"There is more in you than you think" - Kurt Hahn
"I climbed a mountain." It's a metaphor often applied to a big accomplishment. When we do something hard, we can say we "climbed a mountain." Every year for our ninth graders, this metaphor becomes literal. The first memory for nearly every freshman at ISK is summed up in this simple and vast sentence: "I climbed a mountain." The experience leads us to one of the oldest questions in the world: Why bother? Why do we venture out into cold and wet weather? Why sleep in a tent? Why give up clean clothes and home cooking and our warm beds and WiFi for a week? I present two reasons: To connect with each other, and to connect with nature. We climb the mountain because it's hard to do. We climb the mountain because it's uncomfortable. By sharing our discomfort, we connect with each other. By supporting each other through difficulty, we live with the satisfaction of helping others. We learn humility by being challenged by weather, by thin air, and by exhaustion. Not everyone gets to the top, but everyone does get to share in the experience of being outside, away from home together. We climb the mountain because it's beautiful, and like all beautiful things in the universe, you have to bring yourself to it. In exchange for showing up, the mountain rewards us with spectacular sights only afforded to the few privileged people who climb the mountain. You can't see the same stars in Nairobi that you see on the mountain. You can't breathe Mt. Kenya's pristine air without going there. Sharing the stark beauty of a sunrise from point Lenana is not possible without getting up at 2:00 a.m. and hiking a vertical kilometer to reach the ridge that overlooks all of Kenya. This shared reward of exhilaration and joy - when you see the sun peeking up over the clouds on the horizon, painting the rocky mountain faces orange and gold - brings our ninth grade class together.
HS English Teacher
We made it to the top! Climbing Mt. Kenya was one of the best experiences of my life. The views were amazing and it made me feel like I did something incredible. I loved the camaraderie and the bonds that were formed between all the people who were working their tails off to get us up that mountain!
It was constantly challenging for me to fall asleep as I wasn't used to camping out. This experience was completely unique. I have a lot of friends in the United States, and most of their school trips take place in museums or involve mundane activities. I think it is incredible that my school trip was to experience something completely unique and unforgettable by climbing the second largest mountain in Africa. I am happy that I challenged myself and that I persevered because I can confidently say that I have successfully climbed Mount Kenya as a freshman at the International School of Kenya!
The bike expedition made me grow, as I learned how to support others and to push myself past my comfort zone. We also cooked our own meals and set up our own accommodation. I learned not to take everything I have for granted and to appreciate the work that goes into every meal we eat.
One highlight from this trip was the opportunity I had to engage with conservationists and wildlife experts to understand the complexities of integrated wildlife land management programs. For example, we had the chance to give a helping hand with building a fence and moving animals all across the conservancy. The biggest highlight was seeing the last two northern white rhinos in Kenya and learning about endangered species and conservation in Kenya.
I learned a lot about Eldoret and the High Altitude Training Center for Kenyan Olympians. I learned about the passion and devotion of Kenyan athletes. I also learned about my classmates and a lot about myself. I learned that I could push myself out of my comfort zone. I realized that by putting yourself down and not believing in yourself, you only make it harder for yourself. The moment I started to enjoy the runs, it was so much easier and more enjoyable. I met many new people and created lifetime bonds. Leaving was hard, but I took away amazing experiences, greater knowledge about Kenyan culture, about myself, and lots of lifelong memories.
This IC trip has been very memorable, to say the least. Something that has stuck with me the most has been the realization of the differences in lifestyles here in Nairobi, and in rural Kenya. In Nairobi, we have many modern amenities, and comforts that we're used to, and things that we take for granted. We go about our lives worrying about schedules, deadlines, and the latest news on social media. In areas of rural Kenya, like some parts of Meru, they are just trying to survive. Housing is very simple, and basic utilities aren't very prevalent. I have never felt overwhelmed or experienced a 'cultural shock,' as I've grown up here, and I know what life is like in rural Kenya. However, being able to help them in the smallest way possible whether by building a fence or helping to cover their shelter, was very fulfilling and is something I wish to do a lot more of in the future.