think one thing I learnt was that if you are not sure—ask, because for all you know there could be an easier way of doing it …

No matter what you chose to do, it would affect the whole class in different ways. By communicating, we were able to help each other when troubled, learn different ways of achieving the task, work together and so much more.

This trip gave me a new perspective on what I see everyday; I never thought it would be possible to learn so much in nine days. Even though it was hard, I would do it again [in order] to learn what I did on that trip.”

Arjun Mehrotra

“I realised that the UWC mission is not just a hollow statement, but one that the school consciously tries to inculcate in its students. All our activities imbibed elements of the [mission] … We met children of farmers, toughened by life. They were half our size but had double the strength. The school genuinely tries to educate its students about the world around them, by exposing students to all types of people, from all walks of life.

There was some degree of resilience [needed] throughout the adventure and service elements of the trip. During [the adventure portion], it was the long hikes, the long rafting trips and sleeping in the wilderness. During [the service portion], it was about giving our best shot…as work of this nature (mixing concrete, building latrines, etc.) was quite new to us… However, through commitment to care, we were able to quickly adjust and do the job.

I learnt that I was more adaptable than I would have expected…and that I can live ‘unplugged’ from music, the Internet or the world in general, and not miss it too much… I learnt that in spite of being so different from all the people I met, I am also, in some ways, just like them (for example, deriving joy from small things, being grateful for what I have).”