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People To People trip expands teen's horizons
Elizabeth Bennett (in the white helmet at the far back right) is all smiles as she and her fellow People To People ambassadors enjoy a white water rafting trip on the Inn River in Scoul, Switzerland.
(Posted Sept. 26, 2012)
Elizabeth Bennett is a sophomore at London High School. She was a student ambassador with People to People, an international, educational travel program developed in 1956 by Dwight D. Eisenhower to allow students to learn about and appreciate other cultures and promote peace throughout the world. The following is her first-person account of her experience.
My dream came true!
This time last year, I was studying and fund-raising, preparing for my European adventure as a student ambassador with the People To People program. Fast forward to June 22 of this year: I was excited, nervous and scared to be leaving the United States.
When we arrived in Zurich, Switzerland, we hit the ground running, literally. We walked miles of winding, hilly, narrow city streets. My legs felt like Jell-o! In Scoul, Switzerland, the snow sparkled on top of the majestic Swiss Alps. We went white water rafting on the Inn River. This was the most fun thing I’ve ever done. The water was frigid, yet exhilarating. We wove branches through trees as a service project in a park and built a maze that children could zipline into. The scenery in Switzerland was the best!
I was able to experience German life firsthand for three days with a host family. I went to school with 13-year-old Elsa. I practiced speaking German, and people smiled! The school atmosphere was more relaxed, but the students didn’t respect the teachers as much. Cuckoo clocks, castles and cuisine were some of the highlights in Germany. I discovered that European gelato is one of my favorite foods ever. In the Black Forest, we cleared weeds from the forest floor as another service project. I received an award for working the hardest.
We visited cheese and clog factories in the Netherlands. We toured Anne Frank’s house and the Peace Palace and rode bicycles through a windmill park. Bicyclists and houseboats were everywhere.
My favorite way to travel was by horse and carriage in Belgium. The people were very nice there, and the atmosphere was very laid back. The dainty lace creations we saw at an authentic lace factory were beautiful, and the Belgian chocolates were scrumptious.
In France, the gates of the Palace of Versailles glistened with gold. After I climbed 669 steps of the Eiffel Tower, I was so proud. The view of Paris was breathtaking. The artistic talent displayed at the Louvre was amazing.
When I saw Normandy Beach and The American Cemetery where 9,386 heroes lost their lives, it meant so much more to me and reinforced what I had learned in World History.
Riding the ferry from France to England was fun, but it was difficult to take a shower in such a small place.
The gardens of Hampton Court Palace were filled with brilliant, vivid colors. From 443 feet in the air on the London Eye, the views of London were spectacular. The crowds filled the streets to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Patrick Nicoles, a former member of Parliament, gave an interesting presentation. He relayed the British people’s appreciation for America and the American people. The Tower of London with the Crown Jewels and Tower Bridge with the Olympic Rings were exciting to see. The finale was seeing The Wizard of Oz at London Paladium.
This trip would not have been possible without the help, support and donations of family, friends, teachers, principals and businesses. My heartfelt thanks goes to Ruth Circle Church of Cross United Methodist Women (Kettering, Ohio), Rotary Club of London, many Ohio State University Medical Center staff members (7W Doan), Dr. Josephine Strickler, Richard Reyes, State Farm Insurance, Lonna at Cut Above the Rest, Angie and Al Wilderman of Re/Max Realty, Kronk & Scaggs Insurance, Eberle-Fisher Funeral Home, River Island Photography and London Pediatrics Inc.
Exactly 5,191 miles traveled by airplane, thousands of miles traveled by bus, six countries in 20 days, stepping out of my comfort zone, increasing my independence, promoting peace, representing the U.S. positively, learning about other cultures, trying authentic European food, one trip of a lifetime…priceless!
I will always appreciate this opportunity to see Europe and wish all of the students nominated could have similar opportunities. Now, more than ever, I am proud to be an American. But, just like in “The Wizard of Oz,” there’s no place like home!
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