I looked down at my plate suspiciously, at a dish that I was 100% sure was NOT chicken, despite the leaders insisting otherwise. In fact, I was quite sure the dish was exactly what it was — duck.
I wasn’t opposed to eating something new — in fact, I had vowed to try just about any new foods the countries we were visiting had to offer. Yet, here I was, country number one of five, ready to break that vow. I was staring at the fattiest piece of meat I have ever seen in my life. Close eyes, open mouth, chew. Almost vomit.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
This isn’t the first issue I had faced on my People to People trip, if you could even call it an issue. This was the first day, and I had already almost died climbing the 500 some-odd stairs up to a cathedral, been blackmailed with the worst picture of me to ever be captured (I was asleep, but somehow my eyes were open, a feat I have not been able to perform since), and was to sum it all up, tired as physically and mentally possible. We had arrived in France at midnight (6 a.m. there) and started our day. But by the time we reached the Louvre, we were all so tired that there was more interest in sleeping on the benches in the world famous museum then actually looking at any of the exhibits. After all, you risked bruises and black eyes if you dared attempt to creep towards the museums most popular exhibit — the Mona Lisa — the injuries given by crazed tourists who happened to have a great deal more energy (and sleep) then we did.
Did I mention that I didn’t know anyone I was with?
That’s right, no one. I was on a People to People trip as a student ambassador, an amazing opportunity that only cost my parents just over six thousand American dollars. I was with 43 other high school students, spending 19 days of my junior year summer with people I had met once or twice beforehand (essentially strangers), bussing around to five different countries with a jam-packed itinerary of Eiffel Tower viewing, pure water drinking, German schooling, cruising through super-cool mountains, gondola riding, and more. In fact, on the bus rides I had the opportunity to see, for the very first time, an albino cow. Or, rather, an entire herd of them.
Before the cows — actually, before boarding the plane to France — I was feeling, in so many words, nervous as anything. I was nervous (though it wasn’t a legitimate fear) that I would be an “outcast on the trip”.
This never proved true (thank heavens). In fact, I made many new friends on the trip whom I am still friends with now. We became a family. And somewhere in that 19 days, I found myself (to be horrendously cliché in my word choice). I found out who I was naturally — I didn’t have to worry about people not liking me, because I would be away from them in 19 days. I learned that I was happiest when I was able to make others happy, I loved mediating conflicts, and that I have an ability to not judge people and just listen. I was friends with many a feuding few on the trip, and I maintained relationships with all of them. To top it all off, I gained the confidence I needed to start and end my upcoming senior year of high school with a bang — and it paid off, with a new career and a fantastic friend group.
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