Storm Lake High School students Amanda Dose and Dianna Lai had the opportunity to be a part of the People to People Student Ambassador program, traveling to Wales, England and Ireland. And they have a much broader view of the world - "Life is not much different anywhere you go," said Amanda.
The trip was "awesome," said Dianna.
The girls were selected to be a part of the People to People organization last fall, after going through an application and interview process. They met with other Iowa students at Ames each month to become familiar with the countries they would be traveling to and to go over proper ways to act in a foreign country.
The girls also had to raise $4,650 on their own to be a part of the program. They worked hard hosting pancake breakfasts, garage sales and bake sales. Businesses, family members, friends and church members supported the girls. "A big thank you to all of them," said Dianna.
Amanda added, "Without their contributions, we wouldn't have been able to go and wouldn't have been able to experience all this."
The trip began June 7. The 27 Iowa students met in Des Moines and traveled together, meeting up with nine Texas students in London, which they spent the duration of the trip with. There were three Iowa adult leaders and one Texas adult leader who accompanied the students. They were teamed up with an adult leader from London who served as the guide.
England was the first stop. The SL girls were amazed at the history. "On every corner there was history," said Dianna.
They visited Hampton Court Palace, Shakespeare Globe Theater, Stonehenge (the most outstanding prehistoric monument in the British Isle), saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and rode on the London Eye (the largest Ferris Wheel in the world which seats 30 persons on one "capsule.")
Also while in London, the 2004 Euro Soccer Competition was in progress - Portugal vs. England. This event, the girls said, is similar to the Super Bowl that Americans celebrate. The students went on to Wales where they visited Cardiff Castle, Warwick Castle (including taking part in a "haunting" tour of the tower - courtesy of many people in ghostly costumes.) The group stayed in dormitories at Bangor University where they met other People to People students from America. Several activities were planned for the students to take part in including repelling down a 70-foot tower. The girls admitted they were scared to step off the edge but that all the other students did it. Everyone was cheered on by the other students and once it was all over, there was a feeling of accomplishment.
The Iowa/Texas group also stayed at Caer Llan. Originally a private school, the facility has been turned into guest homes.
It was there they also visited a train station and were told the one-word name is the longest in the world with 58 letters! (Neither Dianna nor Amanda wanted to pronounce the name!)
The students took part in a community service project while in Wales, helping chop down trees. These trees are growing everywhere but are unwanted as it has been discovered that they are poisonous to other plants and animals. The trees are yet small and were clipped or removed with a handsaw. It is the goal to rid the country of these trees. More than 700 people have been lined up to help with this endeavor this fall.
The People to People students than traveled by ferry to Ireland. The trip lasted three hours.
Ireland, they said, was one of their favorite places. While there the students had the opportunity to visit Bunratty Castle, Porthooise and the Whispering Wall, and Ireland National Park.
And of course, they kissed the Blarney Stone (well, actually they "air" kissed it - rather disgusted thinking of how many lips had actually been on the stone!)
One of the purposes of the People to People experiences is to expose the students to the history of other countries. Another is to show people of the other countries what good kids America has. The members of the group all wore People to People tags throughout the trip bearing their names. Many people stopped them on the streets to visit with them. "We heard several comments in restaurants that we were one of the best groups they had seen. We wanted to show people that we aren't all loud and crazy and that we are kind and courteous.," said Dianna. "We made our mark there and showed that Americans are interested in world history."
The girls brought home many souvenirs but one of the most unique ones could have been purchased right here in Storm Lake - an Al's Liquor Store t-shirt! The girls were shopping in a store while in England which carried many international t-shirts and were shocked to find a whole selection of shirts from Storm Lake, Iowa!
But the greatest souvenir was the experience of being away from home, making new friends and enjoying the history. "These are things we will never have again in anther experience," said Amanda.
The girls have many, many pictures that they would enjoy sharing with anyone who wishes to see them.
Amanda is the daughter of Dave and Donna Dose and Dianna is the daughter of Cal and Meng Lai.