Programs And Activities For The Summer
Summer Programs and Activities for High School Students
By Chloe Cornell
Camp, teen tours, college programs, volunteer programs, jobs and more! There are so many amazing experiences for the summer months. We’ve asked our Girl Tribe members to share details of their experiences on a number of different summer programs to help you with your planning!
Ecuador Teen Tour
By Olivia Goldberg
After completing my last year of camp, I thought that summers filled with fun and adventure were behind me. With June approaching and the last months of school ticking down, I needed to search for a summer program that was the perfect combination of adventure, education and fun. When one thinks about the ideal summer vacation, a trip to Ecuador is definitely not a popular option, and Ecuador was truly not on my radar during this time. After months of searching through summer programs consisting of the same old college classes and teen tours, I was drawn to trying something different: Project Ecuador, the Amazon and Galapagos Islands through Rein Teen Tours. Although Ecuador sounds like a random place for a teenage girl to spend her summer, this program was a refreshing mixture of activities wrapped up in one trip.
The trip is a blend of community service and tourist activities and is split amongst three locations. Each week, teens travel to a new place, as I experienced one week in Quito, one week in the Amazon and one week in the Galapagos Islands. Here’s the breakdown of an unforgettable summer:
WEEK 1: QUITO
Our time in Quito was spent helping care for kids in daycares, learning about the culture of the city, and meeting a new group of people. The tour group was split in two, each group participating at one of the daycares. Both daycares, which were extremely poor, consisted of a large group of kids ranging from ages 2-4. These kids were placed in the daycare due to harsh conditions at home. Working at the daycare gave myself and the other teens the experience of working with native speakers in a foreign country and building an emotional and personal connection with the kids. Volunteering at the daycare left me with not only an unexpected, tight bond with the kids, but also the most rewarding week of my life that I will never forget. We spent five mornings going to the daycare in total, which was the perfect amount of time. During the afternoons, the tour group would get back together explore the culture of ecuador by doing activities such as cultural dancing, touring cathedrals, and hiking to breathtaking views.
WEEK 2: THE AMAZON
Going to the Amazon Jungle was definitely not the most luxurious experience, but it was extremely beautiful. We stayed in a small village called Shandia amongst local families, which truly gave me a feel for their culture. Daily activities would consist of helping locals maintain their village by planting, digging and cleaning. Yes, I know what you are thinking: Who would choose to do this for fun? But on the contrary, my experience in the Amazon was once in a lifetime. Never did I imagine people living the way the people of Shandia do. One thing that I will never forget is this little girl who took me inside of her house. The house had no door, clothes everywhere, one plastic chair sitting on the cement floor, and was infested with bugs. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. But the most amazing part was how happy the little girl and her siblings were, despite their harsh living conditions. Watching them run around in pure happiness will always be one of the most eye opening experiences I will ever encounter. While working during the day, we would play with local children which made the service work a lot more fun. Because we had no cell service, the tour group was forced to bond during free time which was spent in hammocks. I created most of my new friendships with the other teens while in the Amazon. Besides working during the day, we participated in other activities such as white water rafting and hiking through the jungle.
WEEK 3: THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
When in your life will you ever have the opportunity to visit such an exotic and beautiful place as the Galapagos? The Galapagos Islands are home to plants and animals that don’t exist anywhere else, and I was lucky enough to see and experience all of it. Only certain people are able to gain access to them which is what made my journey even more rare and special than it already was. During the day we would take boats to different islands and snorkel in their surrounding areas. The islands didn’t even look real. They were small pieces of rocky, undeveloped land laying upon the most beautiful, blue ocean I have ever seen. Each island was so different, it almost felt like traveling to different planets. One island would be filled with orange sand and Blue-Footed Boobies, another would have sea otters trotting around, and others would have lava from a volcano that had previously erupted. In the Galapagos, we stayed in a cute little village with many gift shops, a couple restaurants, and a harbor surrounding it. At night and during free time in the day, we would walk through the small village, passing animals that we had never seen before.
This trip did not only expose me to a new country, it exposed me to many new friendships that I know will last a lifetime. Bonding with others was easy because everyone was experiencing something new, together. I am so grateful I made the decision to try something different, because when I look back at my summer, I remember the fun experiences I had with my friends in a new country and impact that myself and the tour group had on the lives of the kids in the day care and the families in Shandia. I really believe that one of the main reasons why this trip ended up to be so breathtaking and impressive is because it’s not a place that many people would pick to take a teen tour in the first place. I could not recommend this trip more.
Australia/Hawaii Teen Tour
By Chloe Barnett
Last summer I went on a Westcoast Connection teen tour to Australia and Hawaii. I went with my best friends in the world and nothing could have been more perfect. The highlights of the trip were not what you would expect. The most fun was hanging with our new friends at night and learning more about each other. We played games, listened to music and had endless dance parties. I will never forget the night we all got food poisoning from Subway! As awful as it sounds, it is an amazing memory that brought everyone closer. We also had some crazy adventures such as the Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb, touring the Sydney Opera House, holding a koala bear, sampling kangaroo and crocodile meat with aborigines, and snorkeling around the Great Barrier Reef.
Some of the less desirable parts of the trip were when we had to participate in planned activities that we weren’t that interested in such as eating at specific restaurants or having organized games at night when we really just wanted to hang out with our friends. We also had assigned rooms which sometimes didn’t work out the way we wanted. However these minor issues didn’t detract from the overall experience because we always had fun together. Overall, I think this trip was an amazing adventure and I got to spend my summer with the best people in the world. I am so grateful to have had this experience and I recommend if you have the opportunity, to definitely jump at the chance.
Read more about this teen tour trip here: https://www.westcoastconnection.com/trip/student-trip-to-australia-hawaii-27/
Summer Program In Florence
By Liv Pilot
This past summer I went to Florence with ACA to take Photography and art, as well as see some incredible destinations scattered around Italy. This trip was life changing because it brought my best friends and me closer together, while offering us the opportunity to explore the world.
From the minute I got to the airport, I began to bond with new friends over how excited we were for the trip to come. Upon arrival, we settled in at the Albergo Firenze and got the lay of the land. Immediately, we hunted for the best gelaterias near our new home. We found that in its central location, the hotel brought us close to some of the worlds most impressive gelato! We easily learned how to navigate our way through Florence, and by the end of the first week we were able to walk to and from class without directions. Each day we had two classes split by a free lunch period. We had a lot of freedom to explore Florence and test our Italian skills. At night, we would participate in group activities and group dinners, often followed by free time or a night at the disco (which was my personal favorite). I quickly became accustomed to life in Florence: daily encounters with the Duomo, walking over the Ponte Vecchio at sunset, art excursions to world renowned museums, the hidden panini shops, and more.
Each weekend, we were given the opportunity to see even more of what an Italian summer has to offer. Some highlights included our two day stay in Venice, and our three day stay in the Amalfi Coast. In both scenarios, it was the perfect amount of time to indulge in the culture and history of each city. In Venice, we saw the glass museum and floated around the city on a gondola. In the Amalfi coast, we got to taste lemon flavored everything, drive past the pastel houses bordering the Positano seas, go to the beach, and more.
ACA provided me with the best summer I could have imagined. I am forever grateful that I did this program because there is something inexplicably freeing about roaming and adventuring Europe with great company in the summer. I gained so much from SRISA, the School of International Arts of Florence, which will provide me with credits for college. Additionally, the memories and experiences I had fill me with joy and will not be forgotten. Doing this program introduced me to new faces stretching from New York (where I live) to Maryland, LA and more.
To someone who is looking to spend their summer in the best way possible, I recommend ACA because in just four weeks, I guarantee you will have the time of your life. Without ACA, it never would have been possible for me to see so much of Italy and to meet so many fantastic people.
My High School Semester Abroad in Israel
By Zoe Pearson
Last April, I was given the opportunity to explore, to live, and to learn in Israel for two months at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI). As a sophomore in high school, I was ready to leave the standard school system and travel 6,000 miles to a foreign land rich in history and culture. I joined twenty strangers who would turn into lifelong friends and, together, we would experience the ”Muss Magic”. I had heard this term before embarking on my journey; but I had no idea the truth it held.
As soon as we landed in Israel, we hit the ground running. By our third day, we were already taking our first tiyul (fieldtrip) to Tel Gezer and learning about what happened 4,000 years ago. I found myself sitting in a circle with my core class acquaintances with whom I would spend most of my time on such trips. Our class was assigned a core teacher who had us keep a journal. Our first assignment was a simple one: write what’s on your mind. I wrote about what I knew before arriving in Israel, and how it related to what I was feeling at the moment. I recall knowing right then and there that Muss was the place for me. Each week of my mini mester was different. This was a welcome change to my monotonous school schedule at home as I am a student who gets bored easily. It was impossible to get bored in Israel. In the core class, where I spent several hours a few days a week, the focus of learning was on the history of Israel. These lessons were followed by site visits to places that I could only imagine. The most amazing thing about this was how much I was able to learn and to see. Going to each site allowed me to pinpoint on a textbook map exactly what I was learning about.
Two months flew by and June quickly approached, as I realized what “Muss Magic” really meant. I had walked, hiked, and swam across the country while digging into my own life and background. I highly recommend this experience to anybody looking for a unique opportunity to literally live through what you learn. Everyone should experience the magic of Israel and Muss is a wonderful way to do it.
Spa Retreats and Detox Trips
By Chloe Cornell and Julia Heller
Intense school work, studying for standardized tests, jobs, extra curricular programs and college essay writing often does not breed a healthy lifestyle. The summer is a good time to pursue healthier habits such as eating well, exercising regularly, and instituting a better sleep schedule. There are spa retreats around the world that help people jump start a healthier lifestyle including We Care Spa and The Ranch at Live Oak on the west coast in California, and Groundsea Fitness on the east coast in the Berkshires. We asked some of our Girl Tribe contributors to tell us about their experiences at these retreats and spoke with Groundsea Fitness founders Tracy Gaslow and Hollie Levy for this issue’s “Five Questions” so that you can get some insight into these experiences and either visit one of them, or try and recreate the programs on your own.
My Experience at We Care Spa
By Julia Heller
Over spring break, my mom and I thought it would be a great idea to do a spa trip together. A spa known as We Care in California is a place my mom loves to visit and she thought I would love it too. Dreaming about a spa in Palm Springs featuring treatments, sun, and palm trees sounded incredibly appealing while I was suffering from mono and trying to get through term papers. Except it turns out that that is not the experience at We Care. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our We Care concierge who helped us settle into our rustic and hot room in the middle of the desert. I noticed the mini bar was filled with various liquids and spices. No pretzels or Snickers bars. I then realized that this was not the exact spa I dreamed about: laying by the pool with cucumbers over my eyes. As we walked into the main building to what my mom said was going to be lunch, I was greeted with a detox shake that was roughly the size of an 8 oz water bottle. The amount of cinnamon that I had to add into the drink for it to taste somewhat tolerable, was disgusting. While the treatments were relaxing, my stomach rumbling ruined the vibe. Dinner was ground vegetable consomme and water. I did not realize how chewing and digesting food is such a huge part of my day and how I completely took that for granted. There are many supplements that support this liquid cleanse that I had to take throughout the day. Other treatments I took part in include a magnesium scrub to take out all of the toxins, and a wrap in heated caster oil to make you sweat and rid yourself of all toxins. I also took part in a ginger, chocolate, and lemongrass scrub. Once I learned that you receive an additional smoothie to accompany the treatment, I signed up for two extra scrubs everyday. Every time I complained about how hungry I was, which was very often, my mom kept saying, “Just you wait, you are going to feel amazing.” This was not the case. There was morning yoga and pilates that catered to all levels, and a few cooking classes on how to go from a liquid to a solid diet once we left We Care.
Despite all of my complaining, I did lose some water weight and my skin never looked better. I also learned the importance of putting organic and high nutritional foods in my body. I learned that sugar and white flour cause inflammation and the damage that does to your body. I will never stop eating what I love: pizza, pasta, and cake, but now I think twice before I decide what I am going to eat.
You can check out the website for We Care here: https://wecarespa.com
My Experience at the Ranch Malibu
By Chloe Cornell
I had never really hiked, other than one time in Maine while at summer camp. When I received the pre-arrival letter from The Ranch Malibu encouraging upcoming guests to start hiking and exercising to get prepared for the visit, as well as eliminating all caffeine, sugar and red meat, I knew this was going to be intense. The Ranch Malibu bills itself as “a luxury fitness, wellness and health retreat,” and they definitely deliver on that promise. The facilities are beautiful, minimally yet chicly decorated, surrounded by beautiful mountains and nature.
Every morning were awoken at 5:00am (8:00am for New Yorkers – which definitely made it easier for me as I am not a morning person!) by a gentle bell rung outside our cabin door. Thirty minutes later we collected in the yoga room which is surrounded by glass windows overlooking the surrounding mountains. As the sun rose outside, we stretched our bodies on yoga mats using yoga straps for deeper work. My body felt so good and I loved watching the sunrise every day. By the end of the week, I swore that I would continue this routine every morning when I got home…sadly my sleep deprived self didn’t keep that promise.
After morning yoga, the guests went to breakfast at the communal dining table where we received small, but enjoyable meals every day. All meals are plant based at The Ranch. After breakfast, we filled our Camelbacks with water and later in the week, had our feet wrapped to protect blisters, before heading by van to our 5 hour hikes in the nearby mountain trails. Some hikes overlooked the Pacific Ocean – those were my favorite, especially the one where we ate lunch overlooking the beach. All hikes were beautiful, fulfilling and enjoyable for this East Coast neophyte. I especially liked talking with my fellow guests as it was not only interesting conversation, but helped pass the time and distract me from my hunger! Snacks during hike breaks were 5 walnuts, 5 almonds or an entire cold Granny Smith apple one day that was served with Himalayan salt and was a major treat. That may sound like a weird combination, but after swallowing the core of the apple (it was that good and I was that hungry), I was convinced that I would never eat an apple again without Himalayan salt.
After hikes we usually ate lunch back at the grounds (other than the aforementioned lunch by the beach), and then had an hour to rest before light exercise in the afternoon and an amazing massage, which was of course my favorite part! We ended every day with yoga in the same room that we began each day, lit by candles as it was after sunset.
Evening dinner was back at the communal table and more chatting before heading back to an early bedtime. The Ranch provides all guests with journal notebooks so that you can chronicle your thoughts, feelings, and experiences that you have on your wellness journey. It is amazing how time in nature, unplugged from regular life allows you to connect with different parts of yourself.
Throughout the week there were several experts that spoke with us and offered services including a chiropractor, an eastern Doctor, and the tour leader who taught us how to read nutrition labels and choose quality food. We also got a tour of their organic garden and met with the chef who gave us cooking tips and some recipes.
I really enjoyed my visit to The Ranch and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to detox, get in shape and unplug from life for a bit. I found that I brought a lot of what I learned home with me and changed my eating habits as a result of my trip.
You can check out their website here: https://theranchmalibu.com