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High School Students Taking an Educational Spring Break in Vietnam

Friendship Tours introduces Santa Barbara-area teenagers to the culture, history and mystery of the Southeast Asia country

A group of Santa Barbara-area high school students will take their learning far beyond the classroom this spring during a 10-day excursion to Vietnam.

The all-inclusive trek, arranged by Friendship Tours World Travel, will immerse the students in the culture and history of Vietnam, including the Vietnam War and its after-effects.

Santa Barbara High 11th-grader Gabija Safranavicius recently reminisced about her experience in Vietnam with Friendship Tours as a 16-year-old.

“My trip to Vietnam was an awakening,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself and the world.”

The Vietnam War may be a still-vivid memory to some, and a thing of only movies and textbooks to younger minds, but the trip will give the students an opportunity to learn about the conflict firsthand.

“You can reach every type of learner by experience,” said Alethea Paradis, founder of Friendship Tours and a former history teacher at Laguna Blanca School.

The itinerary of the March 21-30 tour is focused on finding parallels between history and contemporary times, speaking with survivors from the Vietnam War, visiting temples and museums, meeting with locals and cooking native cuisine.

“It’s going to be very powerful to not only read about certain people, but to meet them up close,” said Blake Dorfman, Laguna Blanca School’s librarian and chaperone for the trip.

Students also will receive lessons in photojournalism with Pulitzer Prize winner Nick Ut, in the same location he famously captured “The Girl in the Picture.” The iconic image shows a 9-year-old child, Kim Phuc, after being hit by napalm. The picture was published on the cover of Life Magazine in 1972.

A bus will take students to visit with Kim Phuc’s family in Trang Bang.

“We are also going to be spending some time in a home stay with the family of a former Viet Cong general,” said Dorfman. “That’s who we were fighting against in the Vietnam War, and what an amazing opportunity to be able to meet and speak with these people, and discuss our previous conflict with them and just to be completely engrossed in it.”

In 10 days, students will have made their way from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), to the northern capital of Hanoi, Cu Chi, Trang Bang and the Mekong Delta, while staying in four-star hotels and the home stay.

Students will be asked to write in journals during their trip, logging questions, feelings and experiences that can be revisited later.

Safranavicius shared an entry from her last day in Vietnam:

“Will I miss this place? Will I miss the dirty, dense air, the fish oil, the congested streets? No. I will miss the smile and gratification of a merchant. The friendly countryside locals. The bashful children, curious, but so outspoken. For these reasons, I know that it is the souls of the people that will bring me back someday.”

She is saving up money for another Friendship Tours trip to Laos this spring.

The cost of the tour to Vietnam is $2,595, not including international airfare.

“It’s a great investment because students will be building a muscle memory of compassion,” Paradis said. “Putting them in a desk all day doesn’t teach them to engage. It will inspire students to find their own innovative niche and is a way to open a child up to a future of potential.”

The final deadline for the trip is Feb. 20. Click here for more information.

“I think it’s going to be really rewarding to see them (students) learn on location,” said Dorfman.

Noozhawk intern Cassidy Flynn can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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