European Odyssey: NYC to Athens
I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with People to People during the summer of 2014. I’d love to share with you a little about my journey and the absolutely amazing experience I had. I personally was so afraid of traveling abroad. First of all, I’m a home-body and, at that age, I hadn’t been away from my parents for more than a week at summer camp. Here I was, 14 years old, and about to embark upon a 3 week excursion overseas with people I didn’t know in a place so foreign to me. However, looking back, traveling with People to People was hands-down one of the best experiences of my life. From the big excursions – seeing historical architecture, ancient ruins, international culture – to the connections made with friends on the trip, home-stay families, and people literally from all over the world, this experience broadened my appreciation for world culture, deepened my own love for American culture, and excited me to learn more about the world around me.
I traveled on the European Odyssey trip to Greece, Italy, and France. Some of my favorite activities include cleaning the beaches of Greece with the Archelon Association which helped cute little sea turtles have a better home (and counted for community service hours, another plus for high school students), eating AMAZING gelato from my Italian home-stay sister’s favorite parlor, visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome, eating escargot in France, propelling down a castle wall in Italy, and visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris. All of these activities quite literally changed my life. After this experience, I found a renewed passion for the environment and for world culture. Even after the trip came to an end, its effects were just beginning. After volunteering with the Archelon Association, I was so thrilled with the environment that I took AP Biology, AP Environmental Sciences, and have the wonderful opportunity to intern at Maymont (a nature center and park in Richmond) under the environmental education director there. In another sense, I fell in love with Italian culture and language after my home-stay experience. As a result, I began taking Italian in high school and have been able to teach 5th graders Italian I through a special course my high school offers and score 4th place nationally on the National Italian Exam after taking just 2 years of Italian.
Lastly, before this trip, I was dreadfully afraid of heights. However, this trip pushed me outside of my comfort zone in many ways. During my Italian stay, we propelled down the side of an antique Italian castle during our ‘Live Full On’ experience. I was completely terrified but after seeing the rustic Italian architecture and the beautiful countryside, I would do it again and again. When visiting the Eiffel Tower, the elevator ascends at an angle all the way to the top of the tower. Plus, the elevator itself had windows on all walls, providing visitors with a view of Paris that was utterly breathtaking. Once we reached the top on one of our last days of the trip, I was taken aback by the beauty of the world and the silliness of my fears (both of heights and of leaving home).
This experience changed my life in a way I would never have imagined. While everyone experiences something unique from their journey with People to People and traveling abroad, I hope my example can speak to you about the myriad of opportunities that developed long after my 21-day trip. I encourage you to embark upon this journey and challenge yourself to expand your view of the world. You won’t regret it!