Whirlwind Tour

Published 8:21 am Tuesday, August 27, 2013

AHOSKIE – As local students return to class for the 2013-14 academic year, most will share stories of their summer vacation.

While trips to the beach, the mountains, theme parks and historic sites are popular vacation destinations, one local young lady took her first-ever trip overseas….a whirlwind tour of three countries over a 20-day period.

Victoria Lynn Harris, the 16-year-old daughter of Stephanie Rose of Ahoskie and a sophomore at Hertford County Early College High School, was selected to be part of the People to People Ambassador Program. She was one of 36 students to participate in a tour of France, Italy and Greece from June 21 through July 9. Thirty-five of the students were from eastern North Carolina. The group was accompanied by four adults, to include a Delegation Manager.

Harris and her group boarded a plane on June 20 from Raleigh-Durham Airport, bound for Atlanta, GA where they took another jumbo jet to cross the Atlantic Ocean, taking its passengers to the “City of Lights” (Paris, France).

“I slept the whole way there,” Harris said. “We even slept in the airport (in Paris); we got there about 5 in the morning (of June 21). We sat in the airport until the sun came up.”

In Paris, Harris and the group boarded a bus for a tour of such world-famous sites as the Chateau de Versailles, the 899-foot tall Eiffel Tower, The Louvre (the museum home of the Mona Lisa), and the Montmartre, just to name a few.

On June 23, the delegation boarded a train for an overnight trip from France to Italy. Their first stop was the “City of Water” (Venice).

On June 25, Harris broke away from her group, spending the next five days with a host family (pre-arranged by the People to People Program).

“They treated me really nice,” Harris said. “They had two daughters, one (age 15) close to my age.”

Harris said the family did not break from their normal daily routine while she was there.

“I learned a lot about how they live, how they got along,” Harris said.

One of the highlights of living with the host family was the cooking.

“The mom was a good cook; I really liked her food, but then again I love Italian food,” she noted. “She made her own sauces for the pasta.”

There were no barricades when it came to communication. Harris said the two daughters were well-versed in English, better than the parents. She even tried her hand at speaking Italian.

Upon leaving her host family and rejoining the delegation, they visited Montecatini, Italy – home of the historic Leaning Tower of Pisa. The next day (June 29) was spent in Florence, Italy. There, Harris toured numerous museums and art galleries, to include the Accademia Gallery, the home of Michelangelo’s statue of David. She also toured the American Cemetery, the final resting place of over 4,000 American soldiers killed during the capture of Rome in World War II.

The group took a break from their tour on Sunday, June 30 to take part in an all-day lesson of personal growth in Assisi, Italy. As part of that fun day, Harris and the other students stepped outside of their “comfort zone” by rappelling down the walls a 20-story-tall fortress guarding the city.

“That was the most fun part of the whole trip,” Harris said. “I was able to learn a lot about my inner self. The rappel down the wall allowed me to build some confidence in myself.”

The day also afforded Harris the chance to release any anger boiling inside.

“I broke this board,” said Harris, pulling a sheered 2×4 from a bag, complete with an inscription of the time, date and place. “I broke it with my hand.”

Rome was the next stop on the tour. There, Harris visited the Colosseum and Vatican City – where she witnessed sites such as St. Peter’s Basilica (the world’s largest church) and the Sistine Chapel.

She and the group celebrated July 4th in Naples, Italy. That night they took a ferry from Bari, Italy to Patras, Greece. That led to visits to Olympia – the birthplace of the Olympic Games – and Athens, where the American delegation spent the final three days of their journey.

“The trip made me realize, made me appreciate, how good we have it at home,” Harris stressed. “I also made long-term friendships with the other students in my group.”

Harris was contacted in August of last year to see if she was interested in taking the trip. An interview process followed, setting the stage for her acceptance in to the People to People Program. Harris was required to attend several pre-trip meetings, where all the students learned of what to expect and what to pack for their world tour.

“The delegation leaders have been on these trips before; they learn about how to guide a tour and be responsible for the students. They have plenty of training to do these trips,” Harris stated.

Now bitten by the “travel bug”, Harris said she would like to participate in another trip with the People to People group.

“I want to tour England,” she said.

For 50 years, People to People Ambassador Programs has provided educational travel for students across the globe. Located in Spokane, WA, People to People Ambassador Programs is home to more than 200 employees. To date, over 500,000 students and teachers have participated in the various programs and trips planned by the organization.

For more information, call, toll-free 1-800-669-7882 or visit www.peopletopeople.com.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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