Going Down Under! - My Family Travels

For 17 exciting days in June of 2009, I experienced the trip of a lifetime! I traveled to the beautiful country of Australia with the People to People Student Ambassador Program. This program offers life-changing educational travel opportunities to destinations around the world for students in grades 5-12 . My delegation of fellow travelers consisted of students from different schools in my area.

Our trip began at a local airport where we boarded a flight to Los Angeles, CA. Our next flight took us fourteen hours across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney, Australia. Having never been in an airplane before, I was amazed at the distance we covered in such a short time, but I felt somewhat like a sardine by the time our plane landed!

When we arrived in Sydney, we met our Australian delegation manager. I highly recommend People to People travel because the whole trip is planned for you, the leaders are extremely organized, and the itinerary includes an amazing amount of both fun and educational experiences! All you have to do is obey the rules and show up on time!

During our stay in Sydney, we visited famous places such as the Sydney Aquatic Center and the Sydney Aquarium. We enjoyed a tour of the beautiful Sydney Opera House and a cruise of Sydney Harbor. We experienced the thrill of repelling from rock cliffs, one being 80 stories high, in the beautiful Blue Mountains! Learning to conquer our fears and trying new things created a special bond for our entire group, which was one of the coolest things that happened on this trip!

From Sydney we traveled to Canberra, Katherine, Darwin, and Cairns. We toured the New Parliament House where we learned about Australia’s government, Crocodylus Park, home to hundreds of crocodiles, and the Australian World War II Memorial. We were introduced to the interesting world of Aboriginal art, explored Kakadu National Park, watched a gorgeous sunset from Nourlangie Rock, and spent some time with an Aboriginal tribe called the Manyallaluk who served us some native delicacies like kangaroo tail, bush tea, and live green ants! Hey, you only live once, so I tried them all! My favorite part of the trip was staying with an Australian host family who made me feel very welcome and took me to some beautiful places! We visited Kuranda where my heart was stolen while holding a koala and feeding kangaroos! The last stop on our trip was the Great Barrier Reef, one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen, where we put on wetsuits and snorkled in the pristine water.

For information on being a student ambassador, visit www.studentambassadors.org. Regular monthly meetings before the trip provide detailed information and opportunities for everyone to get to know each other. The cost of the trip was the most challenging issue for my family, but donations from family and friends made this trip possible for me and the experience was well worth the money!

My trip to Australia was a truly awesome adventure! I now have a geniune appreciation for this country because of it’s fascinating history and beautiful landscapes. Through this global experience, I learned how people in other parts of the world may be different but also how amazingly similar they are to us. I gained invaluable cultural knowledge that I feel will make me a better citizen, made new friends from both Australia and my community, and created wonderful memories that will last a lifetime! I would say “Going Down Under” took me “Way Up Above” my wildest dreams!

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