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Senior Project Takes Students to Malaysia

By: Vicky Liu ‘20, News and Features Writer

     There is an iconic Chinese phrase that translates to, “The world is so big that I want to see it.” Well, Mira Kauffman-Rosengarten ‘18 and Kathryn “Katie” Raphaely ‘18 are doing just that. For their senior projects, they are traveling to Southeast Asia together with much of their time being spent in Malaysia. As they are currently on their trip, the following article is based off of an interview conducted with Mira and Katie in early May, just before they departed the United States.

     Mira and Katie stated that they chose going to Southeast Asia as their senior project because they’ve each heard about the miserable ways animals are treated there and about the poor school conditions there. Henceforth, they decided to see the situation for themselves. Their senior project, recounted by Mira, focuses on traveling in Southeast Asia, experiencing exotic cultures, and helping people and animals as much as they can over their three weeks’ visit. The girls’ first two weeks have been spent in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, because Mira has a cousin who resides there. During this time, they have been volunteering in a local school, which is much different from American schools. They plan to start a café for the school kids to use and help around in the classrooms. In addition to their work in Kuala Lumpur, they will be living in a town about an hour and a half outside of Qing Mai Thailand. There, they will help in an elephant farm.

     Katie revealed her pre-trip emotions at the time of the interview: “Honestly, I’m a little nervous. There’re a lot to do. I haven’t done packing. I think being away from home is always a little scary, but it's gonna be an insane trip. I’m also so excited at the same time. It’s a bunch of emotions.” Mira agreed, “It’s definitely mixed emotions towards the trip. I’m very grateful to go. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We’re super lucky to go to another country.” This is Katie’s first time to visit the Southeast Asia and is Mira’s second time. Mira shared, “When I was in 7th grade, me and my family [sic] traveled to Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam for two months. That sparked the idea [of our senior project]. I don’t remember the trip very well, so I want to go back.” Overall, they seemed excited about the adventure.

     Surrounded by coconut trees on the other side of the world, Mira and Katie are experiencing living in a foreign culture with different customs. This means they are enjoying differently-tasting food (hopefully!). Also, they researched in advance that Malaysia is an Islamic country. Therefore, there is a publicly-enforced dress code, so they are wearing conservative clothing. This dress code, however, may be presenting a challenge to the girls, as the typical climate in Malaysia, especially at this time of year, is extremely hot!

     Prior to her departure, Mira reflected on how she felt about leaving home for such a long time: “It’s a hard thing to travel [abroad] alone. It’s also a long trip for almost a month. But it’s the most independent thing I’ve been doing [and the trip will be] interesting.” At the dawn of a brand-new experience, Katie said, “It’s going to be an experience that we will probably never be able to get again.” Mira nods, “We’re staying there for weeks. After that, it would stay in our brains for a while.”

     Both Mira and Katie appreciate the fact that their parents are supporting the trip financially. Mira elaborated, “Lots of people have chipped in. My parents were really chipping in with paying for it. My trip is my ‘big gift for a while.’” Jim Rosengarten, Mira’s dad, was nearby at the time of the interview. When he heard his daughter mentioning this, he commented wryly, “It’s Mira’s wedding gift, and her funeral gift.” Mira replied, “It’s gonna be worth it!”

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