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Cheshire student Alex Houseman admits that he was nervous when he walked in to interview for a spot on a People To People delegation in the fall of last year.
There, with two other potential candidates for the spot, the Dodd Middle School seventh grader was prepared to be peppered with questions, but had no idea what they would be.
“They asked me who I would miss most if I went on the trip,” remembered Houseman. “They also asked me what I would say if someone offered me something I might not like while I was in their home. It was a little tough.”
When it was over, Houseman didn't reflect on his answers or his performance before the representatives ultimately deciding his fate. He was just happy the whole thing was over.
“All I felt was relieved,” Houseman recalled. “I really didn't feel anything else. Then, I started to think about it and I thought I did really good. That's when I got excited.”
Houseman was right. His answers, along with an assortment of other reference materials, had been enough to convince those representatives that Houseman was right for the program and, this summer, Houseman will be spending his time touring the United Kingdom, taking in the sights and sounds of a foreign country steeped in history.
“I can't wait,” said Houseman. “It is a long ways away, but I am already excited to go.”
The People To People Ambassador Program sponsors student and adult trips to a variety of locales around the world, introducing American citizens to different cultures and exotic ways of life. But, this isn't a simple vacation. For student ambassador programs, especially, those attending are required to attend meetings to learn about the country to which they will be traveling. They are also asked to independently research the nations to better understand their customs, history, and current affairs.
As ambassadors, however, students are also required to become intimately acquainted with American history and current civics. They take online quizzes to ensure that they are prepared to represent their country while abroad. When overseas, the students are asked to keep a journal and many are required to make a presentation to their class upon returning to school the following year.
That, of course, is assuming the student is accepted to be a part of a regional delegation to begin with. Houseman became interested in People To People after his friend participated in it last year. The stories of travel and experiences in a foreign country related by his friend were exciting, and Houseman decided to explore signing on with a delegation, himself.
That started a long process of applications, references, essay questions, and, ultimately, the interview to solidify his place on the team.
When Houseman originally looked into the program, he had hoped to travel to Italy to explore his own heritage, yet no trips were planned there from this area, so Houseman instead signed up to possibly go to the United Kingdom.
After his interview with the delegation leader, Houseman eagerly waited to hear whether he had been accepted. When the news came, he was ecstatic.
“There was a lot of happiness,” admitted Houseman. “I was overjoyed.”
The news came, first, to Alex's mother Robyn, who was home at the time the phone call came.
“They asked me if I wanted to be the one to tell him,” said Robyn Houseman. “I said, 'no, call back and tell him then.'”
When Alex came home from school that day, he could tell there was something his mother wasn't telling him.
“She did a good job of not telling me,” he said, with a smile.
“I wish I was going with him,” said Robyn Houseman, with a laugh. “I am nervous he is going, of course, but an opportunity like this only comes along once in a lifetime. It costs quite a bit, but it is worth it.”
That cost means Houseman and his family will be doing quite a bit of fundraising over the next few months to try and offset the price of the program. Already, Robyn Houseman has hosted a Zumba fundraiser, where those interested in getting into shape through the dance-oriented workout came out to learn from Robyn Houseman and donate to the cause.
“People were so generous, we did better than we thought,” she admitted.
Other events are also planned in the future, such as a garage sale and collecting redeemable cans later in the year.
But, for Houseman, his focus remains on what will be his first trip outside of the North American continent.
“We are going to all the islands. We will be visiting Parliament and Lake Loch Ness,” said Houseman. “I can't wait to see everything and meet new people.”
The trip is scheduled for the end of July.