Cambodia Calling: Packer’s Newest Spring Break Trip
In recent years the annual Spring Break trips have become a popular way for both students and faculty to spend their spring vacations. Students have had the opportunity to travel both domestically and internationally with trips ranging from baseball and softball in Florida to community service in South Africa. This year there is a new trip to Cambodia based around the idea of digital storytelling.
Cambodia is a small country in Southeast Asia, over 8,000 miles away from New York. It is emerging as a popular tourist destination following its emergence from the horrific genocide carried out by the former government, known as the Khmer Rouge, in the 1970s. Cambodia is now also known for its famous temples at Angkor, stunning scenery and bustling cities.
The women behind the new trip are art teachers, Elizabeth Eagle and Liz Titone. The idea came about four years ago after a survivor of the Cambodian genocide, Arn Chorn-Pond, came to visit Packer.
“We really wanted to create something that was multidisciplinary, that encompassed history, anthropology, the study of genocide, photography, filmmaking and journalism,” said Ms. Eagle.
As well as visiting important historical sights such as Angkor Wat and the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields, the students will be meeting with Arn Chorn-Pond and will also be spending four days at a high school interacting with Cambodian students.
“We wanted the students to have a real exchange, sharing their lives and learning about the lives of Cambodian teenagers,” said Ms. Eagle.
The experience will continue after the trip is over as the students will be given five additional weeks to complete whatever project they had been working on.
“They’re going to have to take [their finished projects] and share that with another community, so they’re going to teach others,” said Ms. Eagle.
Accompanying Ms. Eagle and Ms. Titone on the trip are digital video teacher Michael Miller and history teacher Sandra Fahy. In order to enhance the student’s historical understanding of the country Ms. Eagle enlisted Ms. Fahy, who teaches an elective on Genocide, fitting for a trip to a country like Cambodia.
“We have a dream team of educators,” said Ms. Eagle about the group. “The students are so unbelievably lucky to have the different abilities of our four educators. There’s such a balance.”
It can be difficult for new trips to get off the ground at Packer, as many students feel tentative to go on a new, untested trip. However, the Cambodia trip appealed to the 18 students going for a variety of reasons.
“I really love to travel and I used to think I was really well travelled for my age, but I realized I’ve really only been to European countries… I’m excited to learn about the Cambodian culture and Asian culture in general,” said Lilly McCuddy (‘19).
“Filmmaking is a passion of mine and the idea of a trip just based around film was irresistible. And whilst I’m so excited about Cambodia, I feel like I could go anywhere with a trip like this,” said Carden Katz (‘18).
Many of the students going on the trip are well integrated into the Packer arts program and are hoping the trip can be an opportunity to enrich their arts experience. In addition to art, the students will be spending a lot of time in a Cambodian school and have been assigned a pen pal with whom they have been in communication for the past few weeks.
“It’s a very interesting outreach program that we have,” said George Rukan (‘18). “We’re giving them classes, they’re giving us classes so it’s kind of a learning exchange which is very interesting.”
Naturally, when going to a country as far away and culturally different as Cambodia is there will be concerns for those going.
“I’m worried about spiders. There are tarantulas in the rain forest,” said George. Cambodia is known for its abundance of arachnids and spiders can even be found at markets being sold as an unusual delicacy.
“I don’t want to feel like we are being imposing. I want it to be a very genuine, down to earth experience of making friends and relationships,” said Lilly, voicing, perhaps, a more serious concern.
Mostly, though, everyone going is very excited for the once in a lifetime opportunity the trip offers.
“I’m excited to spend all of my time everyday just devoted to a film,” said Carden, “[I’m hoping to] widen my world perspective, because I’ve never been anywhere like this before.”
“I’m hoping to be inspired by the complete shift in surroundings and to create lasting relationships with the people I’m going on the trip with from Packer and to the people we are meeting in Cambodia. I don’t want it be something that is just happening in the moment I want it to be something that I remember forever,” said Lilly.