Why did you choose this program?
I chose the Europe for Older Teens trip because it had a great balance between cultural exploration and outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming.
Having never been to Europe, I liked how the program offered a very in-depth but quick overview of the sights so we could see more in the limited time we had. I quickly found out that I love these types of trips that have a fast pace that allow you to see more for the money you spend.
Additionally, I wanted a program that would take a guided approach to showing us the sights of Europe, however, as one of my goals was gaining a better sense of who I was as an emerging adult, I appreciated the amount of freedom the trip gave.
Wholeheartedly, I chose the trip because it offered me the adventure I craved with the cultural differences to challenge how I view my world as an emerging young adult.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
This trip was the perfect first outing. Travel for Teens is very invested in making sure the trip runs as smoothly as possible. I did not have to organize anything on my own. Even at the airport, there were counselors helping travelers to their intended destinations.
A great example of the organization's level of commitment happened when we were going to Giverny. We encountered some difficulties on the way, but the director of the company herself came to help us reach our intended destination.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Make the most out of every instance. It's corny, I know, but sometimes the best advice is the most overused for a reason. Due to the fast-paced nature of this trip, there were multiple instances where I felt exhausted and would rather stay in the hotel than explore a new part of the city. Every time I thought this way, venturing out and exploring would quickly prove my thoughts wrong.
These trips are the memories of a lifetime and you get out what you put in. This is a once in a lifetime trip full of adventure and a community that will influence you for the rest of your life.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Wow, is it packed! From the early morning to late at night, Travel for Teens made sure every moment held some significance to the trip.
Since our trip spanned three continents, a travel day would consist of early morning trains to reach our next destination. Once settled in, no day was like the other. We could go to a museum, have the city's traditional lunch, then hike to the best views of the city, then finish with a dinner and exploring more of the city at night. We ventured to beach towns, metropolitan cities, and cultural icons of Europe.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I was quite nervous to leave home. I grew up going to summer camps but I had never left the country without my family. A two-hour car ride away turned into an eight-hour plane ride away. Yet, when we arrived, my fears immediately dissipated.
Our counselors were welcoming and immediately kept us busy to ward off any lingering traces of homesickness or culture shock. The group was inclusive and bonded together quickly.
After passing this initial threshold of nervousness, I quickly learned that there was nothing to be afraid of. When you travel, a support system can be found if you just manage to look, whether that be in the people you meet in your travels or the similarities you find between your home culture and your destination's culture.
How would you recommend immersing yourself in the culture of your destination?
Two things: try to learn the language and eat the dishes common to the area.
I believe food and language are some of the main connectors of humanity. Thus, every time I travel, I try to experience the daily life of those who live there.
As someone who natively speaks English, I find it appalling that people assume everyone knows English. People are more receptive when you make an effort to try and speak their language first even if they speak English.
Additionally, since food makes up such a big part of a culture, I would recommend trying local dishes. Sometimes you'll surprise yourself (I ended up eating snails, a feat I swore I would never accomplish). Other times you'll end up with a great story (like unknowingly ordering a fish with its head still attached).