It all started with an envelope. An envelope encompassing an opportunity from a group called People to People. Sixteen days in England and France! How great does that sound? At first, I was nervous about traveling 4,000 miles away from home, but after deliberation I decided that this once in a lifetime experience was too good to pass up. Therefore, I would soon become a People to People Student Ambassador.
The People to People Program developed in 1956 as President Eisenhower’s quest for world peace. The program has evolved tremendously stretching across the planet in hopes to one day fulfill Eisenhower’s dream. To become an ambassador, I attended the orientation meeting, was selected through an interview process, and learned further about the opportunity through pre-travel meetings. Before I knew it, I was boarding a plane at Charleston’s Yeager Airport with fellow ambassadors headed for adventure.
We landed in Paris, France on July 8, 2009. We stayed at Suite Hotel Montreuil. Naturally, the first site we encountered was the incredible Eiffel Tower. Other visits in Paris included the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame. Another amazing site was the Statue of Liberty in the Luxembourg Gardens. And what would a trip to Paris be without the luxury of tasting escargot? Surprisingly, I relished the taste of snail. In just three fast days we were on our way out of Paris to other gorgeous sites of France.
The magnificent Palace of Versailles is perhaps the most beautiful place I visited. The gardens, fountains, and the palace itself are marvelous sights to behold. Two hours away, I witnessed Normandy Beach and the American memorial at Omaha. The gigantic graveyard gave me chills knowing that the 9,400 soldiers buried there died for my freedom. That night, I boarded Brittany Ferries to cross the English Channel to the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA) on the Isle of Wight.
My three day stay at the UKSA consisted of sailing, playing cricket, and learning England’s culture. I celebrated my birthday on July 16, the final day at the Sailing Academy. I could not have imagined a better way to spend my 15th birthday. Our group divided that evening as we went to our home stays. For the next three days I spent most of my time bonding with Rich and Lorraine, my home stay “parents,” fulfilling President Eisenhower’s dream. On July 19, our group reunited to take another important step in our expedition.
As People to People Ambassadors we directed a Village Fete in England, similar to an American fair. Everyone had a job at the Fete and our leadership made a successful day. At night, my group stayed at the Ramada Hotel. Our trip continued to sites such as Warwick Castle and Stonehenge.
London is one of the most amazing cities in the world. From the London Eye to Tower Bridge to the Parliament Buildings, there are so many sites to see and so much history to be learned. Our stay at Holiday Inn Express was great. My group was also able to experience the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. I could not pick a better way to end a superlative journey.
In hindsight, the months of preparation and the trip seemed to fly by. My adventure left as fast as it had arrived. I am proud to be a People to People Student Ambassador working to fulfill President Eisenhower’s dream of world peace. Through the journey I earned 10 service-learning credits “for promoting peace through understanding.” My trip to England and France is embedded in my mind forever as an amazing adventure.
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