School has just started, but now’s the time to start thinking about your Summer 2009 travel plans. People to People has its list of 2009 travel programs available for junior high and high school students who would like to spend two or three weeks as a student ambassador in Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, or all over Europe.
The People to People Student Ambassador Program was founded by President Eisenhower in 1956 and has sent thousands of junior high and high school students abroad in the 50 years since then. The focus of the program isn’t just travel, but cultural exchange, and many of their adventures include homestays with local families, meetings with influential politicians and business people, and visits to significant organizations and landmarks.
Another difference with this program is that you don’t just sign up and pay the price like you do with tour company; you have to apply and go through an interview. Don’t let that stop you though. If you have a passion to travel around the world, you’re probably just who they’re looking for. (I’m pretty sure I bumbled my way through my interview many years ago, but I still got to spend some of the best weeks of my life traveling through Australia one summer and Europe the next.)
The Program has drawn some big names over the years (not just me), so you’ll be in good company. According to their website, “Walt Disney created the “It’s a Small World” attraction in 1964 after his participation in the People to People International White House conference. This attraction has now introduced over 250 million people to the concept that we may have our differences, but underneath we all share the same core values.”
Student Ambassadors can travel to Asia, Australia, Europe, or even to Canada (it’s always good to stay friendly with the neighbors). Teachers are also needed to lead the student groups, so if you know a teacher who might be interested, let him or her know about the program too. The fees include all of your meals and transportation, and if you come up with some creative fundraising ideas (yard sale, bake sale, car wash, Internet start-up), you can at least reduce the amount coming out of your pocket.
You’re never too young to get out there and develop a lifelong travel habit. Good luck, and have fun!