From Penn Yan to Australia with People to People program

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Sierra Webster with a Koala

Sierra (Carey) Webster, who will be starting her junior year at Penn Yan Academy in September, spent 12 days in Australia this summer with the People to People program.

Sierra, who is planning to go into Physical or Occupational Therapy in college, took time to write about her trip. The following is her account of the experience:

The People to People program takes kids in grade 5 through college age to explore other cultures.

To become involved and travel with People to People, you must be nominated by a teacher or community member.  This is done because they felt I had the characteristics of a leader. People to People sent me a letter early August of last year and the rest is history. Right after the orientation meeting, I started fund raising, selling everything from suckers, raffle baskets, duct tape flower pens (I sold over 2000 of these) and several donations from the community (A huge

Thank you goes out to Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Dundee Masonic Lodge #123, friends and family and my “Big Sister” Christy Reynolds and ‘Mom and Dad Miller’ for making this trip a reality for me) People to People has been creating student ambassadors for 50 years and giving them the opportunity to travel the world.

I started my journey to Australia on June 24, when I flew to Texas, where my delegation was from. On June 25, I met with all the students and leaders that I would be traveling with for the next 12 days. We then boarded the plane for our almost 20-hour flight. This year, I didn’t get to see the day of June 26, as we were crossing the International Date Line.

While I was in Australia, I visited many breathtaking and educational places. On the first day, I went to the Sydney Cricket Grounds, and a cruise of the Sydney Harbor. The second day, we went to an opal store, the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach for surfing lessons. The next day, we flew to the beautiful Hamilton Island and took a ferry to Daydream Island. On our fourth day, we went to the Great Barrier Reef, where we snorkeled and met a marine biologist to learn about the sea life.  The next day we went to an Aboriginal site, where we learned to throw a boomerang and watched a traditional dance including playing of the didgeridoo.

Halfway through our trip, we split into small groups as we stayed with a host family and got to experience how Australians actually live.  The morning we left our home stay we hopped on yet another bus where we went to the Australian Zoo, founded by the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin.

At the zoo, we visited the koala hospital and had our picture taken with a koala. On our last full day in Australia, we pretty much had a day of riding in the bus and shopping until later in the evening, when we went to the Hard Rock Cafe. That night, we got to choose three others we wanted to room with. This was not a hard decision because since day one, there were four of us (who had never met before June 25) that got very close through this whole experience, Spencer, Beckey, and Kristen. We definitely made the most of our last night Down Under.

It is hard to say what my favorite part was, since every day was full of new and exciting adventures that was a whole new culture outside of Penn Yan. I really liked holding the koala at the zoo, but snorkeling was also a great experience for me.

My journey of Australia sadly ended on July 6.

Sierra Webster