A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.
My PTPI Story
Nervous; most definitely. Excited; overwhelming so. Exhausted; to say the least. It had been nine months since I received my invitation to become a People to People Student Ambassador. This program immerses students into a new culture and educates them on how to live in an interconnected world. My time spent preparing for and going to Australia on this 17 day experiential learning trip not only taught me the importance of hard work and determination but also provided me with a life changing opportunity.
Fundraising was a necessary first step in my planning. Two other students and I teamed up to develop creative strategies to help fund the trip. It was important to us that we provided donors with something of value, rather than just asking for handouts. To address this, we approached dozens of local businesses asking them to take part in a program where residents would purchase a card and receive discounts on goods and services. We sold these door-to-door for a couple months and sold a total of about 400. In addition, we held a vendor fair and teamed up with small local businesses to promote their offerings to the community. In return, we received a percentage of their profits that day for our trip.
Research and planning were also critical in the preparation process. We would have monthly meetings at which we would discuss costs, solidify plans, and receive homework. The first task I was given was to explore who I am. I had to come up with facts about myself and my own culture so that I was capable of sharing my home to the people welcoming us to theirs’. We also researched the program and why it was developed by President Eisenhower. Additionally, I explored the culture of Australia through a year-long research project.
Once in this new country, I tried many things I never thought I would have before and really pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. We spent time with an Aboriginal tribe and learned about many of their customs and traditions. We practiced dot painting and they even encouraged us to eat some green ants (which, surprisingly, tasted like Sour Patch Kids). One day, we attended an outdoor adventure camp where we would have to rappel down a cliff. Being terrified of heights, this was insanely nerve-racking. However, I was comforted by encouragement from my peers and I jumped. Another day was focused on giving back by planting trees at a nursery in Darwin. It was incredible to see the sights that we had learned about in person, such as the Australian War Memorial and the Australian Parliament.
Toward the end of the trip we participated in a homestay with a local family. Being the introverted middle-schooler that I was, this was a great experience for me. I absolutely loved the family that I stayed with. This connection improved my communication skills noticeably and had a lasting effect.
This trip allowed me to blossom into the person that I am, and has helped prepare me not only for high school, but college as well. It taught me how to take care of myself and really forced me to become independent. This adventure also taught me the importance of being goal-oriented, responsible, dependable, and kind. Reflecting upon it, I feel as though I have a new perspective on life. I am proud to say that I successfully survived the land down under.
We have 23,700 members around the world, and each has a story to tell. Discover the drives, dreams and ambitions of our PTPI network members, and then share your story with us. It’s how we break down barriers to peace and understanding.
Thank you for your ongoing support for our mission at People to People International. We, as a whole, continue to strive to live up to the legacy of world peace. But every day we make a choice to make a difference. That difference cannot be made without you and your contributions. Only together can we create everlasting peace and only together can we strive for and achieve greatness.
Merrill Eisenhower Atwater joined People to People International as the Chief Operating Officer in January 2018 and in April of that same year, he became Chief Executive Officer.