Sunday, August 24, 2014

Windham student travels abroad with People to People program - By Elizabeth Richards

After two years of fundraising, Isabella Rosborough’s dream became reality this summer as she spent an exciting three weeks traveling in Europe as part of the People to People Ambassador Program.
While Rosborough’s group from the Southern Maine area had only 11 students, they travelled with a group of six students from Bangor, and in New York, they met up with another four from Staten Island. When they arrived in Rome, they were joined by a large group of students from New Jersey, as well as one German student, to form the group of 39 students and five adult leaders.

The group began their explorations in Rome, where they visited the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and took a tour of the city. 

After Rome, their travels took them to the small mountain town of Assisi. “Assisi was probably one of the most beautiful places out of everywhere we went,” said Rosborough. “It was just a quaint little town.” Here, they saw how olives were grown, and also visited a monastery and had the opportunity to speak with a Friar. 

Every People to People trip includes a “full-on” experience. For Rosborough’s group, this meant rappelling down a 100-foot castle wall, along with other group games. From the wall they could see for miles, including views of other castles in the area. Rosborough said that although some participants were fearful, she was not. “I enjoyed it a lot. I’m a thrill seeker for things like that,” she said.

After their full-on, the group met the families they would be staying with. Students were either by themselves in a home stay family, or with one other student, for three nights and two days. Rosborough stayed in a family of four with two daughters. The parents spoke broken English, she said, but the older daughter Agatha spoke English clearly, and served as their translator for the stay. In addition to her home stay family, there were two neighbor kids that spent the whole time with her as well.

While with the family, Rosborough went to a lake, explored the town she was staying in including shops selling artwork, pottery and jewelry. The family also took her to Perugia, which is “the Italian chocolate capital” she said. And much like teenagers do in America, she and the teens she was visiting ordered takeout pizza one evening, watched a movie, and played WII.     

Rosborough said that one of the biggest things she learned was that no matter where you go, things are still the same. While she realized there may be bigger differences in other countries, in Europe there were many similarities to home. The family dynamics were very similar to those in America, and there were lots of tourists everywhere they went. 

She did notice a lot of small differences throughout her travels however. Some of the more notable differences, she said, were that kids go to school one year longer before going to university, and also they cannot drive until they are 18 years old. The universities are also much more specialized, focusing only on one trade, she said. 

Other cities visited included Venice, Florence, Pisa, Paris and London. One of her favorites, said Rosborough, was Florence. In Florence, there weren’t many cars, but lots of moped and tourist buses. The streets were lined with artists, each with a different type of art, but all really detailed and amazing, according to Rosborough. She purchased two pieces of art in Florence, including a painting of Ponte Vecchio, the only bridge in Florence not bombed during WWII. While there, the group had the opportunity to visit the bridge.

Other highlights of the trip included a glass blowing demonstration in Venice, walking around the Vatican city, visiting the Sistene Chapel, the Statue of David, the Louvre, the Effiel Tower and Normandy. The trip to Normandy was very sad, Rosborough said, and there was a special ceremony there, where people thanked the students and their ancestors for helping them during the war.

In London, the group of students met with a former member of British Parliament, went up the London Eye, saw Big Ben and the changing of the guard, and went to see the musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. London was full of statues, said Rosborough. In one square, there were four huge lion statues guarding the square, and a different statue in each corner. Because they couldn’t decide what to put in one corner permanently, the statue there changes every 18 months, and a vote will occur to choose the permanent statue. When Rosborough’s group visited, she said, the statue there was a giant blue rooster.

Rosborough said her favorite parts of the trip were rappelling and the home stay. While she doesn’t have plans to formally share her experiences, she talks about it a lot wherever she goes, she said. “It’s definitely worth the money,” she added. She funded her trip by selling peppermint bark, using money she had saved, holding a clock raffle, and she also had some family members who contributed to the trip. 

Alison Rosborough, Isabella’s mother, said “It was amazing – and a lot of work. She worked really hard to get there,” she added. While on the trip, “She did things that you wouldn’t be exposed to if you were doing it as a family,” said Alison. The trip moved beyond sightseeing and allowed them to meet people and become a part of the culture. The only drawback, Alison said, is that Isabella can’t wait to go on the next one. “It took us two years to raise the money – so I’m thinking it will be another two years before she goes again,” she said. 

Isabella agreed – she is eager to go on more trips like the one she took this summer. “I want to do more European countries, and I really want to do Japan. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan,” she said.

Photos are Isabella with Emma, her homestay sister, and the other one is with the all the kids - the girls she stayed with and the two neighbors - from left to right Emma, Linda, Nicola, Agatha and Isabella.

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