Learning Beyond Lancaster
By David W. ’19
Photos by Hayden F. ’20 and Tristan H. ’18
A dozen students stood laughing in a karaoke club over spring break, filling the queue with songs we were comfortable singing. Then, as we took our seats on black couches surrounding a small stage, a song that none of us had requested came on. We looked at each other, waiting for the next student to take the spotlight.
Then a man — our tour guide, in fact — climbed on the stage, grabbed the microphone, and belted out “Hotel California.”
What made this scene unusual was that we were on the other side of the world when it happened, in Xi’an, China. But then again, The Eagles have sold a lot of records, so maybe it happens all the time and only seemed unusual to us.
Three days earlier, 14 students from Lancaster Country Day School crowded into a bus en route to Washington-Dulles International Airport. After more than 24 hours of travel, they landed on the other side of the world, the Chinese flag waving above their heads.
Although it may seem obvious to the reader, it was still a shock for me to step off the plane into Beijing International Airport — where everything is in Chinese. We were suddenly immersed in a new culture many of us had never experienced.
We passed through customs and met our tour guide, Eagles fan and karaoke aficionado Jack Xu. He introduced himself using a few lines of conversational Chinese, and then quickly switched to English with a laugh as many of us looked on with confused expressions.
We boarded our tour bus and marveled at the complexity of Beijing. There, modern Chinese architecture rises beside ancient temples, providing a stark juxtaposition between old and new. Seemingly hundreds of flags adorn the rooftops of concrete government buildings in the capital city of the People’s Republic of China. Street vendors sprinkle the sidewalks and sell their goods as rickshaws, cyclists, and walkers pass by. There we were, 14 in a city of 22 million.
“Small world” didn’t seem so apt an expression.
Meals in China are family-style. For every lunch and dinner, we sat around two round tables with a Lazy Susan (cānzhuō zhuànpán) in the center. Our group would sit down, tentatively pick up the chopsticks, and then, instantaneously, our food would arrive. Waiters and waitresses flew by with roasted vegetables, fried duck, lamb, and tea to name just some of the menu.
Our first full day in Beijing began with a Tai Chi demonstration. The ancient Chinese martial art consists of slow, defensive movements. A Tai Chi master met us in a Beijing park to show us basic moves. What we attempted afterwards paled in comparison to his fluid and experienced movements. However, there was one exception: As many of us learned that day in this park, our Chinese teacher, Mrs. Haddad, regularly practices Tai Chi.
From there, we continued to Tiananmen Square. It is a vast expanse, more than six times the size of Moscow’s Red Square. Once again, we were surrounded by the red flags flying over our heads. China’s legislature stood tall in the distance as a giant picture of Chairman Mao stood above our heads. Similarly, the Great Wall of China was a gigantic, awe-inspiring structure. Climbing the wall was a sweaty experience. Despite the cold, many of us shred our layers to adjust for the exercise we were all enduring.
The rest of our time in Beijing flew by. We visited the Temple of Heaven, a vast imperial complex used by ancient emperors to pray; a vocational school, where we cooked a popular Chinese meal (with no shortage of help from the students); a world renowned Kung-Fu show; and Olympic Park, where the 2008 Olympics were held.
A six-hour train ride from Xi’an took us to the Terracotta Army, the so-called Eighth Wonder of the World. This massive collection of 8,000 ancient, individual warriors was built so that the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang would have an army for protection in his afterlife. There are three major “pits,” all with different ranks of soldiers. Excavation is continuing. Some expect that it will be a hundred years or more before the pits are fully excavated.
Looking down into the third pit, we could see ancient bone from a human who lived thousands of years ago near the mighty, buried army. We were all intimately connected with that person, whoever they might have been. We looked straight into the eyes of a past we had all just discovered. It was sublime, if only for a moment.
A visit to the Tang Bo art museum taught us about the ancient practice of calligraphy. And later, we visited the Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist temple in Xi’an.
I clumsily attempted to pray in the Buddhist fashion; however, instead of bowing onto the pillow, I folded my hands and placed them on what I later discovered to be a donation box. My faux pas was noticed by Mrs. Haddad, who gently taught me the basics of prayer.
I realized my teacher was a Buddhist.
A flight to Shanghai took us to a Coca-Cola factory and Lancaster Country Day’s sister school, SMIC, where Lexi J. ’19 reunited with her exchange student, Lorraine C. A few gentle tears rolled down their cheeks as they met once again; only this time, it was on the other side of the world. We toured the NYU campus there and saw a famous gymnastics show. The finale? Eight motorcycles simultaneously driving at high-speeds in a small metal cage.
The next day, we visited Hangzhou. This area is commonly referred to as “paradise on Earth.” A cool spring breeze brought with it scents of a soon-to-come blooms. Ponds with calm waters were filled with schools of fish swimming near traditional Chinese buildings. Small structures were nestled among groves of trees, off of pathways lined with beds of flowers. A small wooden pathway led us along the edge of a lake where we heard the sounds of chirping birds in the foliage. A boat tour showed us the entirety of this earthly paradise.
We ended our trip to China with an impromptu nighttime cruise of Shanghai. In stark contrast to the scenes of nature we had seen earlier, this boat tour showed us the marvels of modern technology. The beautiful Pearl Tower stood out to us, lit in bright purple. Its stunning beauty complemented the paradisiacal Hangzhou we just experienced. It was its own sanctuary, nestled in its own grove of high-rises and skyscrapers, off of pathways lined with cars and street lamps.
Perhaps the most memorable moment of the trip occurred during a nighttime walk in Xi’an. There, in the city streets, we happened upon a group of Chinese square dancers. Without hesitance, the dancers welcomed a dozen disheveled American teenagers into their nighttime ritual. This was an act that transcended language barriers, cultural differences, and political history. In that moment, dancing in a circle near our hotel, all of us were immutably human, participating in a practice older than language itself.
LCDS Global Programs include a robust, curricular, experiential learning travel program and a diverse international student community. For more information on our travel opportunities or learning about the rewards of hosting an international student, please contact Heather Woodbridge, Director of Global Programs.
By Delphi A. ’18
Photos by Kendall K. ’19
Those of us who hadn’t slept on the plane had been awake for 24 hours and when Mr. Bostock said “taxi” as we stood on the cobblestone streets of Venice, I don’t think any of us imagined a small motor boat with just enough room for us all to fit. As six students raced across the choppy waves, watching our luggage bounce around with a nerve-wracking closeness to the edge, Mr. Bostock confessed discursively that he had once considered being a monk.
Our hotel was on an island called the Lido di Venezia. We found our rooms, dumped our things, and got ready to leave for our first dinner in Italy.
For those of you who have never eaten in a restaurant in Italy, dinner means multiple rich courses of meat, pasta, and or salad, followed by a dense, filling desert. Needless to say, when the meal was done we were all exhausted and stuffed to the brim. We happily retired to our hotel rooms, endlessly excited for the week ahead of us.
The next morning we rose early and took public transportation — another boat — to our first destination. The palace of the doge took ornate to a whole new level. Its tall painted ceilings and inconceivably large rooms were like nothing we had seen before.
We made our way through the palace to the dungeons. Stepping from the splendor of the palace into the dank, cold, musty, cramped stone cells brought us some perspective. While the doge may have been living it up, the common people of Venice were not afforded the same pomp.
After a quick lunch of pizza, we headed to our gondola ride. Our gondolier’s choice to comically rock the boat made an experience that had been equal parts scary and amazing, more scary. But as the six of us glided between tall stone building, completely unable to the see the bottom of the water, something occurred to me.
These homes, and businesses, while not particularly clean, or symmetrical, or matching, or perfect, were beautiful. I have found that in the United States beauty is often defined by “perfection.” And yet here we were surrounded by flaws and I had never seen something so beautiful.
After the gondola ride, we visited an art museum, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, the museum which holds Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Much to our disappointment, this famous work does not stay on display for very long each year, and we had missed it.
We still had many hours before dinner when we left the Gallerie, so the eight of us began our mission to find and consume gelato.
At some point, prior to our departure Mr. Bostock had mentioned getting gelato in every city we visited, and we intended on holding him to that.
After tasting gelato for the first time, we slowly made our way through the city to our meeting location. Along the way, we stopped in many small shops. When Kendall K. ’19 and McKayla F. ’19 saw a spa-like shop where customers placed their feet into tubs of water filled with small, live fish, they were very excited, although the rest of the group failed to see the appeal, we were all entertained watching them get the dead skin eaten off their feet by little fish.
The next day we woke up, packed our last few items, and got in a van to head to Florence. On the way to Florence, we stopped for a few hours in Ravenna. While there we saw the Basilica of San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia which were filled with intricate mosaics. Before leaving we saw the tomb of Dante. Inside the tomb is a stone plaque of sorts, covered in Latin. Mr. Bostock informed us that we could earn bonus points in our Latin classes if we could translate it.
Florence (or Firenze, as it is called in Italy) is filled with art. Particularly, the artwork housed in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Florence (home to the giant, magnificent statue of David), the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral whose dome is the largest dome brick and mortar dome in the world, and has been around for nearly 600 years, and the huge number of paintings and sculptures kept in the Uffizi gallery which holds pieces made by many of Italy’s most famous artists such as da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and Rembrandt.
That night’s dinner was slightly different than those preceding it; this one we prepared! We rolled out our own spaghetti, made tomato sauce, meatloaf, salad and dessert. Everyone was pleasantly surprised to discover that we had succeeded and everything tasted amazing!
The next morning we left Florence en route to Rome. Once more we made a pit stop for hours, this time in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, and home to two important basilicas. The first we visited was the Basilica of Santa Chiara (or Saint Clare in English).
In silence we walked through the stone church, ending in the crypt where the body of Saint Clare was on display. Many of us lit candles, mine in memory of my grandmother. In that dimly lit stone basement, we bonded silently through mutual respect.
From the outside the Basilica of St. Francis looked as big as a small neighborhood, a perspective only encouraged by the vaulting ceilings and magnificent frescos covering them that can be seen throughout the inside of the basilica. The Franciscan monk who was our tour guide was also from the United States, which we discovered was not all that odd, because most Franciscan monks spend time in Assisi at some point in their careers.
While inside, our guide explained the meaning and artist behind many of the frescos, including one which depicted a skeleton in what appeared to be overalls. He explained that this was sister death, and from then on, everywhere we went we saw the symbol of sister death.
After leaving Assisi, we finally came to Rome. Our first experience of the city was that it was not unlike big cities in the United States. People rushed everywhere and the traffic was terrible. Overall the time we spent in the city on our first day was not what we expected, the entirety of the next day would be, though.
We began our morning in the Vatican Museums. In the Sistine Chapel, we all craned our necks to better see the famed ceiling. It is one thing to hear stories, or look at pictures of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, but it is entirely another thing to stand underneath so much history and art. Similarly, Saint Peter’s Basilica, its towering ceilings, and even taller dome all covered in frescos and statues cannot fully be captured in words or photographs.
The next location on our tour excited Mr. Bostock greatly. As we grew closer to it, the Colosseum appeared amid the city skyline. Once inside we climbed many overly steep stairs before finally coming out onto one of the highest levels of the huge ancient building. Even missing all of its beautiful marble facades and floor, the Flavian Amphitheatre is still breathtaking.
As we stood on the lowest level staring down at the labyrinth of stone walls that used to be cells to hold gladiators and large animals alike, Ms. D’Stair commented to me on the horror of the spectacle the ancient Romans had enjoyed watching so much.
We watched the other tourists that surrounded us take smiling selfies next to the stage on which so many innocent animals, prisoners of war, slaves, and debtors had died for sport. When we finally looked up from our deep conversation about the tragic nature of the site on which we stood, we discovered that Mr. Bostock and the others had left us behind.
We caught up with the rest of our group and headed to the forum. We each took a sip of the water from a fountain that is said to give you longer life, before heading into the ramshackle collection of ruins that used to be the city center. Many decades of architecture spread out before us. Mr. Bostock was giddy to tell us what each fragment used to be and what its significance was.
We were given some free time, during which we got gelato of course. Then dinner and a moonlight stroll to the Pantheon. We arrived just in time to see through the great doors to the inside of the temple, but we were too late to cross the threshold.
As we headed away from the temple, a huge number of birds took flight just over the temple, their white feathers illuminated by the moon behind them. In ancient Rome, the augurs would have called it an omen. If it was one, it must have been good because just like every part of the trip leading up to this moment, the rest would be amazing and jaw-dropping.
Our final location in Rome was the Trevi Fountain. The lights that shone all around the fountain seemed to bring the statues of Neptune and the horses to life before our eyes. We each threw a coin into the water over our shoulder, hoping that we could indeed return to Rome very soon.
The three-hour bus ride to Pompeii was worth every moment. The ancient city is amazingly intact. We walked on streets that have existed, mostly unchanged, for thousands of years. We moved through a house in which a family lived and choked to death on ash before the first century of the common era. We saw fireplaces, bedrooms, bathhouses, drinking fountains, gardens and restaurants. All the while, the menacing peak of Mount Vesuvius loomed in the distance. It was easy to put ourselves into the shoes of the many civilians who had been buried there for so many years, easy and life-changing.
We were back in Rome in the morning when we woke up at 3 a.m. local time to drive to the airport. We saw the sun rise in Rome, and many hours later when we touched down in London, the sun still shone above our heads. We arrived in Philadelphia around 4 p.m. local time, still the same day.
We had chased the sun home.
LCDS Global Programs include a robust, curricular, experiential learning travel program and a diverse international student community. For more information on our travel opportunities or learning about the rewards of hosting an international student, please contact Heather Woodbridge, Director of Global Programs.
By Benjamin K. ’21
Photos by Señora Brubaker
Ten eighth graders left on a Friday in March to see life in a new country. We would return with new friends and new experiences, as the United Kingdom felt familiar but also very different. Our immersion in the British culture provided a first opportunity for many of the travelers to see a foreign way of life.
LCDS students and their hosts met up at Kelvinside Academy on Saturday to have a traditional Scottish breakfast. This included eggs, sausage, black pudding, potato scones, bread, and tea cakes (a favorite treat among the young people on Scotland). The adults chatted while the children ate and discussed what to do next.
Several of the kids went outside, and that was where we noticed one of the principal differences: the sports that were popular there rather than in the States. In the U.K., rugby is commonly played instead of American football. And in Scotland, soccer is not as widely played as rugby but people watch and follow it more closely, similar to they way Americans follow football or basketball.
Kelvinside is much like Country Day, with similar class sizes and curriculum. The biggest difference between the two schools is the uniform. At Kelvinside the uniform consists of a white button down shirt, a necktie, black pants, and a blue blazer or a school sweater.
On Tuesday, we journeyed to Loch Lomond, where we enjoyed a tiring hike and had lunch with a view of the loch. On Wednesday we set out early by train for York. Once there we explored the spectacular York Minster and the winding Shambles shopping district. The next day we went to the Fountains Abbey, built in 1132, and learned some of the history of the region.
We spent our final day in Edinburgh. While there, we went to Edinburgh Castle where we took in the prison, Scottish Crown Jewels, and more. We explored Old Town and New Town by foot, walking many streets including the Royal Mile and Princes Street. That night we said our goodbyes to our new friends. In one week, we had created memories and friends to last a lifetime.
These experiences in the United Kingdom allow for students to think in new ways and foster a deeper understanding of their own life through the exposure to some one else’s. These differences show what makes the each of these cultures special and unique, despite their similarities.
The United Kingdom was similar to the United States in how people behaved and spoke, but in other ways it was very different. The people there had a greater understanding and appreciation of the history of the region around them. This varied from knowledge of ancient battles, such as William Wallace’s defense of Scotland, to why and when certain types of houses were built in different places.
If our Scottish hosts were to come to the States, I would be very excited for them to learn a bit more about our country, they way they taught us about theirs.
LCDS Global Programs include a robust, curricular, experiential learning travel program and a diverse international student community. For more information on our travel opportunities or learning about the rewards of hosting an international student, please contact Heather Woodbridge, Director of Global Programs.
By Thomas W. ’19
Photos by Mrs. Bonner
Going into the 2017 Maya Math Trip, our group of 15 students and 2 teachers knew each other at least somewhat, but those acquaintances immediately started to become close friends from our very first bus ride to the airport. Despite the early hour and cold weather, we spent the drive talking and playing games and soon we were on our way to the warm beaches and ancient ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula. As soon as we stepped out of the plane in Cancun, the blast of heat from the Mexican afternoon replaced all thoughts of snow with dreams of the ocean.
We spent our first two days in Playa del Carmen, a city about an hour south of Cancun. Our hotel was close to the ocean, so our first night we headed down to the beach in our flip-flops to splash and chat. It almost didn’t seem real; it was dark, but there was just enough light to see everyone. There was the sound of the waves, with the warm water washing over everyone’s feet, and of live music playing behind us. It was a magical start to our adventure.
The next day we returned to the beach but also began to learn about the Maya with lectures on their number system, calendar and religious practices from our extremely knowledgeable guide, Dr. Heather Teague.
That evening, we walked through the city to a restaurant where we ate authentic Mexican quesadillas and tacos. Chipotle burritos might be good, but nothing beats the small but delicious and filling tacos from Mexico. Food became a memorable part of the trip, as it seemed we could try a new delectable dish at every meal. By the end of that first day, we were so physically tired from the beach and mentally loaded from our lectures that it felt like we had already been there for a while.
The next three days we spent touring three different ancient Maya sites. We went to Cobá, Chichén Itzá, and Uxmal. One might think that they would be very similar, but the architecture and experiences at all three were unique.
On our first day of ruins exploration, we rode bikes through Cobá, with stops for pictures and learning about the ruins. This was the setting for one of my favorite memories. We were walking a little ways on a busy tree-lined trail when we saw what seemed like a mountain of stone on our left. When we stepped into a mildly crowded opening, we saw that the mountain was actually an absolutely massive temple. We later learned that it is the largest in the entire Yucatan. Naturally our next question was, “Are we going to climb it?” and to our delight, we did.
The satisfaction of finally reaching the top after over 100 steep, narrow steps was further amplified by the amazing view from the top. You could see over the sea of trees for miles and miles. Over the next two days we had similarly awe-inspiring tours of the ruins at Chichén Itzá and Uxmal. We learned about the intricate math and astronomy the Maya used in the construction of temple Kukulkan in Chichén Itzá and admired the stone likenesses of the rain god, Chacmool, in Uxmal. These sites provided us with amazing views, knowledge, and friendship, as we experienced these breathtaking ancient ruins together.
Sprinkled into the itinerary were trips to three cenotes, which are holes in the limestone bedrock filled with water from underground aquifers. Just like the ruins, each was unique, but all were tons of fun. Whether it was jumping into 150-foot deep water, playing a spontaneous game of “King of the Hill” over a kayak, or watching little fish nibble at our feet, the cenotes were for many of us one of our favorite experiences. They were also a much welcome break from the Mexican heat.
During the last few days of the trip, we did more than our share of shopping and wandering, experiencing the authentic feel of Mexico. We returned to Playa del Carmen, but not before stopping in Valladolid, an old Spanish colonial town, to shop with our now close friends around a beautiful cathedral and bright green plaza.
Once back in Playa del Carmen, we swam, wandered, ate, and shopped some more. As we headed back to Pennsylvania, everyone was utterly exhausted by our busy schedule and plentiful walking, but we could look back and know that our excitement was well deserved, and that we all had an unforgettable experience that bound us closer together and taught us amazing things about the Maya and one another.
By Victoria G. ’17
Photos by Carlie A. ’17
Perhaps Mrs. Turner said it best. Talking to Señora Heim, she confessed to laughing every time one of the 23 students on the Span Civ trip came running up to Señora with a look of awe, describing a lesson learned in class that the student had just actually experienced in Spain. “Did you think she was lying to you?” she teased. But it’s hard not to be overcome with wonder and amazement when the topics of the lectures, books, debates, tests and essays from class come to life right before your eyes.
It did not take long for the students to embrace Spanish culture. Even before we had left the Madrid airport, many of us had already ordered in Spanish and gobbled down the fabled (and delicious) jamón Ibérico. A short flight took us to begin our adventure in Barcelona, and our excitement and enthusiasm did not wane. Our first day in Barcelona was spent exploring the marketplace, a cathedral, shops, and of course a tapas restaurant.
The following day was devoted to the works of the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí. Although Gaudí designed many of his structures more than 100 years ago, his creativity allowed him to imagine designs so ahead of his time that his buildings are considered modern even today. We took in several Gaudí structures, climbing to the roof of the curvy bonelike apartment building known as Casa Milá, meandering through the beautifully tiled walls of the Parque Güell, and standing with jaws agape in front of the radiant stained glass windows in the Sagrada Familia.
On our final day in Barcelona, we hiked the peaks of Montserrat and listened to the boys choir singing in the monastery at the base of the mountain. Later, we shopped and walked along the Mediterranean, and a few members of our group decided to plunge into the sea — fully clothed.
We left Barcelona via a high speed train for Córdoba, where we explored the Mezquita, an ancient mosque built by the Moors that kind of resembles a candy cane. Next we hopped on a bus and continued to Sevilla, where our night walk through the city ended up in the same place as a procession for Holy Week. The following morning was filled with exploring the plaza and the Alcázar before driving to a bull farm to meet a matador, see the bulls, and gain a deeper understanding of the Spanish tradition of bullfighting.
That night, we cruised off the Spanish coast aboard a boat that offered a choice venue for a dance party (during which an unfortunate but thankfully not serious knee injury was incurred while doing the worm).
From Sevilla, we headed to Granada and explored the Alhambra and Generalife. The former is so beautiful and impressive that after expelling the Moors from Spain, Ferdinand and Isabel chose to reside there. It was easy to see why. The intricately tiled, colorful, and symmetrical architecture was stunning.
After visiting the Alhambra, we toured the adjacent Generalife gardens, which exhibited the same dedication to beauty and symmetry. Later that night, we were joined by another LCDS student, Samantha Cockroft, before travelling to the historic Sacromonte caves to observe a passionate flamenco performance.
Saying goodbye to Granada, we drove to Toledo, stopping to take in the famous windmills that Don Quijote mistook for giants and attempted to battle in Cervantes’ classic. Although we had already read the book in class, standing in the place where the story takes place added a deeper dimension of understanding and appreciation for the tale.
Leaving La Mancha behind, we made our way to our last stops. In Madrid, we experienced the shops, food, people, and visited two famous art museums, the Reina Sofia and the Prado.
Inside the Reina Sofia hung Picasso’s colossal monument to the suffering and chaos of war, the painting “Guernica.” The piece is so powerful that it would move anyone who beheld it; however, our prior studies of the painting in relation to the Spanish Civil War made it even more meaningful.
Inside the Prado, each student was able to locate and describe the painting by Goya that they had researched and presented to the class.
We spent our final day travelling to Segovia to visit its famous aqueduct, as well as the controversial monument known as the Valley of the Fallen.
After the Spanish Civil War, military dictator Francisco Franco ordered the construction of the monument to honor all those who died in the war. However, prisoners from the losing Republican side labored to build the monument, and Franco himself is buried behind the massive altar. This led to a lively debate among the students over whether the monument should exist.
At the end of the trip, the students were left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for our teachers and the beautiful country of Spain. ¡Gracias!
By Madison B. ’17
Photos by Mrs. Woodbridge
Eighteen students. Four months. Dozens of sleepless nights. Countless pages of research. All for one international conference: The Hague International Model United Nations.
The globetrotting journey of the Model United Nations class began long before the conference — approximately a year before, in fact, when we were given the chance to audition for a spot in the highly competitive class. From the beginning, we knew what awaited us: a once-in-a-lifetime trip to combine our collective diplomatic expertise with that of thousands of international students on the world stage. But in the hours before our departure, the trip began to take on a new life as not merely a conference, but a transformative experience for everyone involved.
The time away was only 10 days, but it felt like an entire semester abroad — and not just because of jet lag. Before the conference proper, we had time to explore our new surroundings, time which we used to the fullest.
Our first day was spent in the Hague, our base of operations. We walked along the shore of the North Sea, marveling at how the frigid waters could serve as a local hotspot in the summer. For dinner we sampled Cantonese food, including fried chicken feet (which I would not recommend due to overwhelming bitterness and an awful aftertaste).
The next day, MUN 2017 took Amsterdam, where we saw art by Van Gogh and the Dutch masters, ate delicious stroopwafel (which, for the uninitiated, is a sort of sandwich made of two thin waffles and caramel spread), and took a dinner cruise through Amsterdam’s labyrinth of canals.
However, the highlight of Amsterdam for many of the MUN students was the Anne Frank house, where we took a somber tour through the secret annex where Anne Frank and seven other Dutch Jews hid from the Nazis.
For our last free day, we traveled to Bruges, Belgium, where we were able to purchase some legendary Belgian chocolate and relax before the conference began.
Now well-rested and adjusted to the new atmosphere, the students were plunged right into lobbying on the first day of the conference. Shaking off our days of vacation, we got right to work drafting resolutions, writing speeches, and gathering support for our platforms, just like we’d learned in class.
Many of us were head or co-submitters on resolutions. When debate started on the second day, we went toe-to-toe with other students to defend our positions and oppose measures that our delegations didn’t agree with.
Any of us could tell you how simultaneously terrifying and thrilling it was to approach the microphone, notes in hand, ready to fight for our resolution. To even pose a simple question required extensive planning, to make sure that the point of information would have the desired effect.
It was the ultimate exercise of “think before you speak,” made even more pressing by the fact that hundreds of other intelligent students were listening intently to you. Our public speaking skills quickly improved, as well as our ability to communicate swiftly and effectively with others.
And at the end, many of us were rewarded with our resolutions passing. If not, we learned what to do differently next time.
Overall, the trip was not only fun, but an extremely valuable learning experience. But the most important thing, in my opinion, were the strong bonds that the class formed with one another as we explored and argued together.
Allen Miller’s Model United Nations class was holding a symposium on nuclear security, with each student preparing to write a position paper from a different country’s perspective. Across the Harkness Table, kids worked out the nuances of the security dilemma and Game Theory 101, but without employing the language of Dr. Strangelove or The RAND Corporation.
“Information brokering can be a form of terror, and unilateral disarmament is taking a leap of faith that subjects your country to domination,” said Caleb G.
Victoria G. wondered aloud if disarmament wouldn’t undermine the “mutually” in mutually assured destruction.
Zoe W. and Madison B. mused that even if countries acted with good intentions, there would always remain the problems of verification and mistrust between even purportedly united nations.
Then Caleb chimed in again, touching on a more fundamental problem.
“It’s one thing to disarm, but the knowledge of how to make these weapons is still going to exist. How are you supposed to deal with that?”
Miller is teaching MUN for the first time, and after class he explained the larger goal behind the symposium exercise, as well his vision for the course as a whole.
“What I want is for students to write position papers from a global perspective rather than a parochial one. Two of the things that make [The Hague International Model United Nations] conference so appealing are the fact that it’s simply by far the largest international conference, and that means it offers a level of diversity not found anywhere else,” Miller said.
The fact that the conference is in the Netherlands and that travel is an integral component adds its own benefits, Miller said. “I think any time you can incorporate travel into a course, it makes the students more aware and more self-aware,” he said.
When Miller heads for Holland next January, 12 of his students will represent the sub-Saharan nation of Namibia. Six others will play non-delegate roles representing UN Water, a United Nations agency dedicated to freshwater concerns, with sanitation at the fore.
While Miller and the gang are boning up on Robert’s Rules of Order and focusing on getting the most out the THIMUN experience, Miller is also looking beyond the course’s historically Dutch-centric horizon to make the second part of the year as valuable and engaging as the first.
“I would like to see MUN become more a program about global issues and I want students to think about how to deal with transboundary problems” such as climate change and humanitarian crises, Miller said.
“The class offers a lot to sink our teeth into.”
In addition to MUN, Miller teaches Middle School courses on the Modern World. He is currently working toward his doctorate in history from the University of Virginia. His scholarly work examines state building and technology in the early American republic. In the modern American republic, Miller spent more than 25 years working in the software industry before leaving to become a teacher.
Words and Photos By Kendall K. ’19 and Sammy S. ’17
While in South Africa, we were able to experience wildlife, culture, and compare our daily routine to that of South Africans. When we arrived, our exchange hosts were on winter break so we spent the first week visiting tourist areas in Cape Town such as hiking Table Mountain, taking a boat to Robben Island, visiting the waterfront and aquarium, and going to a rugby game.
We spent a week at school, then embarked on the Garden Route Tour. The Garden Route Tour is a five-day trip with all the exchange students from Herschel and Bishops (from countries such as Spain, Germany, Australia, the UK and India). We got a chance to make friends from all around the world. The first day of the tour we visited an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn. On Day 2 we went to a cheetah wildlife ranch and had the opportunity to interact with cheetahs and lemurs. Afterward, we went on a journey through the Cango Caves, where we had to crawl and pull ourselves up to get through. We ended the day by visiting the beach and taking some pretty cool panoramas. On Day 3 we visited an elephant sanctuary, where we had the opportunity to walk and feed elephants. Next, we enjoyed a little adrenaline at the world’s highest bungee bridge. We zip-lined and returned to our hotel. Our hotel lobby itself was inhabited by warthogs and a meerkat. The last day we went four wheeling through a game park and saw some giraffe, zebras, and antelope.
After the Garden Route Tour we continued going to school and spent our weekends doing things such as surfing and getting a taste of South African culture. We both had the opportunity to visit game reserves and see tons of wildlife. I was able to visit the beautiful area called Bo-Kaap, an area with colorful houses painted every year for the month of Ramadan. At school, we participated in a Master Chef competition where we won Best Spirit for our super complex traditional American dish of peanut butter and jelly! As our trip came to a close we had to say goodbye to all the friends we made and our host sisters. There were many tears shed. Cape Town is a beautiful city and we both highly recommend this beautiful trip.
By Tony A. ’20
Photos by Evie A. ’20
After our parents’ bon voyaging concluded, 22 eighth graders boarded vans in early June and headed for the flight that would land 14 hours later on the rain soaked runway of Edinburgh Airport. As we broke through the thick layer of gray clouds, we were greeted by a lush, green landscape whose patchwork of fields of crops was dotted with farm animals (mostly sheep). As picturesque as it was, many of us remarked that the scenery was very similar to that of Lancaster County.
On our short drive to our first destination, we immediately noticed a number of changes from our initial impressions. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road, we were surprised by the rows of coal-stained sandstone buildings and small cottages. Upon entering the city of Edinburgh, our initial impressions went something like, “Wow, this is pretty dreary” or “Why did I travel all the way to see THIS?”
Little did we know that many of us would be reluctant to leave our newfound favorite city. Over the next few days, we spent our time touring, learning, and walking. Those of us with fitness trackers saw that we logged close to, if not more than, 10 miles per day. “Laugh, don’t whine,” Mr. Miller told us before we began, but most of the time we were having too much fun to notice our aching feet anyway.
Edinburgh Castle was among the most intriguing and remarkable sights we saw, however the astonishing view atop Calton Hill gave the castle a run for its money. For many of us, the traditional Scottish dance class was not the most memorable feature of our trip, but it did offer an authentic, proper Scottish experience.
Edinburgh fixed our initial impressions of the U.K. and allowed us to appreciate the lifestyle and society of the Scots. For that reason alone, the capital of Scotland played an integral role in developing our perspective on the rest of our journey.
Destination No. 2 was an 84-mile-long Roman ruin that still wends its way across northern England, almost 2,000 years after it was built. Hadrian’s Wall offered not just a stunning, 360-degree view of the landscape, but an invitation to consider the symbolism and history behind the wall itself. Who would have thought that Roman influence would reach this empty, uninhabited landscape, so far from Rome? Hadrian’s Wall deepened our perspective and encouraged us to analyze our surroundings.
Our first church discovery was the Durham Cathedral. This ancient sandstone building impressed us with its beautiful architecture — not to mention the classic MG car show out front. The magnificently high ceilings and extraordinary amount of detail conveyed a deep sense of craftsmanship, and gave us an appreciation for the 40 years that went into constructing this 1,000-year-old masterpiece.
After Durham, we made another cathedral stop in York. There was no denying the awe we felt before this structure. Even the tallest and most modern skyscrapers fail to make onlookers’ mouths drop, but somehow York Minster was able to do just that.
As we approached the city atop the Romanesque York City walls, the cathedral could be seen looming over the entire city. In fact, this cathedral was so large that it could be seen from almost any part of downtown York. York was among our favorite stops, as this was the city where we had the most free time to explore and shop among the unique storefronts.
Up next was the college town of Cambridge. As we explored the Cambridge campus and metropolitan area, we noticed a change in the daily lifestyle of its residents. As in most college towns, Cambridge offered an atmosphere that was at once historic yet modern. Although we already found Cambridge beautiful, the fact that it was one of the first times the sun came out surely helped form that impression.
Our trip concluded in the city we were initially most excited to see, London. Its world-famous landmarks, including Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace did not disappoint.
But our most notable experience there, other than waiting for a train in the Underground for 45 minutes, had little to do with London itself.
At this point in our trip, most of us were physically exhausted from the constant travel. These few days in London promoted team building and unity among our group because we needed each other to continue. There were times when we struggled to crawl out of bed every morning at 7 o’clock, but your roommate was always there to cheer you on (unless they were still asleep). Although sightseeing and touring was a wonderful experience, London left us with a lesson that would resonate with us far more deeply.
As we prepared to depart from Heathrow, our group’s connection had changed from how it was at the beginning of our journey. Our collective experiences had broadened our perspectives, as well as imparting valuable lessons and experiences we would otherwise not have attained. It would be wrong to assume that I was the only one disappointed to leave, but I couldn’t help but think, “What’s next?”
By Lily D.-L. ’17
Photos by Andrey Drobot
At the Palais Garnier in Paris, an animated and effervescent set of individuals forged a bond that would carry through for the rest of our time in France. While the grandeur of this legendary opera house was unforgettable, what we saw on the boulevard outside was even more spectacular: Our very own LCDS students took part in a street musician’s routine. With more than a hundred passersby stopping to listen, Elliot Rhodes ’16 belted out Adele songs while the rest of us sang along and encouraged him. As we danced and cheered Elliot on, we all soaked in the marvelous spontaneity of the moment. But before I get too far into our trip, let me back up a little.
Its art, architecture and culinary delights help make France one of the most culturally rich countries in the world, and what 19 Country Day students and three chaperones experienced over 10 spring days exceeded all expectations.
Sixteen hours after departing LCDS, the skyline of Paris emerged before our eyes and we caught our first glimpse of the majestic Eiffel Tower. Our first experience with the French language occurred at a quaint Parisian café where we ordered delectable croque monsieurs (toasted bread topped with fresh grated cheese and broiled ham) and the first of many café au laits. The flavors of France — from boeuf bourguignon, to fried Camembert, to Ladurée macarons — became some of our most cherished memories.
The next four days in Paris were a whirlwind of art, taking in some of the world’s finest pieces at the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou and the Louvre. After seeing da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Duchamp’s Fountain, and Monet’s Blue Water Lilies, we took a turn being artists ourselves, during a sketching class in front of the ornate Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre, the heart of the artist district.
The views in Paris seldom disappointed. Our thousand-foot climb up the Eiffel Tower was rewarded with the blustery nightscape of the City of Lights below. This experience was only outdone by the view out the window of our boat as we traveled down the tranquil Seine another evening. The bustling, glorious Champs Elysées at rush hour, the Palace of Versailles and the gardens of Marie Antoinette were stunning to behold.
Too soon, our time in Paris came to an end as we found ourselves aboard the fastest train in Europe, en route to the French Riviera.
There, we traveled the Mediterranean Coast from the palm-lined streets of Nice to the royal Grimaldi palace of Monaco. Atop the village of Saint-Paul de Vence, where painter Marc Chagall is buried, we beheld a surreal view of the Mediterranean on one side and the Alps on the other.
After descending the hilltop, we played a rather rowdy game of “boules lyonnaises.” The French liked to remind us, repeatedly, that this game that bears a striking similarity to bocce is uniquely French and not to be confused with its Italian cousin. Our instructors were former national boules lyonnaises champions, and were awed when we split into two teams and became infected with a competitive fever.
Our final day began at the Fragonard Perfume Factory, which left us all smelling like irises for the rest of our time abroad.
I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of this incredible trip to France. It would not have been possible without the careful planning of Madame Drobot, her husband Andrey and Ms. Wolanin. I made memories that I will never forget and became closer friends with everybody on the trip. Merci beaucoup!
By Bailey M. ’16
Photos by Meghan Kenny
After months of preparation, 16 members of the Lancaster Country Day School Class of 2016 began the experience of a lifetime: representing a nation at The Hague International Model United Nations Conference in the Netherlands.
The Model United Nations course has given every member of our group the opportunity to develop our critical thinking skills, broaden our horizons and discover what we’re passionate about. Through historical debates and discussions, we forged our own opinions while discovering how to articulate viewpoints that did not align with our personal beliefs. This atmosphere fosters creativity and motivation, preparing all of us for the challenges we faced representing Ghana at THIMUN.
Our first destination was Zagreb, Croatia, and the apartments that would be our home for three busy days. A frigid and thrilling evening in Jelacic Square dining on chevapchici, or “meat sticks” became the first of many adventures that our close-knit group would share.
The next morning, we were all convened in one of the apartments for breakfast. Everyone contributed pots, pans and mugs from our cabinets; some cooked, while others cleaned. All of us improvised, sharing plates and precariously perching on furniture so that everyone was happy and included.
We had been a tight-knit group throughout the year, but the nature of the trip really made our class feel like a true family.
That afternoon, we drove through the mountains to Rijeka, where we walked cobblestone streets to the 13th-century Trsat Fortress, and took in a city glowing with the variegated decorations of the Winter Carnival.
That night we saw the Winter Carnival Pageant, where we gazed in confusion as we beheld a parade of dancers in ramshackle yak costumes receiving raucous cheers from the crowd. Though perplexing, the celebration made us reflect on how Color Wars might well look equally baffling to outsiders.
We woke to our last frigid morning in Zagreb and set out early to see as much as possible and crisscrossed the sections of the city, only stopping to warm our tired limbs with cappuccinos. The Museum of Broken Relationships made an ironically ideal meeting place as smaller groups greeted each other with stories of the day.
As our plane touched down in the Netherlands, we were giddy (though perhaps that was jet lag). We finally clamored out into the pouring rain to see the Carlton Beach hotel in Scheveningen, the temporary home of Country Day MUN students of years past. That evening, our group made the trip to center city for the traditional pre-THIMUN dim sum dinner. At one point, you couldn’t tell if the tears in someone’s eyes were due to uncontrollable laughter or the incredibly spicy food. Our band of committed characters was eager and prepared to take on THIMUN.
The next morning, we walked past the waving Ghanaian flag on our way into the world forum for the first time. Armed with prewritten resolutions and all of the self-confidence we could muster, we parted ways and made for our individual committees.
The first day included lobbying, a constant blur of activity as we sought out delegates who shared our topic and viewpoint. We compared and combined resolutions, explaining our country’s stance to other students from around the globe. Our months of studying specialized topics within our committees had paid off; everyone in our MUN class was able to proudly share something they accomplished on that first day.
Throughout the week, intense committee sessions saw us discuss the resolutions which came from the first day’s lobbying. As delegates of Ghana, we had the hard time smaller nations often do in getting the attention of committee chairmen, but we persevered. Many of these efforts paid off as some of our classmates made passionate speeches, delivered points of information, and even passed resolutions they had written.
Our group made careful decisions, casting personal opinions aside in order to best represent the views of our nation. We used the critical thinking skills we had developed throughout the year, and set individual goals and challenges for ourselves. Furthermore, interacting with fellow MUN students from around the world gave us the chance to learn from each other’s prior experience and make friends.
Learning how to self-promote in such a diverse environment was a truly valuable experience, and will help us in college and throughout our lives. Though our days were packed with hours of lobbying and debate during that week, we used the evenings to reconnect and share our experiences from the conference in order to learn from each other.
On Wednesday, our committee sessions let out early and we headed to Amsterdam, exploring breathtaking art at the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum before walking the city and getting a sense of its open-minded culture. We did our best to avoid the infamous virus named the “Hague Plague,” or as we affectionately dubbed it, “Den Haagen Plaagen,” and took care of those who were not as lucky.
Though we took on challenges in our committees as individuals and as delegates of the Republic of Ghana, the 2016 MUN class remained a microcosm of our LCDS community: compassionate, spirited, and open-minded.
On the behalf of this year’s MUN class, I want to give my sincere thanks to Mrs. Woodbridge, Mr. Umble, Ms. Kenny, and all others who made our trip possible. I would also like to express our gratitude to Mr. Schindler, whose guidance and support has allowed us to truly grow. Through this course, each student learned lessons that will serve us the rest of our lives, independence, critical thinking skills and the will to pursue what we truly care about.
By Victoria G. ’16
In late June, Tahra W. ’16 and I flew down with our families to South Africa to begin our six-week stay in Cape Town. For a week, we toured the city with our families, getting our bearings before being dropped off with our host families. I stayed with Michaela Meyer and her family, including younger sister Alyssa and Michaela’s younger brother, Derek. Tahra stayed with Richard Wellington and his parents and two younger sisters. Both Michaela and Richard will be joined by another girl named Iris and will come in late September to LCDS.
For the first week and a half, we joined our host families on their vacation to the Kruger National Park. Over that time, I became very close with Richard Wellington’s 10-year-old sister, Juju. We started off as just Uno partners but ended up spending a lot of time together on fun adventures, often with Juju wearing a leopard-print onesie. Juju had an unwaveringly positive and caring attitude about everyone and her many hugs are one of my fondest memories. At the end of our time in Kruger, Juju and her sister Gemma gave me a necklace with Africa on it as a token of thanks for spending so much time with them. I was deeply moved and frankly a little surprised because I enjoyed my time with them and certainly didn’t feel like I needed to be thanked for anything. But thanks to this necklace, now whenever I see an image of Africa, I am reminded of the warmth and love of the Wellington sisters and all my other friends in Cape Town.
To get to Kruger, we drove across South Africa, enjoying the beautiful scenery and stopping at various cultural and historical sites. Our days in Kruger were on safari trying to spot animals. We were extremely fortunate and saw the entire “Big Five,” a lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. Besides seeing these incredible animal, some of the most memorable experiences from Kruger were the evening “braais” (barbeques) with our two host families.
After the holidays, we returned to Cape Town to start school. I attended Herschel, the all-girls school, and Tahra attended Bishops, the all-boys school. Bishops and Herschel are brother and sister schools and both are among the top academic, athletic and arts schools in the area. History class was especially interesting as we discussed the legacy of Cecil John Rhodes and whether he deserves to be memorialized, since his statue had just been removed from the University of Cape Town. During school days, we were fully immersed in their respective cultures, and sucked into the contagious school spirit during “Herschfield” (Herschel vs. Springfield in field hockey) as well as the Bishops rugby games. It was very different going from attending LCDS to a religious, all-girls school in Africa, but the school was extremely welcoming and accommodating, and the people and experiences at Herschel were inspirational and unforgettable.
In addition to attending classes, there were also day trips planned by the schools for exchange students such as hiking table mountain, working with impoverished children in the townships, surfing and touring Cape Town’s top sites as well as a week long Garden Route tour. During the Garden Route tour, all of the exchange students from Bishops and Herschel drove through part of South Africa to reach some of the nation’s most beautiful and exciting sites. Our exchange group consisted of boys and girls from all around the world, including the U.S., Spain, England, the Isle of Man, Australia, China and Wales. Overall, the Garden Route tour left us with a new understanding of global cultures, and a new appreciation for the animals and wildlife of South Africa.
Tahra and I are both immensely grateful to our host families, Bishops, Herschel, and LCDS for giving us one of the most meaningful and enjoyable experiences of our lives. When traveling, one is often given something to think about, but it is rare to have a place change the way you think. The culture of Cape Town and the people we became friends with opened our minds and hearts to new perspectives, and Cape Town is now a part of us both. This is something that can only be achieved through an exchange with a complete immersion into another way of life. We were given the opportunity to become more than tourists and truly experience the beauty of Cape Town. The memories, friendships, and ideas we have taken with us from South Africa will be with us for the rest of our lives and we both highly recommend this exchange to anyone considering it.
Traversing Europe Speaking the Language of Music
By Andrew S. ’17
This summer, a group of eight LCDS choir and orchestra students participated in the American Music Abroad European Tour to France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
It all began at Franklin and Marshall College on Saturday, June 20. We moved into the dorms with our instruments, preparing for a long weekend of practicing and rehearsing that our orchestra director, Mrs. Woodbridge, had warned us about. We met our fellow musicians and all the directors who would chaperone our tour around Europe. Little did we know that these would be the people that we would forge close relationships with and make our experience in Europe that much more indelible.
We landed in Paris and drove to Caen. For many of us, it was our first visit to France and it seemed as if some magical power passed through us, restoring energy and excitement after the long flight and drive.
The first day of our trip, and perhaps the most poignant part of the trip, was playing in the Normandy American Cemetery at the Omaha Beach Memorial, commemorating the thousands who died storming the beach. The chorus, orchestra and band performed beautiful odes dedicated to the fallen soldiers, bringing tears not only to the large number of spectators gathered, but also to the conductors and students on our tour. The finale evoked the most heartfelt emotions, as our two best trumpet players performed “Taps.” The sound echoed throughout the memorial and cemetery for all the visitors to hear.
After gathering and storing our instruments back on the bus, we took a short bus ride to Point du Hoc, a promontory overlooking the English Channel and the entire beach. It was a beautiful evening, and the English Channel was awe inspiring. What we all had in common that day was believing that this moment would be one we would never forget.
Many of us were ecstatic to have the opportunity of practicing our French language skills in the country of origin. Several French students promised to speak French for the entire time we travelled in France. It was a great learning experience for everyone.
After spending the hottest day of the year in Paris, meandering around the Place de la Concorde or the nearest crêperie along the Seine, we headed north. We spent a night in Strasbourg where an evening of disco let all the kids hang out and dance after spending such long periods on the coaches. It was a nice way to relax and get to meet everyone on the trip.
Taking in the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp was a fascinating, solemn experience for students and chaperones alike. What was so moving and unique about the camp is that it looks very much like it did during the war; it hasn’t been preserved for tourists like other camps, which can feel more like museums than the actual places where the most horrible things happened.
This quality brought us back in time to when the camp was operational: We were standing on the blood, sweat, and tears of condemned Jews, Gypsies and POWs. Especially evocative was a large concrete sculpture of a emaciated prisoner who looked like a living skeleton. It overlooked the entire site, and brought tears to everyone’s eyes. We knew that not too long ago these paths were walked by prisoners subject to brutal torment. It makes one realize how easily people can be forgotten, and how, if we as a society allow it, the innocent can end up behind barbed wire.
We spent our last day in France in Wasselonne, where we performed in the town church for all the townspeople. We all had a great time performing and seeing the audience enjoy our concert.
The next destination and performance venue was across the border in Hirschberg, Germany. This performance was a friendship concert with a local school. Many of us had to share stands and music with the students, whose English fluency ranged all over the map. The conductor’s English was easier to pin down: He spoke none.
Despite the fact that we couldn’t understand the conductor’s criticism and comments after our rehearsals, we all figured out what he wanted of us as musicians. The language barrier dissipated when we all began using the language of music. It was a magical experience to be a part of during the rehearsal and performance.
Travelling south through Germany, we wended our way through Bavarian towns and cities such as Munich, Kirchseeon and Rosenheim. We all had free time in Munich to have lunch and shop before driving to Kirchseeon for an outdoor friendship concert with a local choral group. We ended our Germany journey in Rosenheim, with Mrs. Woodbridge and all the LCDS students celebrating the Fourth of July (not a big event for the Germans) with a bowling tournament.
After falling in love with France and Germany, we couldn’t help but think about what wonders awaited us Austria. We arrived in Westendorf in the evening, just in time for a traditional Tyrolean fork performance. This was truly the best introduction to the state of Tyrol.
A group of six men in full lederhosen regalia started playing music and dancing, which consisted of clapping their hands all around their lower body and doing a series of high kicks. Their many performances included miming wood-chopping, playing unique Tyrolean instruments, and doing many line dances all in sync to music. Between each performance, we all linked arms and danced. It was the easily the liveliest night of the trip, with decidedly memorable interactions with the Tyrolean performers and each other.
Out of all the places we visited in Europe, Westendorf and Rattenberg had the most beautiful scenery. It took everyone’s breaths away seeing the endless mountains, fascinating wildlife, and luscious, green fields. One day, we all travelled to a glacier in Rattenberg. It was the best feeling at the top of the glacier because it was cool, with snow everywhere and the Italian border visible below us. Truly a great day.
When reflecting on the Burgundy Tour, LCDS students all knew that there was one aspect of the trip that stood out the most. It was the power of music. Music is what brought all of us students and conductors together. Through our intense love of music, we all rehearsed and prepared for a plethora of concerts. At these concerts, we communicated stories, messages and emotions to our audience through the language of music. We represented our country, and showed our love of our host country by showing passion for our craft. That is what inspires us as musicians and make music so wonderful.
Special thanks to Mrs. Woodbridge, our choral and orchestra conductor, for encouraging all of us to go on this unforgettable tour.
By David W. ’19
Photos by David W. and Mr. Miller
The importance of travel cannot be overstated.
English writer Aldous Huxley once said that, “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Despite our apparent existence in a world with no boundaries, the fact remains that no one truly knows about a society without having lived within it or having travelled to it. A Google search cannot explain a culture. A Wikipedia article cannot adequately describe a people. CNN cannot present a report that provides a holistic understanding of a foreign country. All of this is exactly why Lancaster Country Day School created an eighth grade trip to the United Kingdom.
In early June, 11 members of the class of 2019 and three brave teachers set off on a seven-day trek across the U.K. designed to teach the students about culture, understanding and friendship. And in the end, it wasn’t the castles and cathedrals that had the greatest impact on the 11 student travelers.
Our first stop on the trip was Edinburgh, the picturesque capital of Scotland. Stunning views of the North Sea, the oldest crown jewels in Britain and the Scottish National War Museum awaited us at Edinburgh Castle. The most memorable sight, however, was a street performer whose extraordinary production included a dramatic sword-swallowing and some colorful jokes that helped raise the day into the realm of the unforgettable.
Aberdeen, a small and welcoming town nestled into the Scottish countryside, was our second stop. After taking a tour of Robert Gordon’s College we met with our host families. Culture is best experienced on a personal level, and staying with a family gave us that experience. Shadowing our hosts taught us that everyone has misconceptions about foreign cultures. One student was especially taken aback when a teacher asked him if plastic drinking straws existed in the United States. Another was dumbfounded when a host student asked if Americans knew who Winston Churchill was.
“So do you guys think that Americans are fat?” a Country Day student asked.
“Um, no. What?” the host responded. “People really don’t use that stereotype over here. At all.”
York, our third destination, was visually stunning and the towering York Minster cathedral could be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Although impressive, it was not the enormous cathedral that made York a town to remember. It was the small pleasantries that we encountered, such as the generosity of a small-business owner or the kindness of a passerby. Tourists and citizens alike said hello to us without hesitation — and Mr. Miller gave his own stern, “Hello?!” (also without hesitation) when he noticed us surreptitiously wandering off. The White Rose City welcomed us with open arms and sent us on our way with unforgettable memories and a taste of English culture.
Our final stop was London. We were greeted by the Queen’s Guard, whose march was characterized by fortitude, strength, patriotism and heritage. Despite fatigue from the nonstop travel, all of us remained positive with the help of cheerful “good day’s!” from strangers and vendors. Despite our obvious tourist status, everyone waved to us as equals, our foreign nationality notwithstanding. By now we were convinced: Much of the conventional wisdom about this place was a misconception. Except for the stereotype about tea, that is. Tea was firmly engrained in Scottish and English culture.
As we boarded the plane bound for the United States, many of us were quiet. Some of this came from the exhaustion we felt after traveling for so many days; however, some of it was rooted in our desire to sit back and take in everything we had just experienced. Shortly before takeoff, a student quietly uttered remarks that could speak for everyone.
“People often say Americans and the British are incompatible. And one of us always has to be better. Does it have to be that black and white? Do you have to be superior or inferior? Can’t you just acknowledge your differences, reconcile, and enjoy your dissimilarity? After traveling here I learned that it’s different, but not incompatible. It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s interesting and it forces you to see things from a new perspective. And after hearing what all the critics say, in all their accusatory tones, at some point when you visit somewhere foreign that’s been unjustifiably defamed by the media, you have to step back and say:
‘Man, this place ain’t so bad.’”