India Sharing

Hearing from our Senior Class about their Experiences in India

Each year, our high school seniors embark on a three-week trip to India. This trip is the culmination of their outdoor education at Oak Grove School, which starts in early childhood with a night’s camp-out on campus with teachers and parents, and builds over the years as students gradually travel further away on increasingly more challenging journeys.

Through this progressive sequence of trips, our students are able to build their confidence, self-sufficiency, awareness, and appreciation of beauty. Most importantly, they develop self-knowledge through a relationship with nature and each other.

After much preparation by chaperones, students, parents, and those behind the scenes organizing every detail of the trip, our group of 16 students and four chaperones departed for India. Leading the trip, with both her experience as a previous chaperone and a teacher in India, was current 6th grade teacher Mary Kelley. Mary was joined by three long time Oak Grove staff members: Jaymie Arquilevich (former parent, preschool teacher, and current PK-8 Registrar & Admissions Administrative Assistant), Louise Everett (current 4th Grade teacher), and Oliver Cornell (current Outreach Team Associate, current parent, and former high school boarding parent). With tearful farewell hugs to parents, caregivers, and to their phones, students headed to their gate at LAX with much anticipation of the three-week adventure ahead.

After two long-haul flights to Bangalore, the huge capital of India’s southern Karnataka state, students took a four-hour bus journey north to Rishi Valley School. Founded almost a century ago, Rishi Valley was the first school Krishnamurti founded and where Oak Grove’s first Head of School Mark Lee and his wife Asha got their start in the early 1970s. “Mark was the head of the junior school, and Asha was a doctor, who ran the infirmary and subsequently started the Rural Health Clinic, which is still going strong today,” says Oliver Cornell, Oak Grove’s marketing and design associate and one of the chaperones on the India trip.

Arriving on December 30th, the jetlagged Oak Grove students jumped right in with the 11th grade Rishi Valley students in setting up Rishi Valley’s spacious outdoor auditorium for a New Year’s Eve celebration. The evening was filled with games, musical performances, dancing, and counting down to midnight around a huge bonfire. During their ten days at Rishi Valley, Oak Grove students joined in the daily routine of meals, assemblies, academic and art classes, and sports. They also took field trips to the Rural Education Center and Health Clinic and hiked to a 360-degree view of the valley.

Following their time at Rishi Valley, Oak Grove students and chaperones returned to Bangalore to visit The Valley School, which lies on the city’s very outskirts. Again, students joined in the daily routine of the school, including “buddy time” with younger students, as well as classes in dance, pottery, drumming, chanting, and block printing at The Valley School’s Art Village.

From here they took day trips to the cities of Mysore and Bangalore, visiting temples, ashrams, restaurants, and shops. These day trips, planned and guided by the staff at The Valley School, gave students a perspective outside of the school environment.

“Each school took such good care of us,” says Oliver. “The shared philosophy of our schools, grounded in Krishnamurti’s teachings of emphasizing love, kindness, responsibility, and human relationship, was felt by all of us. Our trip had the feeling of a family reunion and many lifetime friendships began.”

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