On International Travel and Cultural Exchanges

Four Middle School students traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa for the Young Round Square Conference this past spring. The students wrote brief reflections of what they learned after 10 days traveling and living with young students from all over the world.

As many of you might be traveling this summer, we’d love to hear your own thoughts about your experiences! Comment below with your own travel or cultural exchange stories.

Experiencing How Others Live

P1020608The Round Square conference in Johannesburg, South Africa was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Throughout the conference, I met so many people from all around the world who soon became some of the best friends I have ever had. I learned so much about myself as a person and about different cultures from all over the world. It is one thing to learn about other countries, but actually experiencing firsthand the way people live and act from around the world is completely different. The experience has changed my life forever and I know that I will now approach my friends and life back at home in a different way. If there is one thing that I could take back from the conference, it would be that even though we are all different from one another, we are all the same age striving for the same goals. I can now go back home knowing that there are people from South Africa, Singapore, Canada, India, France, England, and all around the world who would consider me their friend. The conference has changed my life, and I know that there will always be a piece of South Africa in my heart. — Genevieve DeWalt

Be Grateful and Do More

The Round Square conference was the experience of a lifetime. I know that I can’t take Round Square with me, but I can take the lessons that I have learned back home. The three lessons that I value the most and that I wish to teach my friends are:

1. The importance of the existence of the rhinos,

2. How we should be grateful for our everyday appliances, and

3. How we as a school can reduce our ecological impact on the earth.

P1020454The rhinos are an amazing species, with an amazing design and different breeds. But what makes a rhino an amazing species also makes it an endangered one. As many people know, the rhinos have been poached to near extinction. I have been shown disturbing pictures of rhinos who have had their horns chopped off. This has made me realize that rhino poaching is a real event. When I heard that rhinos were being killed for their horns a while ago I felt bad forthembut I didn’t have the motivation to help them. But, when I saw those photos, I felt the suffering that the rhinos were experiencing, and that emotion is what I want to share with my peers at the Athenian school. I want to teach them that rhino poaching is a serious event and should be stopped.

It is common knowledge that we are very fortunate to go to school. I hope that my peers at Athenian know that we are going to an amazing school, and that there are other people in the world who have not been as fortunate as we are. In South Africa we saw villages made up of huts that contain families that have never dreamed of an education, and large groups of people who live on the streets. Though there isn’t a way in which we can help them, we can feel more grateful for all of our everyday luxuries such as indoor plumbing, water and electricity. We should stop saying “I want the latest iPhone”, or “I don’t like the food” because there are people in the world who would do anything for our lifestyle. Students at The Athenian School waste an absurd amount of food each day. People take food, and then they throw it all away. We should be more aware of how much food we waste and we should realize that our waste could feed many people in Asia. –William Chabala

Learning to Be Me

P1020386Overall, this Round Square trip to South Africa has been an experience of a lifetime. It has made an unforgettable place in my heart, and I will always cherish the memories associated with this trip for my whole life. I remember before I left for this trip, I was more excited to visit South Africa rather than engaging in other activities. The day I arrived in South Africa, I made two of my best friends who live on the other side of the US (East Coast). I noticed that all of us were here to learn about different cultures and values. I learned many new things and moral lessons about everyday life, not just multicultural awareness. As the days passed by, I made many more friends with different personalities. Everyone was a different person, and it also taught me not to be any other way, and to just be myself because that’s who I am. Even my best friends I made there had their own opinions, which I am very appreciative to have gotten to understand and know. I know that no place on this planet is perfect or the same in anyway, but what matters the most is what I took out of this conference. We were all together from different places around the world at one specific place. We learned to join our hands together and accept our differences, our cultures, our opinions, and our personalities. I didn’t know that this would become such a life-changing experience from my perspective. On the last day of the conference it was very hard on me and my best friends to leave each other and go back to our normal lives. And honestly, after just a week at the conference and Camp Discovery, I feel like a totally new and different person. The person which I have now accepted. There is no way that I’m going to forget this memorable trip. I want to thank everyone (including my parents) for letting me go on this experience of a lifetime. –Savi Dhoat

Making Connections

P1020540This trip has taught me a lot of new things about a lot of topics. One of the many things I learned there that I will take back is leadership. In South Africa, we did a ton of activities based on leadership that I will take with me everywhere I go. This trip was meaningful to me because now I know how different people and places act. Now that I have had an experience of that I think I will look at the world by a new light. Having gone on this trip will also better my community service next year because in South Africa, we had all kinds of talks about saving animals, service projects, etc. In 8th grade, for my project, I think I have an idea I can work from now. The people really were my favorite part truly. Being able to meet all these new people will have an impact on me for a long time. All in all, this trip is probably one of the best experiences I have had in my 12-year-old life. –Chika Amamgbo