The day that my letter from People to People Student Ambassadors came in the mail was just another ordinary day. I tore open the envelope in excitement, then somberly tossed it aside. I knew I’d never have the necessary funds, nor the permission from my parents, to attend the “European Discovery” trip that I so yearned to take. But for weeks, even months, that letter lay open on my desk calling out to me, encouraging me to just present it to my mother with hopes that she would understand my desire to venture overseas. After many promises and an abundance of gratitude, my dream had finally come true! I was Europe-bound!
A group of forty other students and me arrived in Paris, France, on the morning of the 4th of July. Although we were exhausted from the ten-hour plane ride, we embraced the “City of Lights” with open arms! From the Eiffel Tower to a boat ride along the Seine, we were introduced to the beauty and magic of one of the world’s most loved cities… a love that I still experience to this day and has influenced me to major in the French language during my college years. From Paris to Reims to Strasbourg, we were in awe of the European “Je ne sais quoi” that enveloped us… but it was time to say “Au revoir!” to France and “Bonjour!” to Switzerland.
Never in my life have I seen a more serene country, touched by the beauty of Mother Nature wherever you glance. The crystal-clear lakes and German influence were both new sights for us to see. We even got to experience the World Cup finale during our stay in Zurich, and we rejoiced with the local Italians as their home team took home the gold! Our last night was spent with much elation and excitement, the night sky filled with red, green and white firecrackers that celebrated the Italian victory.
Our trip was halfway over… and we found ourselves in the beautiful countryside of Austria! For nearly a week, we were allowed to experience a “home stay” with an Austrian family. While there, we also befriended a group of German boys our age who were visiting for a sports camp. The small town of Radstadt was the perfect place for us to get a glimpse of the small-town European life. Not only did we get to mingle with the natives, but we also helped prepare a huge town dinner and milk the field cows! Afterwards, we returned to the cities… attending a Mozart concert in Vienna and going on bike rides throughout Salzburg.
And the final stop on our trip… Italy! These had to have been the hottest days of the whole year! From gondola rides in Venice to glass-blowing demonstrations in Volterra, we were overwhelmed with the many cultural things we were allowed to experience. We even got to make a pit-stop in Florence where the huge statue of David towered over our awe-inspired group! Finally, we made our way to Rome where we visited the ancient ruins and even went on a walking tour of the Vatican.
I can honestly say that this trip was truly my “European Discovery”, for along the way, I discovered a part of who I was. From this moment on, I knew that a career in international affairs was the right path for me… not to mention the many friendships I made along the way!
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.