Alumni Spotlight: Evelina Ogrodniczuk

15 year old girl from Pennsylvania, in love with traveling.

Photos

Why did you choose this program?

I chose Travel For Teens because I really liked what the company offered. Having two European parents, I grew up hearing about the wonders and history of Europe. I wanted to have the same type of eye opening travel experiences my parents grew up with, but my school never offered international trips. TFT provided me with a way to see the world in a safe and productive way.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Travel For Teens had basically everything covered trip-wise. They booked the hotels for me and my fellow travelers, they created flexible itineraries, and provided amazing trip leaders to guide us. They also worked with my parents to book the group flight. The only thing I personally had to organize was my suitcase!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Keep an open mind. A few kids on our trip didn’t have the sunny experience I did because they were constantly comparing what they saw in Italy to life back in the US. It's important to embrace the culture you are in and realize that different isn’t always bad. It was my positive outlook and the positive energy of the group leaders that gave me the amazing experience that I had on this trip.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Every day was something new, which was refreshing.

Most mornings would start with a relaxed breakfast in our hotel, and our trip leader would tell us what was on the itinerary for the day. We’d usually be out and about by 9:00am, and off to our first destination. Typically, if the location wasn’t too far, we’d walk the whole way. That was a good time to catch up with friends, take pictures of our surroundings, or make mental notes of where we wanted to stop in our free time. As we were in Italy, we visited lots of monuments and cathedrals.

After one or two locations in that part of the city, we’d break for lunch and get some free time to explore the neighborhood in smaller groups. We loved shopping for souvenirs and trying new gelato shops. Once the whole group was back together, we’d visit our next location, usually with an added twist. One day, we had a photo scavenger hunt around Florence, another we went swimming in the Mediterranean. The best moments were when we got to explore with a few friends and feel like regular Italian teenagers. And there was always lots of time for those moments.

After our afternoon activities, we’d walk to a new restaurant and enjoy a lovely meal with all of our friends and recap the day. We might stop to another little dessert shop or local hangout on our way back to the hotel. Once we were back in our rooms, the fun times kept rolling. Most nights me and my roommates would play games, haven impromptu dance parties or talk to some locals in the lobby. Either way, every day carried a new memory.

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 think I was always a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to be become friends with my fellow travelers. Once I was dropped off at the airport to meet everyone for the first time, it was slightly awkward. We were all a bit shy at first. So I made a conscious effort to talk to as many of them as I could, even if the conversation was as simple as “What are you most excited for?” Luckily, once we landed in Rome and got to talking, a few of the girls and I became fast friends. And then we kept branching out to our other group members and got to know them better too. One way we did that was by simply sitting next to someone new at dinner.

By the end of the trip, I definitely found some lifelong friends. We even bought a little souvenir that we mail around to each other every few months, so it keeps us together despite the distance. I now realize that making friends on a TFT trip is actually really easy. As long as you’re open and willing, you can become friends with anyone.

Is it as fun as it looks? Why should I go?

My answer is always that it will change your life. I understand that that sounds dramatic, but it truly changed mine. Going to Italy with Travel for Teens changed my perspective on the world. I couldn’t stop smiling on the whole trip, and once I came back home, it followed through.

With TFT, you get to meet so many new people and see so many new things every day. Have you ever stepped where great artists created their masterpieces, and been in complete shock? Have you ever squeezed through hidden streets to find the most beautiful shops owned by the loveliest people? Have you ever made lifelong memories with people you only just met? Everything about my trip with TFT taught me about the world and filled me with light and laughter.

Again, it sounds like I’m kidding, but TFT was so much more than just a trip. And that’s why I’m traveling with them again this summer.