Foreign Culture 101: Students travel the world over summer

September 14, 2010 — by Rohan Rajeev

Ask sophomore Neal Siganporia what happened over the summer, and he’ll tell you about his experience riding through a traffic jam on an elephant. You might think he’s bluffing, but Siganporia was one of several Saratoga High students who took advantage of exciting and educational travel opportunities this summer.

Siganporia, who made a journey to India with his family, returned to Saratoga with a plethora of adventures and stories.

“My dad, sister, and I were walking down the road from the beach and we saw an elephant,” he said. “His owner was yelling that we could ride his animal for a cheap price. I had no idea what to expect, but it really sounded like fun.”

The elephant ride, however, wasn’t nearly as glamorous as he had imagined.

“The elephant was swaying and shaking, and we were [traveling] on the wrong side of the road, facing traffic,” said Siganporia. “The elephant’s smell was horrible, too.”

But the adventurous sophomore was not put off by the experience.

“If I ever get the chance to ride another elephant, I definitely will take it,” he said, smiling.

While Siganporia was busy getting in touch with the sights, sounds and animals native to India, another student was busy traveling through countries that most have never dreamed of visiting.

For three weeks in July and August, senior Joseph Kim traveled more than 6,000 miles across the world to the far-away Middle Eastern lands of Jordan, Israel and Palestine with his church mission group in order to experience the lives of citizens, learn their culture and share his own culture with them.

“The idea of the trip was to not only share our religion and culture with them, but also to learn about their culture and help them in their daily lives,” Kim said.

This trip was not Kim’s first time in the Middle East.

“I’d been to Syria last year, so I was expecting I could learn more about their culture,” he said. “I also wanted to meet people who were completely different from me.”

Learning about their culture was interesting for Kim because he got an up-close and personal view of how native families lived.

“I especially liked that we stayed in different native people’s houses while we were there,” he said. “I got to eat real food and have conversations with them to learn their language.”

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Kim says he obtained a new sense of cultural awareness from his church trip.

“[The experience] taught me to be aware of other cultures around the world, and aware of how people are living in different parts of the world,” he said. “For example, I learned that people in the Middle East invite others over even if they have just met, as if they are already friends.”

Both Kim and Siganporia had unforgettable experiences this summer. By traveling to far-off countries and experiencing different cultures first-hand, they were able to broaden their own horizons in the process.

“If I ever got the chance, I’d definitely do something like it again,” Kim said.

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