Life changing travel opportunities at West Ottawa


Evan Gerlach and Ava McBride

After a 14-hour flight, Jamahl Hogan sluggishly stepped out of the airport with two friends and his world history teacher. Looking out the tour bus window, China hit him immediately.

   Buildings towered above. People bustled by in unfamiliar fashion. The scent of food markets filled the air. 

Going overseas improves character due to a newfound understanding of the world. People should seize the chance to travel.

   Such opportunities have a high cost. Students save for cars and college, not trips across the globe. Is the adventure worth the price? 


Cultural Technological Educational Exchange (CTEE) has been responsible for building, packing, shipping, and installing over 3500 computers in the Republic of Cameroon since 1998.   

   “Overseas activities allow our students to take the expression ‘think globally, act locally’ to task by allowing our students the opportunity to act globally,” Instructor Mike Jaeger said.

Jaeger and CTEE have visited Cameroon a dozen times; however, only 60 students have made the journey. 

   “Teaching here at West Ottawa has allowed me to maintain an involvement in Cameroon, and engagement with people I have known there for over 30 years,” Jaeger said. 

Jaeger served in the Peace Corps for three years and enjoyed celebrations with West African colleagues. 

   He often recounts these cherished memories in detail. “JuJu and Kilo Night on Ghana Street and Operation Ville Mort… let’s just say I have stories.” 

Jaeger’s time overseas provided “powerfully mind-expanding” experiences. His students returned home with a greater appreciation for life. He believes nothing is more impactful on a global perspective than time spent overseas.

   The price of these trips is mainly airfare, which ranges between $1200-1800.

The CTEE club meets every Wednesday after school in room A253 and Sundays from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the barn behind HSS (on the pond). Working on Wednesdays is a great step toward a life-changing trip to Cameroon.

McCrumb’s Trips 

Instructor Teresa McCrumb also provides students with the opportunity of foreign travel.

   Her first trip with students was to Belize in 1999 after receiving a grant. She took nearly two decades off when she had children. 

West Ottawa graduate Jamahl Hogan traveled to China with McCrumb and two other WO students in 2018. 

   Hogan had only visited out of the country once before traveling to China. He enjoys experiencing unique cultures and environments. The difference between China and America surprised him, “Even in modern cities the way the cities were organized and the rules and customs you had to follow were unlike anything in America.”  

Hogan says the trip opened his mind to the world’s vastness. “Some cities we visited were much bigger than any other city I had been to in America.” He explains the surprising cultural contrasts between China and his home, including their hospitality, describing China as friendly.

   Hogan enjoyed tourist activities and seeing monuments like the Temple of Heaven, Olympic Village, Tiananmen Square, and the Great Wall of China. He climbed to one of the highest parts of the wall, giving him a breathtaking view of Beijing. Hogan says they could almost see the entire city. 

Hogan recommends overseas, “I think traveling abroad, especially through school, is just a great way to broaden your horizons. To learn and experience new things. Traveling to simply expand your worldview is certainly worth it.” He would love to see Europe.

   Sr. Gabe Giddings loved seeing Europe the following summer with McCrumb, Instructor Joette Gulbis, seven students, and two parents. They visited Spain, France, and Italy. 

Giddings enjoyed his time in Rome, remembering the city as an exquisite place. He says the trip was well worth the cost and gave him very fond memories to look back on. 

   “The funniest memory is Gulbis is walking in Monaco, we were kind of rushed for time and we were eating on the way, and this seagull literally took her sandwich out of her hand, it was crazy!” McCrumb said about Europe. 

The traveler’s favorite day was spent in Barcelona, playing volleyball on the beach with Italians and German exchange students. “You got to feel what it’s like to live there,” McCrumb said. 

   McCrumb sees the benefits clearly. “I think travel shaped all these people into their interests or what they want to see.”

“I truly believe that travel helps you learn some independence for yourself. On this trip, I’m chaperoning, but you have a lot of your own choices to make,” McCrumb said. “You grow up a little bit.”

   Travelling has been rewarding for McCrumb as well, enriching her passion for teaching. “I think it’s always good to share more of the culture, because obviously, you can only learn so much from books, so much from videos. It allows me to be intentional with sharing things.”  

McCrumb aims to keep the price per student around $3000, but costs continue to rise. She informs students of her travel destination the spring prior, allowing students to begin saving. 

   While 20-30 students show interest in the trip, very few follow through.  

Students with jobs could reasonably save $2,000-3,000 over a year. Taking an extensive trip with family would require several thousand dollars more and hours of stress spent planning. 

   “Quite a few of my kids on all of my trips have paid a lot of it themselves. None of these kids were like super-rich kids whose parents paid for everything. Everyone contributed.”

McCrumb stresses the physical demand of traveling. “The biggest thing about all these trips is they are jam-packed. If you choose to do these trips, you have to know that it’s not a leisure trip. It is like go go go, see as much as you can, you’ll be exhausted by the time you’re done.” The efficiency of school trips allows for more sightseeing than the typical family vacation.

   McCrumb is looking forward to traveling to Thailand with students in the summer of 2023.