Ross School - Senior Project 2013
Mentor: Jessica Heaney
Domains: Learning & Health Services/Student Life
Faculty Grader: Therese Lichtenstein
Documentation of Product
Title: Community Service and Cultural Immersion on Thailands Coast
Exhibition & Presentation Summary
Based on my interest in commˇunity service and spreading its importance to my
peers, for my senior project, I planned a service learning based M-Term to the coast of
Southern Thailand. This trip encompasses many of my interests, these mainly being
traveling, service, and learning about cultures contrastive to my own. After my
community service based trip to Peru this past summer, I chose to plan an M-Term as
opposed to another trip on my own, so that others my age would have the opportunity to
experience a dramatically life altering experience like I did. The main aspect of my
project was the organization of the trip, but since it has been approved to run as an M-
Term, my work with service learning continues.
Slide 1: Good morning everyone, my name is Juliana and my senior project is called:
Community Service and Cultural Immersion on ThailandÕs Coast
Slide 2: To sum it up, my senior project was the planning of a community-service based M-Term to Thailand, but it took a lot of changes of ideas and new experiences to actually decide on this project.
Slide 3: Last year at the end of 11th grade, I had quite an issue coming up with a senior project.
Although there were a lot of things I was interested in, I couldnÕt decide on one thing that I wanted to focus on for the next 6 or 7 months, especially being a teenager where IÕll be interested in something for a little while and then want to try something new.
So, my project definitely had to be something that I really cared about and wanted to focus on in the long run.
So, to narrow down my options, I had to figure out a few things that either I enjoyed, wanted to learn about, do more of, and so on, and
One thing that I had wanted to
do for a long time was to take a trip, finish all of my community service
hours, see a new place, all of that.
Through this I found the company Rustic Pathways, and I really couldnÕt tell you why I decided to choose to sign up for the trip to Peru of all places, but I did.
The trip included traveling up to the mountains located a few hours outside of the capital (Lima), teaching English and physically working to renovate a school there for a week, and then going to the Amazon for a week to learn about the eco-system, do community service with families in the amazon, and so on.
So I talked to a couple of teachers at school to get ideas about what kind of thing I could do in relation to my senior project while I was in Peru., and through this realized that I didnÕt want to do a photography project or anything because that is something I have done all throughout, but maybe do a videography project, and maybe focus on something such as deforestation in the amazon, do a documentary on the lives of the people in Peru, or maybe do some field work to collect information I could use to hold a fundraiser at home, and so on.
I had a bunch of ideas, but I wasnÕt really sure what to expect in Peru so I was pretty uncertain of which idea to pursue.
I figured once I got there something would come to me or IÕd learn something interesting, and IÕd just document as much of it as I could to eventually make a project out of it.
So I bought a video camera, looked around for my old camera, decided to bring those with me and figure it out once I got there.
Slide 4: I had literally no idea what I was getting into by going on this trip.
The one night we spent in Lima
was the only time I had electricity and hot water.
The rest of the week in the mountains, I slept in one of the classrooms at the school we were working in, in bunkbeds that looked like they were about to collapse.
We had no electricity, no hot water, actually no RUNNING water for that matter. We had to scale the side of a mountain, holding on to bamboo trees so we wouldnÕt fall into the fast moving river where we could ŌshowerĶ.
The first few days of getting used to this, I was absolutely miserable.
All I wanted to do was go home, take a shower, clean all my clothes that were covered in dirt, have a front door that I could lock (See in the picture there is no door), and sleep in my own bed that I was knew for sure wasnÕt crawling with bugs.
But It wasnÕt until I saw the rest of the town, met the people that lived there, and started doing the community service that my complaints and misery were behind me.
Slide 5: The two top photos are of the town I stayed in
The photo on the bottom left, is a photo I took when the front door to one of the houses was left open.
And the bottom right- the backyard of where I was saying.
As you can see, living like this is almost unimaginable to most of us. I could not believe how COMPLETELY different life here was compared to my life; I got to grow up on the upper east side of New York City, spend summers and eventually go to boarding school out here in the Hamptons, and travel to amazing countries around the world, while people in this part of the world have literally nothing. I really felt ashamed of how IÕve been living my whole life- how my whole day would be thrown off if the hot water wasnÕt working in the house, how if my phone died I would be beyond annoyed, you know how it goesÉ
So, after the first few days of being miserable here, I realized how unappreciative I really had been for the last 17 years of my life.
Slide 6: Even though all of the people living in these conditions had absolutely nothing, I had never seen such a happy and supportive community.
People there were always cheerful and willing to help each other unconditionally.
(Even this 90 something year old man on the bottom left was out there working with us every single day)
Having the experience of working and living alongside a community like this was the most amazing experience IÕve ever had, and the entire time I was there, all I was thinking was how kids back home should have the experience that I had. I wanted everyone my age to get involved with a community like this, so different from their own, and feel as great and accomplished as I felt after being a part of their lives.
So, since my original idea of possibly doing a video project didnÕt work out since we had no electricity- all I took home was the experiences and knowledge that I gained to come up with new ideas for my senior project.
Slide 7: So I spent the rest of the summer procrastinating, but once it hit August, I had to think about what I could actually do to go about spreading the importance of community service to my peers.
So I met with my mentor, explained to her everything that happened in Peru, told her why my original idea didnÕt work out, and so on.
I also told her my new idea for a senior project- to organize a trip where students could have the experience that I had.
So what we came up with was maybe organizing the Thanksgiving or Spring Break trip that Ross always has, or doing an independent study or something, but one idea that really stuck with me was organizing an M-Term.
All of my M-Term experiences at Ross have been amazing, and its really my favorite part about this school, so I thought, what better way to get a group of students together to have an experience with community service like I had than to run an M-Term?
I would get to do all of the things I am interested in over the course of the next 6 months, and I would actually enjoy working on my project.
So I did some research, got in contact with a few community service companies, and talked a bit back and forth about possibly running a community service trip with them.
After talking to a few of these companies, planning a community service M-Term was my final idea.
But, *Planning* is the key there- the fact that M-Term takes place after senior projects are due, made the planning of an M-Term my project, and the carrying out of an actual M-Term being a positive outcome. IÕd have to go through the process of proposing a trip, aka give the people in charge of approving M-Terms a structured and completely planned trip, by early November if I wanted to try and make this happen. Also, my mentor warned me when I first decided on this project that, since my M-Term could potentially not be approved to run as a trip, a fully planned trip would have to be my final product.
Slide 8: So since M-Term proposals were due in early November, and I actually wanted this trip to run, when school started in September I had to start right away.
The first thing I had to do was
choose a country where I wanted this trip to take place. My first instinct
was to maybe take another trip to Peru, but I wanted to experience a new
place. And also there was already a different Peru trip within the past 4 years,
so that was off the list.
Slide 9: Why Thailand of all places?
To decide on Thailand, I had to think about the pros and cons.
The Pros: Thailand is beautiful, its culturally rich with so much diverse culture- from religions and customs even to different kinds of eco-systems along the coast (the jungle, the beach, etc.), the community service opportunities there are extensive all over the country, there hasnÕt been an M-Term there within the past 4 years.
The Cons: The only cons I could come up with, were that the flight time overall takes about 20 hours to get to Thailand; and the 12-hour time difference.
But other than that, Thailand seemed like the best choice.
Slide 10: So after deciding on a country, I had to begin the planning.
The first thing I had to decide
was, if I wanted to try to plan all of this by myself (the community service,
the hotels, etc.) or did I want to use a tour company based in Thailand who
already knew the area?
The next step was choosing a tour company, which was difficult.
I had to do a lot of research and get in contact with each company to make sure they knew exactly the type of trip I was trying to plan.. After a million e-mails and calls, I ended up choosing a company called Andaman Discoveries. They were able to use all of the information I gave them about what kind of trip I wanted, and put together an itinerary. Although this itinerary went through a lot of changes, after a few weeks it was finalized, and was something that I would use as part of my product.
Then, after I figured out what we would do once we got to Thailand, I had to figure out how we would get there in the first place.
I spoke with a lot of airlines, and tried to figure out flights for almost 25 people.
This part of the planning was definitely difficult, but my mentor came to the rescue and figured out the rest of that after I finished my product.
Slide 11: After I had planned out the trip, proposing this to Ross was going to be my biggest obstacle, because even though my product would be finished after I wrote this proposal, I still really wanted it to get approved to run.
Although I felt like if it didnÕt get approved, my efforts would have been for nothing, at least I knew my product would be complete.
After waiting for a few weeks, and e-mailing my mentor constantly to see if it got approved or not, the trip was finally approved!!
I was so excited that this was actually going to happen, and felt like this was the piece I needed for my project to be complete.
Slide 12: Although I went through a few difficulties and what not to get to where I am now, I can confidently say that I learned a lot from this project.
From acquiring skills in communication, to learning that I can actually make a difference in the lives of others, both inside and outside of my community, this project has taught more than I could have ever anticipated, especially in that it showed me that I have the ability to educate myself and others about the world from a global perspective, and through first-hand experiences- which is something that I will definitely continue in the coming years.
Slide 13: Thank Yous
1. "The Girl Effect: About." The Girl Effect. Web. Sept. 2012. <http://www.girleffect.org/>
2. "Tourist Visa - Thaivisa." Thaivisa Tourist Visa Comments. Web. Sept. 2012. < http://www.thaivisa.com/tourist-visa.html>
3. "Andaman Discoveries." Andaman Discoveries RSS. Web. Oct. 2012.
4. "Contact Us." High School Travel, Teen Travel. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. <http://www.rusticpathways.com/contact>
5. "Viengping Children's Home: About Us." Web. 15 Oct. 2012. <http://www.baanviengping.com/en/index.html>
6. "Akha Hill House.Ķ Web. 15 Oct. 2012. <http://www.akhahill.com/>
7. "Orphanage in Thailand: Safe Haven Orphanage." Orphanage in Thailand Safe Haven Orphanage RSS. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://safehavenorphanage.org/about.html>
8. "Volunteachthailand.org." Volunteach Thailand. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.<http://www.volunteachthailand.org/>
9. "Volunteer in Thailand." Volunteer Work Thailand, for Free. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://www.volunteerworkthailand.org/>
10. "How a Thai Village Is Prospering after the Tsunami." CNN Travel. Web. Nov. 2012. <http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/life/how-thai-village-prospering-wake-tsunami-461151>
11. "The Shan: Refugees Without A Camp." Shan Refugee Schools. Web. Nov. 2012. <http://shanrefugeeschools.org/the-shan-refugees-without-a-camp/>
12. "Health Information for Travelers to Thailand." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, n.d. Web. Jan. 2013. <http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/thailand.htm>.