Travelling to Cambodia and Vietnam puts the world into perspective

By Ella (Year 12—St Peters Captain)

Ella—St Peters School Captain
Travel provides world perspective

On Monday, December 3, I was among 33 other St Peters students who gathered at the Brisbane International Airport about to head to Cambodia and Vietnam. We waited with wild excitement and anticipation about the amazing two-week experience we were about to embark on. It was 14 days of cultural immersion, historical inquiry, and adventure!

Cambodia is a traveller’s dream, in each of the places we visited—Siem Reap and Phnom Penh— we learnt about their history, their traditions, their culture but importantly, their people. The magnificent Temples of Angkor and Ta Prohm were aesthetically and architecturally breathtaking and all of the students remarked that they’d never seen anything quite like them. 

Helping to building greenhouses

We had the fantastic opportunity to build two greenhouses for two families in a village on the outskirts of Siem Reap. After spending a couple of days working hard under the sun, we finished two greenhouses that housed fruit and vegetables for the village—it was an experience that we’ll never forget. Meeting new faces was undoubtedly a highlight too, the children’s smiles were infectious! It was our visit to S-21 and the Killing Fields that taught all of the students on tour about the tragic history of Cambodia and the extreme hardship that millions of Cambodian men, women, and children faced.

Opportunities and observations 

After our boat ride down the Mekong River, we arrived in Chau Doc, Vietnam! Vietnam was beautiful, and much like Cambodia left us speechless with its rich culture, food, and traditions. The homestay in the Vinh Long province gave us all an opportunity to cook our favourite Vietnamese snacks and experiences the music and stories of Vietnam. What was particularly notable about the trip was that we could see the difference between our education system and theirs, and frankly, how lucky we are to have the opportunities we have at St Peters. Myself and my peers crawled through tunnels used in the Vietnam War, read about the history of the Vietnamese men and women involved in the conflict but also, the homeless children who are still being affected by the remains of Agent Orange today.

Each place we visited put our lives in perspective, and we learnt a lot about ourselves and others and the importance of care: caring for others and caring for your country’s past and future. Most of the students expected some of the trip to be confronting, but what they may not have anticipated was the kindness, love and knowledge that the people of Cambodia and Vietnam were willing to share.

Understanding the larger picture

The importance of service is simple; it drives our world, and without it, we would lose a piece of humanity. I am of the belief that we have an innate tendency to help others and it is through trips like the Cambodia/Vietnam tour that we can harness our abilities to help and be empathetic rather than sympathetic. Sometimes we need to be reminded we live in a world that isn’t like our pocket of Brisbane: there are corrupt governments that don’t value effective education systems, men and women who can’t provide for their families, and children who have no access to medical aid. 

So often students are only privy to the history, biology or economics taught in classrooms but I am adamant that it is only after an experience like this, that a student can understand the true meaning of our College tagline: “Care, Dignity and Respect”. It is for those reasons travelling is so important, our education and our awareness gives us power, now we have to go out into the world and use it!

The Vietnam and Cambodia tour was able to go ahead with the generous assistance from the St Peters Annual Golf Day which raised significant funds so students could undertake their projects in Cambodia. St Peters Lutheran College acknowledges our many sponsors particularly our naming rights sponsor Higgins Painters.