PROGRAM PHOTO ALBUM
Thanks for the checking out the blog for this Global Leadership Adventures program!
Here are a few things you can expect:
- We typically receive 2-3 blog posts per week here at GLA Headquarters from our program staff and students, so please don’t be alarmed if you don’t see a blog post daily – that’s totally normal.
- Blog updates sent on weekends may not be posted until Monday.
- Due to many factors, including but not limited to internet accessibility, photos may not always be available to post onto the blog. Sometimes onsite program staff are only able to send text back to Headquarters, where our team updates the blog.
Cell Phone Policy: The GLA cell phone policy is currently in place this summer to help foster meaningful connections between students. This means your student’s phone will be collected every day and returned to them throughout the program during designated spaces of time we call ‘tech time’. Actual tech times and regularity will vary greatly by program location. During designated ‘tech time’, your student may use their phones as they wish. Please note that your student may not always choose to use this time to get a hold of their parents. If you are not hearing directly from your student each day, you can assume that no news is good news! We strongly recommend you follow the blog to follow your students’ experience without talking to them every day. If you are a parent and would like to get in touch with your student directly, you can call us at +1-619-758-3031 and we can set up a formal time for you to connect with your student.
Thank you for your patience and understanding, and we hope you enjoy following along on these unforgettable adventures.
For frequently asked questions about the blogs, please visit our Program Blog FAQ page.
-The Global Leadership Adventures HQ Team
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BLOG POST FOR JUNE 23
Hi GLA families!
We are so happy all our students have arrived safely in Bangkok! After very long flights, and new experiences of flying alone, all students are with us and ready for new adventures and learnings to come.
We welcomed Emma early in the morning, and explored a little bit of Bangkok, had some Thai food and walked to a nearby temple. The rest of our students arrived late. However, they showed positivism and enthusiasm towards the upcoming days!
We had an early start today, as we are flying to the first island: Koh Samui! At the airport the group started to bond with each other and share their expectations and hopes for the upcoming days.
We feel grateful about having our first student group of the season here, and can’t wait for the adventures, learnings, lifelong memories and deep friendships that await.
The GLA team
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 24
After an early start today, and despite the jetlag, everyone was more than ready in the morning to fly to our first destination: Koh Samui. In Thai, the names of islands are usually preceded with the word koh or ko, the Thai word for island.
As soon as we landed in Koh Samui, we enjoyed the warm breeze and went straight to our home base to start Orientation Day. After some icebreakers to start getting to know each other, we went over the GLA rules and policies, explored the home base and had the first meal all together: pad thai on the beach. Everyone loved it!
During our afternoon, we had a great Thai culture class with May and Mai, our local directors. We are very grateful to have them on program! We learnt some phrases and cultural norms, which for sure will be very useful the next days. We practiced our communication skills while playing and drawing. Students got excited about the famous swim test, everyone was ready to get into the water! and after passing it with flying colors, we enjoyed some beach time.
When we asked the students about their highlights of the day, they mentioned: trying “authentic” Thai food, learning greetings and phrases in Thai, trying new fruits, having dinner on the beach, starting to know each other, having fun during the activities and games, and of course having a good and deep sleep.
We wrapped the day with a nice night beach walk.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 25
Written by our first leader of the day: Jack
This morning we left for a Thai school to help teach the kids English. (A very new experience to me which made us nervous to start)
When we got there, the kids were all sitting down waiting for us to arrive, we like to think they were also nervous for the activities we had planned. Our time there was well spent and we really enjoyed seeing the school and playing games with the kids. We also learned that we, in the United States, are seriously missing out on our school lunches!
After we got back to the hotel we were all praying for AC rooms to cool us off, but first we did another activity to help us connect as a group. We shared objects that were important to us and the influence they had in our life. It was super interesting to listen to those stories and get to know the people around us just a little bit more. My personal favorite part of the day, beach time came next/ The water is so warm here we could stay in it for hours.
We all got to go to the night market tonight to buy food and some gifts for friends, family or ourselves. We loved seeing all the shops and food vendors. There were so many new kinds of food, some that I would think about trying and others that I might have to be paid for. Overall, it was an amazing day and we cannot wait for the rest of the trip.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 26
Written by the leader of the day: Mara
This morning we got to sleep in before congregating at the breakfast area.
After enjoying a nice breakfast together, we grabbed a cups of joe and gathered to have a debate. After a riveting debate, that went longer than we should’ve, and cleaning up, we headed to our rooms where we changed into our swimsuits for a day of swimming at Pig Island and touring some temples.
We visited two beautiful Buddhist temples and learned about their religion! Then we made the journey to Pig Island taking a one hour car ride and a boat ride to the island. There were a bunch of very small baby pigs there and also massively fat pigs as well.
We swam until a storm rolled in and then got smoothies while we waited for it to pass. The boat ride home was….. wet to say the least. The wavy water splashed up the sides of the boat and sprayed everyone in the faces, drenching us and our clothes. Everyone was soaking wet when we got off except for Kai, Ben, and Jack who were sitting on the front end of the boat. When we got home it was 6:30. Everyone had an hour to shower and change for dinner where we did our reflections on the day and had a wonderful dinner (as always).
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 27
Written by the leader of the day: Ben
We started our day by waking up a little earlier than usual to make our way to the Koh Tao ferry. After arriving on the island we got a ride down to our new rooms and did a short group leadership activity. For the activity we were told to choose 10 core values and then narrow it down to our 3 most important ones. Afterwards we all had cashew and pineapple fried rice for lunch. Next, we took a small boat to Ko Nang Yuan, a tiny island to the north of Koh Tao.
On the island, there were three small land sections, each connected by a single beautiful sandy beach. The first thing we did when we got to the island was take a short hike to the top of one of the hills. By the time we got to the top everyone was soaked with sweat but I think I can speak for most people when I say it was worth it. Standing on top of some rocks gave us an incredible view of all of Ko Nang Yuan and the bright blue ocean.
Once we made our way back down to the beach we finally got the opportunity to snorkel in the water. After around 30 minutes of snorkeling we heard there was a small harmless black tipped shark in the water. Most of us saw it in the water and a few followed after it. Around 30-45 minutes after that it was time to leave the island so we took a boat back to Ko Tao.
We were greeted with delicious fruit smoothies and waited on the beach until dinnertime. After dinner we did another icebreaker group activity and most of us ended the day by hanging out on the beach and listening to music.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 28
Written by the leader of the day: Kai
We began the day with a much later wake up call than what we’ve been accustomed to lately and I think it was a very welcomed change by the group considering how quickly the conversation began at breakfast compared to the other days.
After getting prepared for the first day of our conservation efforts with Big Blue we set off on our way to the facility just down the road. On the way we got to observe the various shops and their animal staff members that dotted the island while also dodging the oncoming traffic which consisted of only mopeds.
Once we arrived to Big Blue we were given a tour of the facility by Jade the marine biologist who ended the tour by ushering us into a small classroom with AC to help us all cool down. She then went on to explain the program and its many goals of ocean conservation, research, and education. Once the lesson was over we went to the cafe that was literally 10 feet away from our classroom for some lunch. Once our stomachs were full and our shopping needs from the merch shop were met it was time for the real work to begin. We set out on our beach clean up determined to fill up our (incredibly large) trash bags with unwanted plastic that had been abandoned. After much time and many liters of sweat we were satisfied with the amount of trash that we had collected. Once we returned to Big Blue we found out that we had collected 56 pounds of trash in just the short amount of time we were out there.
With this accomplishment in mind (and a well deserved AC break) we headed back to the hotel to get some personal time followed by a dip in the ocean. Finishing off the day with a delicious dinner and a bit of high wind and rain, I think it is safe to say that it was a very fulfilling day.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 29
Written by the leader of the day: Devin
Today started on a good note with a well earned rest after yesterday’s big day of beach cleaning. After a delicious breakfast which consisted of many American and non American dishes we headed for big blue dive school. After a quick walk and many stops to look at the scenery we arrived.
Once in the air conditioned classroom we met a soft spoken man named Mark. Mark is the freediving instructor and even though big blue is a scuba based conservation program Mark taught us everything he knows about free diving, even without the help of a flat screen TV. We learned many breathing techniques and safety measures to keep us happy and healthy whilst diving in the open ocean.
After an hour in the classroom we were set loose to get some hands-on experience. After a brief moment of bliss in realizing we were about to get in the pool we focused on remembering everything that Mark had taught us. Many of Mark’s lessons were centered around relaxation and focus. After 3 rounds of timed breath holding, 3 of us were able to safely hold our breath for over 2 minutes.
After our exciting training session we headed over to the cafe for a mouthwatering lunch which included potatoes, meat curry, bread, and rice. After about an hour of jumping between eating and debating if the kitten that wandered into the cafe or Mrs. Woofington was cuter we headed back to the classroom.
After a quick lecture on different types of fish, turtles, and sharks we headed out to a beach on the other side of the island. Whilst there we got to practice what we had learned with Mark. While diving we saw many different types of fish including angel fish and a spotted eagle ray.
One of the most exhilarating experiences was being able to swim with baby black tip reef sharks. The puppies of the sea.
After quite a few hours out in the water and some amazing pictures we headed in and had a quick snack of bread and peanut butter which we learned is considered a delicacy here in Thailand.
After our snack and a quick ride back to the hotel we did an activity that helped us to learn our strengths as leaders. After our informational activity we had many options of Thai style pizza. The night ended with shoutouts and a reflection question. We are now onto a good and long night’s sleep.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 30
Written by the leader of the day: Eva
This morning we were back to our regular earlier breakfast. Then we warmed up for our hike with the usual 12 minute walk to Big Blue.
There, we met with two of our Big Blue mentors and got into trucks that took us to our hiking destination along the coast. We started along an abandoned resort with a very quiet beach. After bouldering on some voluptuous rocks, and exploring the paths around the deserted rooms, we continued hiking. We stopped at a few different small beaches throughout our hike, and got to see very nice views while walking.
We got back to our home base just after 11am and had an hour of free time before walking back to the restaurant next to Big Blue for lunch. Many of us made friendship bracelets while we sat, and then we were served scrumdidlyyumtious thick burritos that made us extremely energized when we went into the chilly classroom where Jade taught us about scuba theory. She talked over the basics of scuba as well as an overview of coral and how to identify it while we dive tomorrow. Before we left, we slipped into some scuba vests and flippers to find our sizes.
After our lesson, 5 of us went to get a relaxing Thai massage while the other 4 of us got ice cream and had some free time together at our home base. We ate dinner and then did a reflection activity about where and what we’re from. We ran into a humongous pregnant huntsman spider on the sidewalk to our rooms. Then, we were let go pretty early tonight to rest for tomorrow’s scuba diving, which we’re all pretty excited and nervous for.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 1
Written by the leader of the day: Skyler
This spectacular day began with our usual early breakfast. Shortly after, we took a short walk over to Big Blue to meet our diving instructors, Fiona, Rob, Bucky and Jade. They then led us through an introductory diving course in the small outdoor pool. In the pool our instructors showed us how to use our diving equipment and some necessary skills. After learning the basics and getting used to the buoyancy, we all went to lunch.
When everyone was finished, we set out for the beach. There we would take a small boat to the much larger diving boat (Enzo). From there it was a short (although rocky) ride to mango bay, our first dive site. On the boat, our instructor, Jade briefly showed us some of the different fish we would encounter during our dives. She also showed us the hand signs to use for not only the fish, but to give us instructions and directions. One example being a thumbs up in the water and that meant to ascend. We learned that communication when diving is essential for numerous reasons. Among those reasons are safety and enjoyment. Those were our main two, as most of us were first time divers.
As soon as we reached Mango Bay, the group began to prepare for our dive. We put on all of our equipment and checked our dive partners equipment as well. After these checks were completed, it was time to get In the water. All the first time divers were a bit nervous, but I think it’s safe to say our excitement overpowered any worries.
The dives were absolutely stunning. It felt as though we had stumbled upon an entirely new world of coral and sea life. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful under the waves, a welcome change from the chaotic waters above. After our first dive we were surprised with the opportunity to jump off the top of the boat that all of us took. Following our brief swim break, we were taken to our second dive location (Japanese Gardens) which was just as beautiful, minus a bit of visibility.
When we returned to our home base after a day of diving, we were greeted by our new mentor Emily and had a delicious dinner. We then finished off the day with a short reflection and some well needed sleep.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 2
Written by the leader of the day: Emma
We started the day with a tasty breakfast at 7:30 am. We headed back to our rooms to pack up and get ready for the busy day. We then walked to the Big Blue building and reviewed some eco reef theory. Jade, our instructor, taught us the importance of building new reefs. Then we all broke up into groups to build reef trees out of pipes. These trees will be placed in the ocean to stimulate reef growth.
We then took a much needed lunch break. Most of us tried out smoothies and yummy desserts while making friendship bracelets and chatting. Our next activity required the groups to create and present infographics advertising shark conservation. Big Blue hosts an event called Swim for Sharks every year to raise money for sharks in danger of finning, bycatch, climate change, overfishing and more. Our infographics will be shared to educate the public about the consequences of human activities on shark populations.
Next we went on shopping sprees at the market to buy presents for friends, family, and ourselves! We all had to take advantage of the cheap prices and variety of clothing styles. We all gathered back together in the afternoon to see our upgraded rooms. We relaxed for about an hour then regrouped for a special goodbye dinner with the Big Blue members. Jim was one of said staff members and he had filmed us throughout the week. Tonight, we finally got to see the final, edited vlog after dinner.
To wrap up the day, the gla group walked back to our base and did a fun reflection activity. First, we taped paper on our backs, then everyone wrote one verb on each other’s back to describe how the recipient has been a leader. This activity helped us understand that different people may perceive different sides of us. It also taught us our personal strengths and areas we can improve in as leaders.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 3
Written by the leader of the day: Aiden
Today started with another early breakfast. It would be our last day on the island of Koh Tao After shortly eating breakfast, we hopped into trucks and drove back to the pier.
Shortly upon arriving at the pier, we all waited to board the ferry. While waiting, we enjoyed our last views of the island of Koh Tao. After getting on the ferry, our group sat on the top floor. The only problem was the incredible loud horn that was only a few meters away from our faces. After ensuring none of us would ever hear again, the journey began. Overall, it was quite uneventful. Some of us read, talked, or listened to music together while the wind tried its best to knock us off the boat.
When we arrived at the island of Koh Samui, we jumped into vans and drove over to our hotel. We had to go quickly, because we were supposed to get to the elephant sanctuary shortly. This meant we only dropped off our stuff, then got back into different vans to go see some elephants!
When we arrived, the sanctuary provided us with a wonderful lunch. While the people working there gave us lunch, it was up to us to give the elephants lunch. We used our hands to squish together various fruits, rice, salt, and other beneficial ingredients for the elephants. After constructing their lunches, we got to go feed the elephants. We fed them many buckets of watermelon and I personally didn’t think they would ever get full. Eventually, we ran out of food for them. As was customary, after lunch the elephants took a walk. We got to watch the elephants strip leaves off branches while on our walk.
After this was our favorite part, the bathing. In order to help keep the elephants cool, they had to wash them quite often. Today, we got to help clean two of them. We first grabbed a hose and sprayed the elephants while working to cover them in mud. The mud would help cool them even more. After that, we moved to a deeper pool and swam with them. While they were swimming, we sprayed each other with the hose, mostly on accident, and used brushes to clean off the elephants. All the while the light Thailand rain fell from the sky. I can say with quite certainty all of us will remember this day forever!
After all that excitement, we went back to our hotel and new rooms. All of us took showers and prepared for dinner and the shoutout circle. This only left one activity/reflection about our service before we went to bed. After another long yet fun day, we all retired to our beds to get enough energy for tomorrow.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 4
Written by the leader of the day: Skyler
This day began with our usual early breakfast. Not long after some great food we were driven to a Thai international school for a cultural exchange. At the school, we played sports and chatted with the year 10 students about our day to day lives. It was super interesting to learn from kids our age about their unique experiences living in Thailand. Although just getting to know them was fun, we also played both soccer and basketball. I think it’s safe to say they crushed us in soccer, but we got them back in basketball. We all had an amazing time even though it started raining. Actually, we might have had more fun when it started raining because it was a welcome break from both the sun and the heat. To finish up our time with the students, we all ate some well deserved pizza.
After we said goodbye to the students, we came back to our home base and had a quick swim break. Since we couldn’t decide on hanging out in the pool or swimming in the ocean we just split our time between the two. it was a lot of fun!
Next we all took some well needed showers and met back up to discuss our pledges. These pledges are goals we set for both ourselves and for the group. Together we decided that we would stop using plastic bags and plastic straws, in favour of reusable bags and metal straws. Our individual goals ranged more, but everyone seemed intent on keeping their pledges.
To finish off our day, we ate dinner and did a short beach clean up. Since it was night time, we brought out our flashlights and headlights. Although our clean up was short, we filled all of our bags with trash (at least 8 bags). After finishing, we were all super tired and went up to our rooms to pack and sleep In Preparation for the next day.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 5
Written by Emma
The early risers of the group were in for a treat this morning with a 6:45 wake up call. Though our call time was 6:45, many of us woke up much earlier to pack up our things for the trip back to Bangkok. After dropping our things at the lobby we headed to breakfast.
Once we finished a filling buffet style breakfast we hopped in the vans and headed for the airport. At the airport we checked in and headed to our gate. We were greeted with a pleasant surprise which consisted of iced hot chocolate, coconut cookies, mini meat pies, and other delicious snacks/drinks. After waiting for a little bit we boarded the small plane on route to Bangkok. After an hour we touched down safe and sound in the BKK airport.
Once we collected our luggage we went downstairs to a small area of the airport which looked like food courts you’d find in an American mall. We explored for a good chunk of time and once we had decided what to buy and found a table we took our time eating our delicious, yet very spicy, meals.
After our lunch, we drove for a couple hours to Bangkok and explored a popular temple. We learned about its history through its large murals and statues. I’m sure we all loved the unique architecture and the decor displayed. When we finished the tour, we had a long drive to our hotels with a lot of singing.
Once we arrived, we got ready for our fancy goodbye dinner and had a tasty meal together for the last time at a local restaurant. We then drove back to the hotel in our VIP vans and did a leadership activity to show our appreciation to each other. We socialized for a bit before saying goodbye to Aiden who left earlier than everyone else. Then we all went to bed to get a good night’s sleep so we would be able to wake up early the next day at around 3:30 am.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 6
Our last day of the program arrived.. Today we said goodbye to our amazing students!
It has been a wonderful experience for all of us!
We hope all students have a safe trip home and continue on with a fulfilled life of learning, values and commitment to make a better world!
We will miss you,
Emily, Ila, Mai & May – The GLA team