Thirty Marlborough Girls' College students went back to school after the Christmas holidays with a new outlook on life.
Joined by six students from Marlborough Boys' College and three teachers, the girls spent a month working and trekking through Cambodia and Vietnam as part of the World Challenge Expedition, which takes students from all over the globe to far-flung places.
Despite being greeted by toads, leeches, snakes, cold showers and a lack of toilet facilities, year 12 students Evie Baxter, Lucy Blakiston, and year 13 students Georgia Murrin and Ella Rose Hammond said they would all return in a heartbeat to relive their "amazing" trip.
A highlight for the group was spending six days working at an orphanage, Kai's Village, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
"[That] was an eye opener because kids these days need iPhones and things to be amused but they had rocks from the ground," Ella Rose said.
Many of the 50 to 60 children in the orphanage, who ranged in age from a few months to 18 years, had disabilities and were left at the orphanage because their parents could not afford to look after them.
"We were helping them and I think that was the best part of it," Georgia said.
The girls also spent some time working in a banana plantation, and were still getting over the blisters they got from digging the hard ground, and bites from "biting ants".
Christmas was one of their hardest days, and far from what they are accustomed to. They had a meal of cabbage, carrots, onion, rice and stale bread for breakfast.
Along their trek from Cambodia to Vietnam, the girls visited killing fields, sand dunes, temples and markets.
"At one point they took us up a mountain and there wasn't a path and [the guides] were in front of us with swords hacking away the bushes," Evie said.
The three groups had to plan their own budget, living off $1 per meal per day, and $5 each for accommodation. Some of the girls even slept in cots at the orphanage due to a lack of beds.
They had all learnt a lot but were enjoying being back in the safety of New Zealand with hot showers, and without having to worry about mosquitoes that are going to give you malaria, they said.
- © Fairfax NZ News