People to People International connects students to new cultures

Annie Matheis, News Editor

A letter arrived in the mail with People to People Ambassador Program stamped on the envelope.

Sophomore Alex Robinson tossed the letter aside, believing it to be a scam. But, after researching it online, Alex found out People to People is an organization meant to bring different cultures together.

“I have always been interested in foreign countries and their cultures,” he said. “Plus, I just love the architecture of their buildings — it’s just interesting. I love history.”

Alex then attended an informational meeting, where he went through an informal interview process.

He was then accepted to their summer program, where he would visit France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy over the course of 20 days.

However, Alex said his family’s financial situation could not cover the $7,000 fee due May 1.

Alex’s father Mitch Robinson said he thinks it is great that Alex is striving to raise the money to travel.

“We couldn’t afford to just shell out $7,000 for him to go to Europe,” he said. “If he really wanted to do this, he needed to obtain that goal for himself. I am very proud of him for stepping up to the plate and attempting to do that. We will find a way, one way or another, to get the rest of the money he is short.”

Alex’s parents will be able to provide around $1,500 for the trip.

Alex has relied on donations so far to pay for the trip. The money would cover transportation, accommodations, meals, educational activities, insurance, zone fare and a passport.

Alex’s itinerary includes seeing the Eiffel Tower, talking to French government representatives, visiting a Holocaust concentration camp and blowing glass in Venice.

Alex said if he doesn’t reach his goal, he will donate all the money he raised to the Kansas City Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Alex is applying for the available scholarships through the program worth $1,000 to help with the payments.

Mitch said he is coming to the realization that Alex is going to be fine in Europe.

“I’m a little bit nervous because he is going to be leaving the country, but I know that the organization is well-respected for keeping their students safe,” Mitch said. “I think it is a great opportunity, and I am sure he is going to be just fine traveling.”

In the summer of 2010, sophomore Jamie Chaffin traveled for a two-week period to Australia through People to People.

While there, she was able to hold koala bears, see attractions and learn how to surf.

Chaffin’s parents agreed to pay for half of the trip, but she was responsible for providing the rest of the money.

She used some money from her savings, but she also received money for Christmas and her birthday and from cleaning houses.

“It’s going to be hard, but if you have the motivation to do it, it’s really worthwhile,” she said.

Chaffin said the experience was exceptional, and she would do it again if given the chance.

“It’s people your own age,” she said. “Your not traveling with you parents, having to go see all the oldie stuff they want to go see — you get to see the stuff you are actually interested in seeing. I think it was a lot better trip than it would have been with my parents.”

Alex said he thinks all the hard work he is putting into the trip will make him be more grateful if it happens.

“My mom always reminds me, ‘You better appreciate it; it might be the only time you are going,” he said.

He said he believes the experience will be much more unique than if he was traveling on his own.

“They hire all of the experts; they already know what they are going to do before they go over there,” he said. “We get to meet people you wouldn’t normally be able to meet. They are teaching you as you are going and giving you information you would not receive otherwise.”