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Bluestone student travels Europe with People For People

SoVaNow.com / April 03, 2013
Regan Booths is a senior at Bluestone High School. Last summer she was invited to serve as a youth ambassador from the United States to Europe through the People to People Program, a cultural exchange program for students between the ages of 10 and 18. People to People originated with President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Since its founding, nearly one-half million students have participated in the program.

The following is Regan’s story about her experiences with People to People and how it helped shape her plans for the future to become a pastry chef:

It took many months of preparation to get ready for traveling overseas to Europe, an amazing journey that would not have happened without the support of many people in my local community.

Unfortunately, my adventure started out on a low note. First, my mother and I had to drive to Lynchburg to meet my travel group. This was followed by a nearly 3 hour drive to Washington, DC before we could embark on our plane to Rome, Italy. When our group finally arrived at the airport, it took us another 3 hours to get through security and get our tickets.

As we waited in the gate area, we learned that our plane had technical problems and our flight was postponed until the following day. With no backup plan, we were forced to sleep in the airport. Around 5:30 in the morning, our leaders were finally able to get us into a hotel. That afternoon around 4:00, we took off. The whole plane was filled with cheers.

Our first stops, after arriving in Rome, were at the catacombs and Vatican City. Our group had a 3 hour tour in Vatican City, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the gorgeous Sistine Chapel. This was followed by a delicious dinner of lasagna, salad, and tiramisu. Then, a few of us took a long walk to the famous Trevvi Fountain. We each made a wish and tossed in a coin!

Day two, after breakfast we visited the Roman Coliseum, walking around the entire thing! From there we were off to Voltera. The trip offered up amazing scenery even if the roads were crazy!

On July 4 my group had a 2 hour tour of Voltera, including locations where some Twilight scenes were filmed. We visited a workshop where alabaster was carved. It was really dusty. I even saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa! It was really cool.

The following morning we awoke on a farm, our next stop on our European adventure. One of the purposes of the People to People program is to learn about the daily lives of others. While at the farm, my traveling companions and I made bread and pasta, did a weaving project, hiked around the farm, brushed the horses, and played with the animals. I even held a 5-day old baby lamb!

After learning various tasks on the farm, we traveled to Florence to the Academia Gallery. We saw the Statue of David and a realistic crying sculpture.

On this day, we each met our host families, the people who we would stay with for the next 3 days in Italy. My family was super friendly; their names were Amanda who was my age, Francesco, Carlo, and Roberta. Amanda and I took a walk to try some gelato and I met Amanda’s friend Sara.

Day one with my host family was a trip to Venice. We visited San Marco’s Basilica and some beautiful gardens. For dinner, we ate pizza. The coolest thing was that there was a pizza with French fries on it, and boy was it good!!!

On my final day with my host family, I gave them all gifts and big hugs. I would miss them a lot. Then I left for the train station so we, my travel group and I, could take a train over to Venice. While in Venice this time, I visited the Bridge of Sighs and also went on a gondola ride!

On Day 12, I had chocolate croissants for the first time and they are amazing!

After Italy we traveled by bus to Austria! We learned 2 dances, walked through the woods barefoot, drank indescribable water from a natural spring, stood in a freezing cold river, and for our first night in Austria, stayed in an old barn with tents and bunk beds.

We even toured a castle building site where they are trying to construct a castle with the same methods and tools used during Medieval times. We also saw St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the Imperial Palace, and the Manner Shop.

After visiting all of the exciting places in Vienna, our delegation met a holocaust survivor and then toured a concentration camp. It was very intense, the stories were unimaginable, and many people were in tears.

From Vienna we moved on to Salzburg and the birthplace of Mozart, the opera house where Sound of Music was filmed, a monastery, a restaurant started in 803, and a bakery that was making fresh bread. We even stopped at a tourism school to learn how to make apfel strudel. It was very delicious and easy to make.

We made a quick stop to tour a beautiful cathedral in Strasbourg before heading to Paris!

Our first meal in Paris included salad, cheese stuffed bread, chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, and Neapolitan ice cream. This was followed by a lunch the next day of escargot.

After lunch, we were off to the Eiffel Tower. I climbed up 670 steps to the second level of that massive structure just so I could see the amazing view from the top. It was so worth it. I also witnessed a wedding on the street below as I descended the tower stairs.

On day 19, we went to the Louvre to visit the Mona Lisa, as well as other beautiful sculptures and paintings. This was followed by a bus tour of the Arc de Triumph, Notre Dame, Montmartre, and the Basilique de Sacre Coeur (which means the Sacred Heart Basilica).

That was the last day of my adventure in Europe.

Now back home in Virginia I am trying to raise money for college, to pursue my dream as a pastry chef. My experiences with food in Europe inspired me to follow my dream. I have been accepted into the Baking and Pastry Arts Program at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, N.C., and plan to start in the fall.

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