Kimball Union Academy GAIL Convention - 2018
We've Arrived! 1st July 2018
We are finally here! After almost a year of planning and anticipation, we boarded the plane and headed to the 5th Annual GAIL convention, at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire, USA! It was a long and tiring 30 hour journey, but we arrived to a warm welcome and were ready for our GAIL adventure!
Our first day featured blistering heat (over 33 °C) while we had our orientation. We had a campus exploration scavenger hunt competition to orientate ourselves with the school and interact with our fellow GAIL students. This is campus is over 200 years old and is hugely spacious with grand buildings which had a rustic yet modern look.
This was followed by our first insightful Ethics Workshop. While we were tired from our travels and struggled to engage with reality (due to jetlag), we learnt about the practical applications of trust and compassion in school, the workplace and our own personal interactions. We learnt about how many mindsets and perspectives there are, showing us that people have unexpected viewpoints that affects the way they interact with the world around them. A talk from Dr Syd Finkelstein, Professor of Management at Dartmouth college, followed in the late afternoon. He has written over 22 books and spoke about the important of having compassion and being able to empathise with perspective in leadership.
Dinner was a mouth-watering traditional New England clam bake, with the highlight being lobster and delicious fruit salad, The highlight of the day was the social time after dinner spent playing volleyball with our new GAIL friends and dancing at the Contra Dance with a live band. This enabled us to get to know all the new people in a relaxed and fun environment.
So far GAIL has a been an engaging (but tiring) experience which is living up to expectations in an unexpected manner. It certainly doesn’t feel like a typical school trip!
By Cam Scott and Josh Phillips
2nd July 2018
Wow, was today tiring!! We began our day with a delicious buffet breakfast at 7:00am, where we made our lunches for an awesome day out at the High Five Adventure Centre.
After an hour and a half long ride, we arrived at the grassy plains where we met our instructors. We had been split into groups of random GAIL nationalities earlier, so that we would have a chance to interact with everyone. We started with some fun challenges which allowed us to develop a connection before we split off into our own groups. The challenges included things like high-fiving random people, finding common traits between strangers and avoiding the mosquitos! The latter was particularly hard.
We got to know our group, and in the 33 °C sweltering heat we conquered the hill to eventually reach the rope course. After a few more fun challenges, we began to put on our harnesses, which us, as Kristin kids, are experienced with due to our incredible rock climbing walls at school. Soon we started the different high rope activities. A lot of teamwork and collaboration was required because while one member would be on the ropes, others had to be below to coordinate their actions in order to belay. We learnt the valuable lesson that in any type of team, trust and communication is important. Only after developing these virtues among the team, can action be performed.
The rope activities lasted the entire afternoon, with a quick “frozen” pop in between. It definitely gave us a “pop” of energy and we sure had fun.
That night, we were given designated seatings for dinner. This allowed us to interact with new people and even deepen the bonds that we have already created. Being able to make friends internationally is truly a valuable opportunity and we are grateful that we have been given this chance.
After dinner, we were ushered into the ice-rink… an ice rink at a school!! Crazy, right? Nervously, we stepped into the stadium, scared that we would slip, however, to our surprise, our feet met dry concrete and we were later told that the ice had been removed for the summer. At the rink, WISS, the school from Shanghai, China, had brought different activities from China for us to try. This included the yo-yo, Asian shuttlecock and the diablo. Lots of us were very skilled in the diablo thanks to our brilliant unit of “Circus Arts” in PE! But unfortunately, we weren’t as great at the other activities.
We then had a quick game of American dodgeball. All exhausted and covered in sweat, we returned back to the dorm to check-in with our dorm leaders, and shower. We look forward to the ethical workshops we have tomorrow, and hopefully it will be just as fun as today was.
By Christina Yang and Rebecca Rong
3rd July 2018 – exploring ethical dilemmas
We couldn’t have asked for a better day! We started off the day bright and early with breakfast at 7:30 rushing down for cinnamon donuts and waffles. After that we had our first town meeting. This was not as expected and we were pleasantly surprised! We played the 1 minute cookie challenge where Cam was selected to represent Kristin. He placed a close last which we were all very proud of. To be fair, only 2 schools managed to complete the challenge and we would have been no better.
Later on in the morning we went on to our 2 ethical workshops. Adults came in from outside of school to present ethical dilemmas that they have faced while doing their jobs. We were presented with the question what would we do? This was a difficult question as our dilemmas often included the wider society and peoples lives. We were placed in groups with one person from every school, and it was intriguing to see how cultures affect our perspectives.
For dinner and dessert, we had our first true American dinner, Pizza!!!!!! It was amazing but huge. This was followed by New Hampshire’s HUGE iconic soft serve maple ice cream, we don’t know one person that managed to finish the whole thing!
We then went on to take part in Prestige Schools cultural night, which included a lot of dancing and storytelling. Lastly, we watched a movie called sandlot on the quad, which was an iconic American movie, getting us ready for baseball the next day. It was a late night, but well worth it!!!
Written by Charlotte and Kaitlin
4th July 2018 – Celebrating America Day with GAIL friends
Today, was a very exciting day, as we are spending the 4th of July, Independence Day, in America. Every day we start with a “town meeting” where a fun 1 minute challenge is given to each school. Our very own Sally Tang participated in the frozen shirt challenge, having to be the fastest person to unwrap a frozen shirt and put it on. Sadly, we didn’t make the cut.
We then broke up into groups and were faced with the ethical problem of picking 4 items from a list for surviving an air plane crash. Each person had a different opinion on which was more important: food, fire, clothing or directions. The groups had to come to a consensus, and the most important things on the individual lists didn’t usually make the final 4. Each group had a debate about their chosen items, which was really interesting as different cultures had different ideas.
Next came the challenging and fun cultural activities! We were honoured to be taught ceilidh (pronounced ‘kay-lee’) dancing by Robert Gordon’s College (the Scottish school). Everyone participated to the best of their abilities and gave it their best shot (even if they couldn’t dance). When we finished we were all sweaty and tired but very eager to play baseball, which was KUA’s cultural activity, with each school competing against each other.
After KUA’s culture activity there were then Fourth of July activities on the field outside the student centre. These activities included a pie eating competition, a 3-legged race, an egg and spoon race, and an egg toss. Christina and Rebecca represented Kristin to enthusiastically compete in all the challenges to earn points for the school. Despite having a slight disadvantage with only 2 people, they pulled through, and managed to score 5 points. The highlight was during the egg toss, where their egg (which had been frozen previously) didn’t crack despite hitting the grass 2 times. Unfortunately, good things don’t last, and it ended up leaving a bright yellow stain on Christina’s top. It was a fun-filled afternoon that provided us all an insight into how America celebrates.
After this, we had a fantastic mid-afternoon barbecue which was made by the amazing SAGE cooking team. We had burgers, salad and the iconic HOT DOGS. We then left campus and headed into town to go to a New Hampshire Fishercats game in Manchester. We were all really excited to see our first baseball game. Unfortunately, the Fishercats lost, but the night was still filled with lots of fun and great food. Fireworks occurred after the game. It was one of the most thrilling and enthusiastic moments celebrating America’s day of Independence. It was truly one experience we will never forget!!!
Written by Sally Tang and Angelynn Jayasuria.
5th July 2018 – Getting out and about in New Hampshire
Today was jam-packed with fun activities. We started off the day by driving to Dartmouth , a prestigious Ivy League University, in the nearby town of Hanover. We had a tour and then broke off into small groups. With Dartmouth University faculty, from specific fields, we got given an ethical dilemma to work through in our teams. Our dilemmas ranged from complex law suits to international relations. This process was eye opening and presented us with more complex problems to work through compared to other days. It allowed us to work as a group, developing our leadership and collaboration skills.
We also got to visit the famous José Clemente Orozco’s murals found within Dartmouth Library building, depicting the procession of humanity all the way to present day.
After this trip to Dartmouth we drove back to campus for lunch and got ready to go on our tramps for the next few hours. We had a choice of 3 tramps, most people choose to summit Cardigan Mountain. We got to witness spectacular 360 views of the surrounding environment making the walk to the top that much more worth it. We stayed at the summit for a while taking numerous photos to look back on.
After the hike, we drove to the town of Lebanon, where we had dinner at the local farmers market. Food ranged from Pad Thai, smoothies, and so much more yummy food! This was a really cool atmosphere being able to experience a farmer’s market in a different country and seeing the different types of things you can buy compared to a farmers market in New Zealand.
In the evening, Woodstock (India) did their cultural evening where we got to make food and do some cultural paintings that we can bring back home after the convention. This was followed up by our very own cultural evening where we performed and taught the Haka to all the other schools. We then had a school “Haka Off’, where each school competed against each other to win NZ All Blacks prizes! Everyone did the Haka so well and made New Zealand proud all the way from KUA in New Hampshire. It was a great way to finish such an amazing day!
Written by Zoe Mutch and Olivia Milsom
6th July 2018 – Saving the best ‘till last….
We woke on the last day of the conference, feeling exhausted, but ready to take on the challenges this day held. We began in the morning with Town Meeting and the 1 minute challenge of juggling balloons – it is harder than you think and Olivia did a great job! We then got into new groups and discussed ethical dilemmas and their solutions. We had to make presentations for an afternoon session.
In the afternoon, after creating the presentations we shared our ideas to the whole conference. One group was on DNA modification and the solution was a tax to help everyone have access to it. Other dilemmas included accepting refugees, use of torture, fakes news on social media and prioritising treatment in a natural disaster. The challenge of presenting under pressure was fun, and it was great to see how other groups saw the dilemma and decided on what really mattered to them. Lots of great solutions to these dilemmas were put forward.
At the end of our presentations, the GAIL conference was officially coming to an end. We had a sombre but thoughtful closing ceremony. First, we made a large circle near the lakeside beside the icerink. There was a prayer for everyone, regardless of religion, and David Weidman explained why this place was so special as they had lost KUA alumni in the 9/11 terrorist attack and the memorial was also here. Then each group came up with a word or sentence of what GAIL meant to them. Kristin choose Aroha – love. Others included ‘unity in the community’ and ‘growth’. Each school then placed a coin in a hole, dug for a tree planted in honour of the week. Every participant in the conference shovelled some dirt to help plant the tree. We then rang the KUA bell 7 times to represent each school.
Once the ceremony was over, Dr Dotti Morris, gave the closing keynote speech of the conference. She spoke about the importance of remembering our past so we can look to our future, and to respect the value of diversity in our communities. By this time we were all feeling ready for dinner!
A large feast was held – a traditional New England BBQ that did not disappoint! A talent show followed and it was cool to see all the different cultures bring their talents together in Hayes Auditorium. At 8.00pm we headed into the “Epic Dance” created by Mr Rodgers, who, with the help of a lighting guy, made the dance…epic! Heading back to the dorms before midnight, our social media accounts were on ‘high alert’ and many new ‘followers’ were gained – everyone rushed around trying to connect for the future.
This conference has been a tiring, yet enlightening and joyful experience. We have all grown as students but also as emerging adults. Learning from each other, and through the experience this week, we have set a course for the future and many of us will keep our connections – leading to a more unified world!
Written by Cam Scott