Sally Minseo Kim, News Writer
Excited and anxious, the eighth-grade students went on the first ever VASE trip to Namhae Island in Busan on Apr. 8. This interdisciplinary trip connects school curriculum to the real world, helps prepare students for Upper Secondary VASE trips, and strengthens the bond between students.
For the first time in Lower Secondary the eighth-graders went on a VASE trip which was organized by Student Life Minister, Mr. Lozano. When asked why he decided to organize the trip he said, “ I thought it would be great to start a lower secondary VASE program that gives a lower secondary student opportunity to go away from home, to serve, to learn, to experience different things.”
“It is very hard for ninth-grade to come into high school and be ready leave their mom and dad for a full week, continued Mr. Lozano as he listed off several other challenges for younger students which include: traveling to a foreign country, doing work like construction, mixing cement, teaching english, and evangelism. He said, the VASE trips are a lot of “service and a lot of physical labor.”
When eighth-grade VASE participants were asked what they thought the purpose of the trip was, Guang Tseng answered, “Most classmates seem to think of the VASE trip as a vacation retreat type of trip. However, I personally knew from the start that it was not only for the fun, but also for service and experience.” He further said, “I went on the VASE trip to experience serving others and at the same time to bond with my friends, teachers and have a memorable time.”
Jaime Suh replied, “ Before I went on the VASE trip I just thought it was a part of getting service points, but then as I went there. I did farming and I believed the purpose was to make us learn that farming is really hard. We should be thankful for the food we have and also be thankful for the people who work for us that give us things that we don’t have.”
By participating in farming the students were learning how to serve others. Susan Lee said, after she served others she felt “really good” and “proud” of herself for helping the farmers.
Peter Lee who also participated in farming said. “It’s a feeling where you know you helped them and they will appreciate it.”
The VASE trip was not just about farming and preparing themselves for VASE trips in the future but it was also a chance to grow closer to classmates. When asked what was most memorable about the trip Guang Tseng said, “ I think the bonding time with my classmates is memorable because I really got to know them better, not just as classmates, but as people outside of school.”
Susan Lee said she enjoyed kayaking because “it was really cold and my friends and I worked really hard to get to the island.”
Of course the students also got the chance to paint the mural which was one of the main activities of the VASE trip. The school cooperated with Adventure Korea, a tourism company that targets foreigners to experience different activities in Korea. Recently they started a service learning program for international schools. Mr Lozano explained. “They know there are a lot of international schools that want to get students out of the classroom and have them connect their curriculum content with the real world.” Mr. Lozano began to contact them and found out the students can serve by painting murals and getting involved in “beautification work” at Namhae Island, which is how he received the idea of incorporating a mural painting.
Senior, Kelly Lee, participated in the mural painting competition and her design was chosen by the villagers on the island. Kelly’s design was painted by the eighth-graders and it is visible in a big tourism location. She said winning the competition felt like “winning the lottery” and was a “surreal experience.” She also added “It really makes you think back upon how fortunate you are to contribute to something big.”
The first VASE trip in lower secondary turned out to be a big success for both students and teachers. Mr. Lozano said, “so far it seems to be good opportunities for teachers and students to enjoy themselves and realize what we learn in schools isn’t just about a book it’s about the real world.”