David Erhun is a sophomore at Ashland High School, a place he calls "the best school the United States of America has to offer." This fall, the 15-year-old is spending a semester with his mother and brother exploring their family's ancestral roots in Europe.
David's role in planning the trip and his sense of adventure have impressed his mother.
"This trip has far surpassed any expectations I may have had about it. Planning this trip has given David an opportunity to display his outstanding and resourceful organizational skills," Azade Erhun stated in an e-mail. "David has a deep appreciation of every adventure we embark upon."
At a café in Venice, Italy, David took some time to correspond with the Daily Tidings and talk about the journey that has allowed him to both explore his cultural history and map his personal future.
DT: Tell us about your trip.
DE: My trip is a 100-day exploration of my ethnic heritage and a glimpse of the Old World. Over these 100 days, my family and I will visit six countries, 12 villages, towns and some of the most famous cities in the world. In Germany, Hungary, Greece and Turkey I have relatives who have welcomed my family and me into their homes, allowing me insight into the daily life of multiple cultures. Along with this fascinating insight, I have been granted a further glimpse of how others see the world today. All this and more has been made possible by the many generous offerings given to us by our relatives.
DT: What motivated you and your family to do this?
DE: We were motivated by the many invitations extended to us by our relatives, and my elderly great aunts in Turkey, as well as my desire to travel and explore the world. Previous generations of our family have always been motivated to travel and explore the world, but until now my generation has not fulfilled the family tradition.
DT: Do you feel this trip has changed you in any way?
DE: I believe this trip has changed my views on the world, allowing me to understand personal views on world and cultural issues from various perspectives.
DT: Any advice for other people your age who would like to do something like this?
DE: Don't carry any preconceived ideas with you. If you do, your views and opinions will be limited. Read, read, read and read again about everything and anything you are bound to run into on your trip.
DT: So far, what has been your favorite aspect of this trip?
DE: My favorite aspect of this trip has been the continual new connections I have made with family I have never met before. Although language barriers exist between many of the relatives and us, we are creating strong, lasting bonds with our now close family.
DT: What are your favorite subjects in school?
DE: Since I have only just completed my freshman year at AHS, my favorite subject so far has been global studies with Mr. Cate because of the challenges he presented, and the discussions we had about world issues. My second-favorite subject is algebra with Mr. Miller, who I believe has left Ashland this year to go to Alaska. I enjoy math because it presents a challenge for my unskilled mathematics brain.
DT: What do you like to do outside of school?
DE: Outside school I like to listen to music, play racquetball and play ultimate Frisbee in Garfield Park with my friends Noah Slater, Uri Wolfe-Blank and my younger brother Noah.
DT: Do you have trouble balancing school and your outside interests?
DE: I never have had trouble balancing school and my other interests. I try to focus my energy on school and school-related activities before heading off to to play.
DT: What do you want to do after you graduate high school?
DE: As of now, I have no clue what I will do after graduation. I am considering a several-year backpacking trip through Europe and South Asia.
DT: Tell us something you have done that makes you proud.
DE: Taking part in planning the many details of this extensive journey is the thing I am most proud of so far.
DT: Talk about something that was especially challenging in your life.
DE: The thing I feel I was challenged most by was helping care for my 92-year-old grandmother for six years while she lived with my family in Kila, Mont.
DT: Talk about someone in your family who makes you proud.
DE: My mother, Azade, makes me proud because of her commitment to her two sons, and her artistic talent, which is displayed at the Ashland Artisan Gallery and Art Center in downtown Ashland.
DT: Talk about someone at school who inspires you.
DT: Mr. Tim Cate at AHS inspires me to challenge ideals and views of the world around us.
The Erhun family is documenting their trip with a blog meant to share their experiences and inspire others to similar adventures. For more information and photos go to erhuntrip.blogspot.com.