This week, several school groups returned to campus after Spring Break from points all over the world. Five groups embarked on trips to the Galapagos Islands, Japan, Australia, Cuba and Mexico to showcase their talents, learn history, experience culture, and to have some fun.
Ten students spent 21 days in South America exploring Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands region with veteran travel guide and Head of the Science Department Mr. Michael Jackson. The group spent a week on a boat touring and learning about the islands’ biodiversity and their many species of wildlife.
The students were able to get as close to the wildlife as they wanted. “Everything is so unafraid of humans, because human impact has been minimized as much as possible,” explains Grade 12 student Jennifer Jackson.
This allowed the students to swim with sea lions, which Riley Gudgeon describes as his favourite part of the trip. “The sea lions are so playful in the water. If you blow bubbles at them, they’ll blow bubbles right back at you. It’s incredible.”
They also spent time travelling through villages in Ecuador. “I didn’t speak any Spanish before the trip and now I know a few useful phrases,” says Grade 12 student Laura Miller.
Japanese teacher Ms. Toshie Thumm accompanied 16 students to Japan where the group spent 13 days sight-seeing and experiencing Asian culture. Some students had been to Japan prior to the trip, but for many it was their first time to the country.
This year the group spent more time in Tokyo, five days instead of the usual three. While many of the Japanese people spoke English in Tokyo, once the group left the capital city students had to learn to be independent and to use their Japanese language skills to hail cabs, go shopping and order food at restaurants.
“Every day their language improved,” says Ms. Thumm. “Many of the students who have attended this trip before said it was the best trip yet.” A SMUS alum who is currently attending a university in Tokyo also joined the group for a few days.
The rugby team and girls’ field hockey team went to Australia for a 20-day tour “down under”. Both teams played successfully against some tough opposition, and had some of their best athletic performances. The rugby team returned with a record of 4-2-0 while the girls returned with a 5-1-1 record.
The teams also had a chance to be tourists. The group went sight-seeing in Sydney, where they saw the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge. They also visited an outback wildlife zoo and farm, tried surfing on the Gold Coast and attempted sand boarding on local dunes.
Ms. Donna Williams, Head of the Music Department, took a group of vocal jazz students to Cuba so they could showcase their talents and learn about Afro-Cuban music. While on the Caribbean island the group visited and performed at four music schools. Some of the Cuban students sat in and played with the SMUS band, while some of our soloists played with the Cuban bands. “Even though they were all speaking different languages, they were speaking the same language when they were playing together,” says Ms. Williams. “It was beautiful.”
SMUS donated instruments which were wonderfully received by the schools. The group also had a chance to reconnect and sing with Novel Voz and Oscar Valdez, who are famous Cuban musicians, who have previously spent time at SMUS with our music students.
The group went salsa dancing every night, went to jazz clubs, and enjoyed some time at the beach. They also hosted a dinner for the Cuban music students in Havana.
A group of ten students accompanied by Spanish teacher Ms. Teresa Calderon de la Barca, toured Mexico for two weeks.
The group first landed in Cancun, where they explored the city and its exotic scenery. They also enjoyed time at a beautiful beach.
The group then headed to Coba to see some of the city’s largest structures, the Late Classic temple called Nohoch Mul and a giant pyramid called the Castillo. Both rise more than 75 feet above the surrounding forests.
The group’s next stop was at Ek’ Balam, a pre-Columbian archaeological site in Yucatán, Mexico built by the Maya civilization. Here they saw some of the finest carvings of ancient Mayan Culture in an amazing state of preservation.
On their last stop in the great Mayan city-state they visted Chichen Itza. The region’s magnificent pyramids and temples, many of which have been extensively restored, make it one of the grandest and most glorious of all Mayan sites.
While touring Mexico the students were able to see as many facets of the country as possible, including the country side and fishing villages. The students also enjoyed eating traditional cuisine, practicing their Spanish language skills, and experiencing a new culture.