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Distance doesn’t have to be geographical to be real. You could spend eight hours with your classmate, five days every week. He or she could be sitting right next to you in class, eating with you in the canteen, but that invisible distance will still be there to separate you.


School certainly wasn’t going to fix this. But for some reason, our field trip to Hong Kong did.

 

All Under One Roof

 

The word ‘compassion’ comes from a Latin root which means ‘to suffer with’. As I haul my 11kg suitcase up the never-ending stairs leading up to our mountain hostel (the shuttle busses weren’t available), shouts of encouragement from my classmates rang in my ear.

 

For almost a week, whether we liked it or not, our days were going to intertwine in a small youth hostel on Mt. Davis, in Hong Kong.

 

It was too close for comfort. If three’s a crowd, 36 is just plain frightening. We shared everything. In the shared bedrooms, kitchen, showers and bathrooms, we spent every waking moment together. Our goal was to live together, but not kill each other.

 

In this shared space, we had to cook and clean and do everything by ourselves. We had nothing close to the kind of comfort we’d get when travelling with our families. But the experience wasn’t any less rewarding. In between the burnt scrambled eggs, the sweat, the mosquitoes, and the minimal Wi-Fi, we had fun.

 

The setting was Hong Kong, but the main focus of this trip was us. And for once I wasn’t an observer, but a participant.

 

Field Trips, Our Salvation

 

If you look carefully, you’ll see that high school is made of boundaries. There are the ones between teachers and students — and the ones between the students themselves.

 

During field trips however, all this is torn apart. Teachers become less like teachers but more like “people”. As for us, we have no choice but to be ourselves. After all, once your classmates have seen you with your messy hair and old pyjamas at 6am, all pretenses fly out the window.

 

When I come back to school on Monday morning, the walls, albeit thinner, will still be there. But the memories of Hong Kong will make me smile at the corner of my mouth, because I know now that we are more than who we are at school.

 

In retrospect, my only regret was that I neglected to bring my camera, and have only three blurry smartphone photos to show for my pains. But the warm and fuzzy feelings this trip gave me are the important thing, and they will last a long time.

 

To Thu Phuong

 

To Thu Phuong is a high school junior at Alexandre Yersin French High School (Lycée Français Alexandre Yersin) in Hanoi, lfay.com.vn

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To Thu Phuong

One of the writers of the column Student Eye, Phuong is Vietnamese born and bred. A little (in fact a lot) smaller than her classmates, her voice makes up for her size. If you’re lucky, you’ll find her sitting on a plastic stool on one of the busy sidewalks of Hanoi, feasting on local street food.

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