High school trips abroad aren't only for those who want to tour museums and take pictures at local sights. Some travel opportunities for high school students make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Two Bellevue students who went on international service trips are Interlake High School alum Peter Tian and Bellevue High School graduate Hailee Donoghue.
The two both traveled abroad the summer on separate trips after their sophomore years of high school to participate in international service projects through Walking Tree, one of the many student travel companies that organizes service trips for students to volunteer for projects helping residents in the local communities.
Hailee Donoghue went on a month-long program in Ollantaytambo, a city in Peru’s Sacred Valley her sophomore year of high school.
“I had previously been really involved with my high school and local organizations, and began to wonder what it would be like to get involved with community service on an international scale,” said Donoghue.
While in Peru she helped build a cafeteria for an underfunded girls school. “Getting to practice my Spanish, learn about the local community, and about the families we were working with was incredible and something I will never forget,” she said.
Donoghue, who is now a sophomore at University of California, Berkley, believes her international service experience in Peru directed her toward pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies as well as a minor in Spanish and Global Poverty and Practice.
Donoghue will also complete a five-week international service project in Latin America during the 2014 summer.
“Getting involved in other communities and learning about new cultures and people is such a neat experience,” she said. “I would highly recommend an international service program to anyone who has the opportunity.”
Peter Tian had never completed a service project and hadn’t participated in community service efforts prior to his trip. He had also never traveled outside of the United States before his sophomore year of high school.
While in Costa Rica he helped paint an indoor soccer complex, build a community performance stage, reroof buildings and refurbish a local greenhouse.
“Nine out of the 14 days I spent abroad were focused on our various service projects,” said Tian.
Tian is now a sophomore at University of Pennsylvania and quite a world traveler. “I caught the travel bug after Costa Rica,” he said.
Tian has been on many trips since his international service project, including to Mexico, the Caribbean, China and the Dominican Republic. He is going on another international service trip to Peru this summer.
“I had never traveled before and my whole view of the world shifted. Realizing how big it actually is can really change all your aspirations,” said Tian.
He is now a business major and hopes to work in international development and public service. “After Costa Rica I realized I want to help find ways for nations to cooperate and work together,” he said.
According to Walking Tree co-founder Paul Laurie, each of its programs takes around 15-20 students, which allows the leaders to connect and really get to know the students. Students must pay tuition, which ranges from $2,290 for a 10 day program to $5,890 for a 90 day program, though financial aid is available. Part of the tuition pays for the service project, according to Walking Tree.
Service Abroad programs for High School Students
A variety of travel companies organize student trips abroad for high school students with an eye toward service travel. Here are a few:
Walking Tree: http://www.walkingtree.org
Habitat for Humanity International: http://www.habitat.org/youthprograms/ages_14_25/gv_youth_default.aspx
Global Leadership Adventures: http://www.experiencegla.com/
Vision Service Adventures: http://www.visionsserviceadventures.com/
Global Works Travel: http://www.globalworkstravel.com/community/