IMMERSION AND EXCHANGE
Hills Director of Marketing and Community Relations, Elizabeth Pellinkhof, says that as well as the annual tours, students are offered immersion – or home-stay – opportunities.
“Students travel overseas and stay with a family for about six weeks. This really gets their oral skills up to speed. It’s a nice follow-up to the trip they did earlier in the year. It maintains a connection to the language and culture.” Year 12 Hills student Tilly Cox can’t speak highly enough of the experience:
“In total, I spent twelve weeks in France,” Tilly says. “When I’m there I speak only French.” As well as mastering the language, Tilly has “become a different person. I’m much more confident and have an increased sense of self. And my goals are clearer.”
SOCIAL JUSTICE AND COMMUNITY SERVICE
At Fintona Girls’ School, in Melbourne’s inner eastern suburb of Balwyn, students are encouraged to be tolerant world citizens, says Principal Suzy Chandler. They are also taught that some of life’s most important lessons are learned outside the classroom. Helping others is one such lesson.
All students participate in the school’s Community Service program and are offered the opportunity to visit third-world countries, such as India and Madagascar, to lend a hand with schooling in remote villages.
Knox and Shore boys take up similar opportunities to be of service. The former visit the Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, each July. “It’s an ongoing relationship that we have with the communities there,” Weeks says. “The boys live in the villages, teach at the local schools and help with infrastructure such as water systems and health clinics. It encourages them to learn by serving.”
Shore also encourages its students to serve. Year 11 boys volunteer to work in the slums of Manila. “We’re a Christian school,” Dr Wright says, “and we think that, for many boys, putting their faith into action helps them make sense of it all.
In late 2011, Year 12 Hills student Harriet Tegel travelled as she’d never done before in Cambodia on a social justice trip with five school friends.
“We were so naïve about what we were going into,” she says. “It was a complete culture shock. We had to manage our own budget – $9 a day for food. Such experiences are invaluable life lessons. I now truly appreciate everything I have here,” she says. “Everyone was so happy to have us there but I’m the one who needs to say ‘ahkon’ (thank you). I’ve learned so much about myself and about how fortunate I am.”
AT JOURNEY'S END
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So … sail away from the safe harbour. Explore. Dream. Discover”. – Mark Twain
Whatever the school, wherever the destination, the outcome seems the same.
“Kids come back changed,” says Weeks. “They learn that they make and shape their future, and that you can exist in your local community but you can thrive in the global one.”