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Engagement Beyond the Classroom: Student-Initiated Trips across Thailand

Engagement Beyond the Classroom: Student-Initiated Trips across Thailand
Heidi Oxley-Whitnell, UWC Thailand Community Engagement Coordinator and Creativity, Activity & Service Coordinator

At UWC Thailand, our commitment to community engagement extends far beyond the confines of the curriculum and term time. We allow students to initiate and implement Student-Initiated Trips, collaborating with trusted communities across Thailand to partake in various social and environmental programs.

Imagine this: 8 students attending the same program, yet each returning with a profoundly different story to tell. From cultural immersion to service projects and everything in between, the journey is as individual as the student embarking upon it.

Our student-initiated journey to the floating village was not just about teaching English to local children. It was an immersive experience of cultural and religious exchange, as well as mutual learning.

From the playful interactions with kindergarteners to the structured English lessons for older students, each day presented unique opportunities for connection and growth. Despite the language barriers, we formed bonds built on shared gratitude and joy.

However, we could not ignore the stark realities of economic disparity on the island. The contrast between the lavish lifestyle of tourists and the hardships of the local Muslim community was more than clear. And yet, the warmth and hospitality of the villagers did not have a limit.

One week was not enough to make a change. But it was enough to create connections, transform values and reinforce beliefs. As we were leaving, the children could not stop hugging us. And we too could not feel any more grateful for the impact of this experience.

I invite you to come to Koh Panyee and immerse yourself in the life of the floating villagers. Every single one of us together will create a force to reunite this world and make it a better place for future generations! 

Daria, grade 11 (Ukraine) 


We worked hard for the good of the forest, transported water, cleared firebreaks, replenished water stations while hiking our way through the hills, as well as having a CPR workshop. Never been more proud of a team!

Sofia, grade 11 (Italy)


Reflecting on the past week, I am truly grateful for the incredible experience I had during the Student-Initiated Trip. This unique program at UWC Thailand, akin to Project Week, empowers students to plan and embark on their own educational journey. For me and my team, it was an invaluable opportunity to cultivate responsibility and independence.

Over the course of 8 days, we lived and worked together, facing challenges head-on and striving for continuous improvement. I am proud of the personal growth we achieved through problem-solving and collaboration.

A heartfelt thank you to my amazing SIT team and the beautiful site—Earth Home in northern Chiang Mai, where our adventure unfolded. I am deeply appreciative of Kru Heidi, Khun Mook, and Khun Coco for their unwavering support and guidance throughout this transformative experience.

Danlan, grade 11 (China)


What I love most about these trips is how they foster personal growth and development in ways we couldn't anticipate. Each student's perspective, background, and interests shape their experience, leading to moments of discovery, reflection, and transformation.

Whether it's conquering new challenges, forging deep connections with local communities, or gaining a fresh perspective on the world, every student returns with a wealth of memories and lessons learned. 

As educators and mentors at UWC Thailand, it's incredibly rewarding to witness the growth and self-discovery that occur during these trips. They're not just about ticking off destinations on a map; they're about fostering a deeper understanding of oneself and the world around us. 

The juxtaposition between tourist affluence and local struggles serves as a poignant reminder of the complexities inherent in our world. Yet, amidst these challenges, the unwavering warmth and hospitality of the villagers stand as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Although a week may seem fleeting, its impact reverberates deeply. It is inspiring to see our students acknowledge the importance of connection, empathy, and social responsibility. Their invitation to others to join in this experience echoes the spirit of collective action and global unity.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the staff at UWC Thailand who supported me in making their journey possible. Together, we have not just facilitated a trip, but created an opportunity for profound personal growth and societal impact.