Culturally immersive service learning in Thailand and a music performance trip to the United Kingdom were just two of the exciting programs offered by D-E International to Upper School students this summer, creating meaningful memories for all the participants and providing new opportunities to follow through on the School’s mission to “make it better.”
Within hours of their arrival, D-E’s Thailand travelers began participating in cooking lessons and shopping for food in a local Thai market, cooking home-cooked meals, and then delivering those meals to people in need. The students also worked in rice fields, and they helped to build a home for a local family. At the conclusion of their stay, leaders with Rustic Pathways, the organization with whom D-E International partnered to offer the trip, presented D-E students and faculty with traditional Thai ribbon wrap bracelets and invited our travelers to add their painted handprints to the “sala wall” at the organization’s rice field base home.
Matt Waltman ’16, who is headed to Stanford University this fall, wanted to have one last D-E learning experience after having graduated just weeks before. He notes, “Rustic Pathways encouraged us to get very hands-on and directly connect to the people we were helping. The most meaningful service components to me were the projects that would make a lasting impact, for example, when we built a home for one of the families with whom we worked.”
He says that besides doing service, the group experienced cultural immersion. “We stayed overnight in a Buddhist temple, got Thai massages, and prepared and ate incredible food at every meal,” he says. “The most profound learning moment I had in Thailand, however, was talking with the local people who we were helping in Udon Thani. At every service project, we would have a conversation with the family we were helping. We were able to learn their life stories and this gave me a lot of insight on my life back home compared to how people live in Thailand.”
On another continent, student musicians on the D-E Touring Orchestra trip to London had an equally fulfilling experience that involved both intensive practice and performance sessions and relaxing downtime with their peers from St. Dominic’s, a preparatory school with which D-E has participated in musical exchanges in the past. The students spent time hearing lessons within English classrooms, practicing together with St. Dominic’s orchestral and choral members, and at the end of their stay enjoying an excursion together to Bath and Stonehenge. According to Director John Littlefield, all the musicians “broke through to a higher level as an ensemble” thanks to a series of joint performances at various venues, including St. John’s Church at Hyde Park and a sold-out benefit concert at St. Dominic’s, the proceeds of which were dedicated to cancer research.