By Loren Andrews ’18, Staff Writer
While most students spend summer vacations on the beach, at camp, or just relaxing, eight Wellesley students will experience the Ecuadorian culture, hike and volunteer on this year’s World Challenge Trip.
Over the past year, the eight girls have been preparing with math and computer science teacher Dr. Robert Cohen for their trip with the company World Challenge to Ecuador and the Galapagos. The trip, which lasts twenty eight days, is split into different phases including hiking in the Andes mountains, experiencing city culture, exploring the wildlife in the Galapagos, and doing community service at a school in Ecuador.
World Challenge, a British student travel company, has organized the trip. However, the students dictate whole experience. “They carry the money. They work out the budgets. They make reservations at the hotels. They decide where we’re going to eat,” said Dr. Cohen.
The trip provides opportunities that other types of travel may not. Given the amount of freedom the students have, “it’s a great opportunity to learn how to travel,” said Dr. Cohen. “You’re both being challenged physically and at the same time you’re doing things that you might not have had an opportunity to do on your own before,” he said.
Though students have a large amount of control over their trip, World Challenges works throughout the year and during the trip to ensure the safety of the participants. In the fall, World Challenge organized weekend long camping trip to the Berkshires for the students participating in the trip.
During the camping trip students bonded and prepared for the summer. “I got to know a lot of the girls really closely, which I’m thankful for,” said Maddie Blaber ’18, who plans to travel with World Challenge trip. “The training meetings have been going well, and they really help us to create a team mentality and to help all of us gain an understanding of our dynamics, strengths, and weaknesses which we can work on,” she said.
On their final meeting, known as “build up day,” the students spend all day together before they depart for Ecuador. Finishing paperwork, agreeing on ground rules, and asking final questions, participants use this opportunity to make final preparations. The World Challenge representative who will accompany them comes to the meeting and approves all materials the students have packed.
Along with their World Challenge guide, Dr. Cohen will join the students. Dr. Cohen became involved with World Challenge two years ago when the high school went to Nepal. When the teacher facilitating the trip became unable to go at the last minute, they asked Cohen to chaperone, and he agreed to do so.
During the trip to Nepal, students visited a village elementary school and began the process of building a new classroom.
After learning about the great experiences the students who went on the Nepal trip had doing community service, the community service taking place in Ecuador is a source of excitement for participants this year. “I’m looking forward to the trek and then the service we are doing. We are going to hike up a volcano and then help out in a local village,” said Taylor McClennen ’18. “I’m looking forward to experiencing the culture through the service as well as the hike,” she said.
Blaber was motivated to participate in the trip after she heard from her sister, who went to Nepal with World Challenge. “I decided to do this trip because I thought it’d be a great opportunity to challenge myself and test my limits while getting to know the other girls I’m going with,” said Blaber. “I’m mostly looking forward to trekking and camping because I think it’s a really amazing bonding experience, as well as an opportunity to test my physical and mental limits,” she said.