Capitals of Europe 2018
When I was in middle school, I developed a strong sense of wanderlust. I saw pictures and heard about African safaris, sightseeing in Europe, and beautiful coral reefs in the South Pacific. I couldn’t help but be extremely curious of what else this world had to offer outside of my small town. My parents, aware of my eagerness to travel, decided to research programs. Of course they were wary of sending their 12-year-old daughter to another continent without them, but after doing extensive research on the safety of the program, they agreed to allow me to travel to England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium over the span of three weeks.
Although three weeks may seem like a short amount of time, I learned more about myself, about the world, and about people than I would by doing anything else. I rode the London Eye, met a member of the British parliament, climbed the Eiffel Tower, saw the Mona Lisa, stayed with a family and went to school for two days in Germany, helped clean the Black Forest, zip lined through the Swiss Alps, bike rode through Windmill Park, visited the Anne Frank house, and even tried escargot and true Belgian chocolate and waffles. Not only were the things I was able to do and the places I got to see extraordinary, but I came home from that trip having made friends with kids from Germany and England and maintaining close relationship with many of my fellow travelers with whom I still see and consider to be some of my closest friends. Had I not decided to step out of my comfort zone by traveling with People to People, I would never have met them.
So many of the people I met on this trip helped me to better appreciate the world we live in. Despite the many differences in culture and language, I realized that people are people and our similarities greatly outweigh our differences. After this trip, I knew that I was not done. I had to see more places, meet more people, and extend my knowledge of the world around me. So, in 2015, I traveled again with People to People to the South Pacific. On this three-week trip, I visited Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia. I visited schools in Fiji, swam in their beautiful ocean, drank out of coconuts, stayed with a family in New Zealand, saw gorgeous mountains and hot springs, stayed in a Maori village, cuddled a Koala, toured the inside and backstage of the Sydney Opera House, met aboriginals, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, surfed on Bondi Beach, and so much more!
Once again, the greatest treasure I have from this trip is the people I met. During my homestay with a New Zealand Family, I became extremely close with a girl my age and one of her best friends who lived next door. After my trip, we continued talking over social media and two years later, in the summer of 2017, my family hosted them for two weeks!
I cannot wait to return to New Zealand to see even more of their beautiful country, and spend more time with my wonderful Kiwi friends. Since People to People, I’ve traveled to a couple of other countries to satisfy my adventurous side, but without People to People I know that I would not have become the confident, curious, worldly, and accepting person I am today. People to People has given me a different outlook on life and helped to shape my future. I could not be more thankful for my experiences through this program and all of the amazing people I have come to know because of it.