New Zealand Here We Come!

Kia ora tātou! (Hello Everyone)
My name is Kat Hone and I am a sophomore in Court dorm. We have one class period, and a long flight (~18hr 40min) before we touch down in Aotearoa, or “Land of the Long White Cloud.” I have packed, repacked, and packed again and am excited to start this journey. Over the past weeks, the team has met and talked about our upcoming adventure, as well as getting to know each other a little better. We had to change our service project, and now we will be helping at the Matuku Link Reserve. They are currently part of a voting challenge to raise money, so please go to and vote every day to help this organization gain the funds needed to protect wetlands through education and preservation. Although the flight ahead seems daunting and in one word, long, I know that, we will have tons of fun. I cannot wait to tour Hobbiton, meet the girls at Rotorua Girls High School, see a penguin, and learn about the Maori culture. It will be incredible to meet the Maori now because, as of March 17, 2017 the Whanganui River, New Zealand’s third longest, was given legal human status. It will be represented by one member from the Maori tribes, known as iwi, and one from the Crown. This is groundbreaking as the river is sacred to the Maori, and they have been fighting for more than 160 years to gain this recognition. We will soon be off, flying around the world, so Hei konā rā, good-bye for now!
“The voyage of discovery lies not in finding new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
~Marcel Proust~

Getting to Know the Costa Rica 2017 Team

Hi everyone! My name is Lauren Lukac and I’m a Junior in Atrium dorm. For the Costa Rica GPS Trip, I will be updating the blog daily. This first post is to introduce the members of our team! We asked each member of the team a series of questions :

  • What dorm/unit are you in?
  • What grade are you in?
  • Where are you from?
  • Why did you choose to go on the Costa Rica GPS trip?
  • What’s one thing you’re looking forward to doing on the trip?
  • What’s one goal you have for this trip?

Meet the team :

  • Mrs. Strobel
    • Mrs. Strobel is from Culver, Indiana. She is going to be traveling with us to Costa Rica as an adult team leader. Mrs. Strobel was asked to be a leader for this GPS trip by the GPS committee. She looks forwards to hiking in the rain forest and the chocolate tour. One goal she has for this trip is for the team to get to know one another and have fun.
  • Dr. Gamel
    • Dr. Gamel is from Culver, Indiana. He is also an adult team leader. He lived in Costa Rica for a year and is looking forward to sharing some of his former country with the Culver students. Dr. Gamel is excited to immerse himself in the culture. One of his goals for the trip is to have a fun and safe trip.
  • Mr. March
    • Mr. March is from a little outside of Detroit, Michigan. He is an adult team leader, as well. He is currently a science teacher at Culver. He chose to go on this GPS trip because he once visited Costa Rica for teacher development and he wanted to bring Culver students there to experience the culture. Mr. March is looking forward to white water rafting and patrolling the beach in Costa Rica. He hopes that students will learn and appreciate the nature of the world.
  • Cailtin Haley
    • Caitlin is a freshman in Benson dorm and is from Mooresville, North Carolina. She wanted to go on this trip because she loves wildlife and warm weather. She is very excited to see the wildlife and make new friends.
  • Callaway Bird
    • Callaway is a junior in Battery A from Sturgis, Michigan. Callaway wanted to go on this trip because he was interested in going somewhere warm for spring break as well as the experience of the overall trip. He is looked forward to zip lining in Costa Rica.
  • Carly Hart
    • Carly is a sophomore from Lafayette, Indiana. She currently lives in Tower dorm. She wanted to go on this trip to make new friends and learn something new. Carly looks forwards to becoming close with her team, helping others, and seeing a sloth.
  • Donghao (Sylvan) Yang
    • Donghao is from Shenzhen, China. He is currently a junior in Company C.
      He chose to go on this trip to see the rainforest. He is looking forward to having a fun trip and tasting new foods.
  • Duo (Sam) Zheng
    • Duo is from Shanghai, China. Duo is a sophomore in Company B. He chose to go on this trip to explore nature, make friends, and help others. He’s looking forward to helping preserve nature.
  • Erin Anderson
    • Erin is a sophomore from Chicago, Illinois. She currently lives in Tower dorm. She wanted to go to Costa Rica to practice her Spanish speaking skills. Erin is excited to experience Costa Rica. She is looking forward to having fun on the trip.
  • Hang (Sunny) Shi
    • Sunny is a junior in tower and is from Beijing, China. She decided to on the Costa Rica trip to see a monkey She is looking forward to white water rafting and hiking. One goal she has is to take plenty of pictures to remember this experience.
  • Izzy Rinehart
    • Izzy is a junior in Court. She is from New Bremen, Ohio. She chose to go on this trip to learn about a different culture and about the biodiversity. She’s looking forward to the new environment. She hopes to build a better understanding of the different culture.
  • Jungwoo (Kevin) Park
    • Kevin is from South Korea. He is a junior in Battery A. He chose to go on the Costa Rica trip to enjoy and experience a unique place. He is looking forward to the exotic environment and making new friends. One goal he has for this trip is to make it an unplugged trip (no phones/electronics).
  • Nikki Maroney
    • Nikki is from New Buffalo, Michigan. She is a senior in Harbor dorm. Nikki wanted to go to Costa Rica because she went on the Belize GPS trip last year and she had a lot of fun. She’s looking forward to zip lining and white water rafting. She looks forward to getting to know others on the trip.
  • Tom Ni
    • Tom is a sophomore in Troop A and is from Shanghai, China. He wants to witness the biodiversity of the rain forest and experience Mesoamerican culture. He looks forward to the service aspect of the trip as well as helping to protect the sea turtles. One goal he has is to practice Spanish in Costa Rica.
  • Tyler Szabo
    • Tyler is from London, Ontario. He is a sophomore in Battery A. He chose to go on this trip to experience the warmth and biodiversity. He is looking forward to seeing turtles and volcanoes. One goal he has is to become a more outgoing person and learn about the culture.
  • Xuanchen (Apple) Li
    • Xuanchen is from Shanghai, China. She is a freshman in Harbor dorm. She chose to go on this trip to experience the rain forest. She is looking forward to taking a lot of pictures on the trip. One goal she has is to learn some basic Spanish.
  • Yutoa Li
    • Yutoa is from Hangzhou, China. He is a junior in Company C. He is interested in the sustainable environment aspect of Costa Rica. On the trip, he is looking forward to the turtles and enjoying the trip.
  • Zhangyuan (Harry) Qin
    • Harry is from Beijing, China. He is a sophomore in Band. He chose to go to Costa Rica to travel somewhere he hadn’t been before and experience something new. He looks forward to practicing his Spanish and learning something new everyday.
  • Zhiyang (Jim) Xu
    • Jim is from Shanghai, China. He is currently a junior living in Band. He chose to go on this trip to help protect the ecosystem and make new friends. One goal he has for this trip is to enjoy the scenes of Costa Rica.
  • Lauren Lukac
    • Lauren is from La Porte, Indiana. She wanted to go on this trip to use her Spanish and she’s never been out of the country. She is excited to make new friends on the trip. One goal she has is to order a meal in Spanish.
  • Anna Nicholson
    • Anna is a sophomore from Lake Forest, Illinois. She is in Tower dorm. Anna chose to go to Costa Rica to help the community as well as see a part of the world she was unfamiliar with. She is most excited to help the children and community with building a new gym. She hopes to make new friends and practice her Spanish skills.



Last formal meeting

To whom it may concern,

Tonight, we had the last formal meeting for GPS trip to Mexico in the Legion Heritage Room. After Mr. Neer and Mr. Giraldi have gone over some important reminders and shared some deep insights, we were separated into construction teams and started group communication. Happy times always passed quite fast, and this “communion” soon ended. We are all very looking forward to the next gathering!

Btw, I am testing since I will be a blogger in the MEXICO trip. Thanks and have a good night.

Mexico Blog 3/8/17

Hello, my name is Rachael Dodson and I am a junior in Atrium Dormitory. Tonight, the team for the Mexico GPS trip, students and adults, met to discuss our upcoming trip as it is quickly approaching. We learned tonight, in the words of our leader Mr. Neer, “our goals are summed up in three words: serve, represent, and enjoy.” Tonight at our meeting we received an update on the Love Without Boarders program and how excited everyone is to meet us in Puerto Escondido. We met our goal of $2,000 for the program!! We also discussed more about packing and specifically what we need to bring for the all of the activities in Mexico. The “Bon Voyage” ceremony will be on Sunday the 19th where we will all gather and receive our team Mexico shirts we will wear when we travel to Puerto Escondido. We then broke up into our 5 construction groups and discussed team bonding. We also worked on getting to know everyone in our teams. Some of the students who had been on a previous Mexico trip shared their experiences and lots of questions were answered. Attached is a picture of our group gathering during the meeting. More updates to come! J

Thank you!

– Rachael Dodson ‘18

Safari and Elephant Sanctuary

Hello SA16 blog readers!

Sadly, today was our final day in South Africa, but it’s alright because it was a great day!

Yesterday and today were both extremely eventful and fun. Yesterday (Sunday, 3/27), we drove to Pilanesberg, a city 2.5 hours away from Johannesburg, to go on our safari. Around lunchtime, we checked into our hotel, the Bakubung Bush Lodge, and settled into our rooms. The hotel was a beautiful bungalow-style resort, complete with active monkeys hopping from tree to tree and a view overlooking some of the grassland area of the national park. At 3:45 PM, we embarked on our safari adventure. Because we had 30 people, we split into 2 different groups and rode with separate safari guides. However, we all observed magnificent animals during our first safari ride (we had one safari ride in the evening and another one in the early morning). During this time, we saw lions, giraffes, rhinos, impalas, zebras, and had a very close encounter with an elephant. Essentially, the elephant was so close to one of our trucks, some of the girls could have reached out their hands and touched it. After a few hours of exploring, we ate a wonderful meal with a campfire, the South African night sky, and traditional African entertainment. We even danced with another group of tourists!

This morning, everyone woke up around 4:30 AM to complete our 5:00 AM morning safari drive. This time, we were able to see a family of rhinos (2 parents and a baby), an eerie-looking giraffe, a herd of elephants with some babies, a lioness and her 3 cubs, and even 2 cheetahs. Considering there were only 6 total cheetahs in the entire national park (572 sq. km.), I believe we are an extremely fortunate group of travelers. We left Bakubung around 8:00 AM and began making our way to the elephant sanctuary.

At 10:00 AM, we arrived at the elephant sanctuary. Our guide, Simba, did a great job introducing us to the gorgeous elephants and to the sanctuary’s mission: to provide assistance in giving these elephants a second chance at life.

The sanctuary rescues elephants that are either hurt or mistreated, and attempts to rehabilitate them in a way with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. This mission is very powerful and many of the girls were highly touched by it. We got to walk with the elephants, interact with them, feed them, and even ride them! At the end of the tour, we enjoyed a nice lunch inside the sanctuary.

Below are reflections on our safari and elephant experiences from Kate Jones and Aurorah Arndt:

Kate: Hi everyone! My name is Kate Jones and I am a sophomore. Today, we had the opportunity to visit the monkey and elephant sanctuary.  Our tour guide’s name was Simba.  We first entered the monkey section of the sanctuary and we were surrounded by so many different monkeys.  I got see a mamma monkey carrying her baby on her back as she hopped from branch to branch.  We then crossed through a small fence to the elephant area.  Simba guided us through the sanctuary and brought us to a small section in the woods where we were able to get up close and personal with two of their five elephants.  We got to feel their ears, bellies, knees, elbows, trunks, and we got to feed them.  We even got kisses from one of them!  Our final two adventures, with the elephants, were walking them and riding them.  I loved getting to ride them!  This sanctuary was particularly amazing because it gave all of the animals a second chance at life.  It is a place where they protect and rehabilitate these precious animals.  This was a truly unique and once in a lifetime experience.

Aurorah: Hello! My name is Aurorah Arndt and I am a junior. Several friends and I decided that Pilanesberg South Africa must have altered by CGI because it looked as breathtaking as scenes from Lord of the Rings (I suggested staff receive cloaks and longswords to extenuate the ambiance but unfortunately they just didn’t see it my way). From the stifling heat of the afternoon to the frigid African morning we experienced every degree in between throughout the game drive experience. Such diversity wasn’t only present in the weather, but also within the diversity of the animals we saw! We viewed what was expertly defined as “deer-like creatures” such as; Impalas, Wildebeest, Giraffe and Zebra as well as other animals like cheetahs, lions, jackals, elephants, hippos, rhinos, and even crocodile! Although I am proud to report that our journey did not end in Mordor, but a lovely meal with other travelers illumined by fire intensified by live African performers in the evening!

As our trip is coming to a close, we want to thank all of our blog readers and followers. We have all had an incredible experience on the trip and will update you tomorrow on our travels back home.

-Bea and Meranda

Weekend and Last Day in Beijing

On Saturday we did many things, but by far my favorite one was visiting the Great Wall of China. I loved going up the lift to the wall and being able to see the beautiful environment around us. Then when we reached the wall, we were able to explore. Although there were many, many, many steps, the climb throughout the wall was well worth it. In the end we were able to take a group photo of us the team jumping on the wall, which was a goal we had set from the very first China meeting. Finally, at the end we were able ride on a slide down the mountains from the great wall, which although scary and sometimes painful, was incredibly fun.
We visited the Temple of Heaven, rode on rickshaw in pairs, had tea in a house in an old house in downtown Beijing, watched a “Shaoilin Kungfu Show”, ate a dinner of traditional hot pot, reflected as a team, and then packed out bags! We are all very sad to leave China.
~ Paige Murphy

Sunday was an interesting day on the China trip. We first went to Tiananmen Square, where we were approached by an entire family of people who wanted pictures of myself and my brother, because we were not Chinese. This was intriguing, but it was also an excellent demonstration of the lack of diversity in China. Everywhere we went nearly 100% of the locals were Asian; they were not diverse compared to American cities. We then went into the Forbidden City. This is cool because I just learned about how it was originally used in my AP World Class. Seeing what I learned in real life was super interesting, and it was a great learning experience. We also went and saw a traditional Chinese home. It was different from the typical traditional American home, with walls all around the outside and multiple buildings inside with a courtyard. It was interesting to see how they lived before westernization.
The entire trip was a crazy and unbelievable experience. My favorite part was my home stay with my partner, Tom. This allowed me to see how someone my age actually lives in China, not many people get this experience. It gave us the freedom to explore a city in the same way I would explore a city in America, walking around with some of my friends from the area. Everyone here seemed to be super excited we were visiting; they all tried to be open and accommodating to anything we wanted or needed. I found it interesting how many of the people here speak English. Many people know at least enough words to understand basic communication, and it is interesting how much American pop culture is a part of life here.
~ William Kuhl

Our weekend in Beijing was great, we were greeted with blue skies and no pollution with the average air quality index (AQI) below 40 AQI, but in our last day the skies turned very grey and you can see the pollution rolling in. One of the students (Ian) got a stomach problem but He is better now after seeing a doctor. Just for safety we had to send him to a hospital to get a professional care from a doctor before traveling more than 12 hours back to US. Miss Harding is accompanying him in Beijing and will catch a fly back to the US tomorrow (Tuesday).
We started the morning with breakfast in the Hotel restaurant and went to Silk Market to practice our bargaining skills and to get rid the rest of our Yuan from our wallets and pockets. Almost everyone was able to get something from the market to bring back to the States. After that we went and got our last Chinese meal in a fancy Chinese restaurant, but most of us could not wait to go to the airport to fly back to the US and have some American fast food (McDonalds, Pizza, and Subway).
Now that we are back in US and before making our way back into the Culver routine, and before our memories of China fade away, I wanted to thank Miss Jessica Harding for helping out with the GPS trip this year. Thanks to Shanghai Foreign Language School, especially Miss Shiaoli Miao, teachers and students for being the best host for our trip in Shanghai and Hangzhou; Mrs. Lei Zhao who took us to the China Art Museum and treated us with a fancy lunch in Shanghai; Mr. Clark Hu (Wen) who gave us a tour and information about Shanghai Stock Exchange; Culver’s alumnus Jake Kurdziel who came, spent times with us in Shanghai, and shared his experiences living, studying and working in Shanghai.
Thanks especially to all students who participated in 2016 China GPS trip, you all made it easy and fun for Miss Harding and me to lead the trip and you all represented Culver Academies very well in China. I hope you will continue to seek opportunities to travel and continue to learn and improve relations with others. I also hopes this trip will be a memorable one for you. Thanks to parents for making it possible for our students to go to China.
All the best as you finish off the school year!
~ Mr. Tulungen (Papa T)

Watch our Final Reflection of the Trip:

Ireland Sligo, Galway, Cliffs of Moher and Bunratty Castle!

Day 8 in Galway, Republic of Ireland

Today we drove from Derry to Galway. On the way we stopped at a stone structure with high walls that from a circle. We took pictures and experienced awesome views on top of the mountain. Then we stopped at a church with Yeats grave and explored. Some of us stopped at the gift shop and had coffee. Then we arrived in Galway and had free time to venture down the streets and see the shops.


Day 9 in Galway, Republic of Ireland

Today several of us attended Easter mass in a beautiful Cathedral. After mass, we loaded the bus and drove to Connemara. We went to a marble shop that sold jewelry made from Connemara marble. We saw the workshop and how the marble is turned into jewelry. Then we drove through the countryside and saw lakes, mountains, and the “Quiet Man” bridge. We stopped at a hotel for lunch and visited a replica of the “Quiet Man” cottage. After returning to Galway, we had time to visit the food festival and shop more. Then we met for dinner at a restaurant that had salmon, lamb, and chicken.

Day 10 in Bunratty, Republic of Ireland

Today we left the hotel enroot to the Cliffs of Moher. We walked along the edge of the cliffs and had spectacular views. The weather was clear and the sun was out so we could see the waves crashing on to the side of the cliffs. Many of us went up in the castle to take pictures and get a better view. The cliffs and the ocean were breath taking. After visiting the cliffs, people visited the visitor center which included a small museum and a gift shop. We also got a group picture with the cliff landscape in the background. When we left the Cliffs of Moher, we ate beef and potatoes in a hotel restaurant for lunch. Then we drove to Bunratty and had time to explore the town and castle. Then we had a medieval banquet dinner in the castle. We had four courses which included soup, ribs, potatoes, chicken, and a dessert. We could only use our hands and a knife to eat. There were singers, a harp player, and a violinist. The dinner and show was quite an experience. After the program concluded, we went to bed due to our early departure in the morning.