By Carina Cole ’22 News Reporter
Summer is a time for relaxation, learning, and, most important, travel. Over the summer, several Mercersburg students journeyed to places all over the world where they delved into new experiences, learned about different cultures, and, in some cases, connected with their heritage. Most notably, these students spent their vacation time attempting to see the world through a new lens.
Jack Kothari ‘20 spent time in India and the Bahamas over the summer. “I headed off on a six week exploration to find myself, my family, and the unknown,” said Kothari. His inspiration: the pathfinder component of the MAPS program. While in India and the Bahamas, Kothari tried new cuisine, practiced and learned the regional languages, and conducted research on the political climate. He was also able to reconnect with his family and explore unfamiliar locations, such as Indian temples and a private tour of the Bahamas’ animal hospital. While in the Bahamas, Kothari was even able to meet up with Tristan Russell ‘21 and his older brother. Kothari said, “I really wanted to go on this trip to step out of my comfort zone and to learn about a part of myself that I didn’t know very well.”
Sarah Noorbakhsh ‘21 headed south to Peru. “I really wanted to travel to a Spanish speaking country in order to practice my foreign language somewhere other than a classroom,” Noorbakhsh said. In order to dive deep into the Peruvian culture and get an honest perspective on Peruvian life, she spent time in small communities and villages. While there, Noorbakhsh also earned many hours of community service at local schools. “Even though I’m not normally an adventurous person, I really pushed my limits. I rock climbed up the side of a mountain, white water rafted, and mountain biked. It was definitely an eye-opening experience,” she said.
Other Mercersburg students challenged themselves by staying with host families. Anabelle Oldham ‘20 traveled to Chile for three weeks. “Staying with my host family let me see a completely foreign way of life first-hand,” Oldham said. She noticed that her Spanish-speaking abilities improved markedly over the course of her trip due to her regular interaction with the local people and the many fun experiences that challenged her vocabulary. She explained, “ I chose to travel to Chile because I wanted to practice my language in a native country while also enjoying beautiful, foreign sights.”
Jesse Zhang ‘20 visited Morocco for his portion of the MAPS program. He chose Morocco because he has studied French at Mercersburg and was excited to improve his language skills. “When speaking to local people, using French encouraged them to open up to me, respect me, and earn a general kindness from the community,” he said. While in Morocco, Zhang worked with a feminist organization exploring different concepts of what it means to be a feminist outside of the United States, and in doing so he connected with the hopes and aspirations of the community. “The work I was doing put activism into context,” Zhang said.
Each of these students experienced a new culture and stepped out of their comfort zones. Using language to connect with local people was not only important, but vital. These experiences helped them learn about the ever changing world and widened their horizons. Noorbakhsh concluded, “Sometimes it’s easy to forget how thrilling traveling is, but as soon as you step onto new soil, the feeling is indescribable.”