Teen travels to Australia as a student ambassador
by Kate Evans
Berkeley Springs High School student Brittany Holt traveled to Australia for three weeks this summer as a student ambassador for the People To People program. She left for Australia on Monday, July 2 and returned on Saturday, July 21. She is the daughter of Jason and Donna Holt.
A teacher nominated Holt for the program. Holt, who will be a junior this year, was surprised to get an invitation to be a student ambassador in the mail. She was interviewed and accepted into the program a few weeks later.
Holt traveled with a delegation of 28 kids and their chaperones. The delegation had two groups, one with students from Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia and the other from Missouri. Three teachers traveled with the tri-county group as chaperones, said Holt.
The delegation traveled from Sydney, Australia to Cairns, Australia in the northern part of the continent. They climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and saw spectacular views of the city, she said.
Other sites they visited included the Olsen's Capricorn Caves, the rain forest, a Chinese teahouse, a huge chess set in Hyde Park, the lighthouse at Cape Byron and an opera house that had an organ with a thousand pipes.
At an Aboriginal Cultural Park, Holt and her delegation threw spears and boomerangs and heard stories of aborigine culture and mythology, said Holt. The group also went to Tangalooma Island where they fed wild dolphins and went sand tobogganing.
Great Barrier Reef favorite
Holt's favorite site was the Great Barrier Reef, the home of 1,500 species of fish. She sailed in a glass-bottom boat and saw clownfish, starfish and the spout of a humpback whale. The colors of the coral were amazing and the water was crystal blue, she said.
During her stay in Australia, Holt saw kangaroos, crocodiles and other wild animals. She held a baby crocodile twice and also held a baby koala and a baby carpet python.
Holt stayed with an Australian family at their home and also on an Australian farm. Each stay lasted two days and one night.
Raised $6,000 for trip
Holt had to raise $6,000 for her trip. She did it through fundraising and her church, which is Beacon Baptist Church. Holt sold candy, did recycling and wrote letters to local businesses. Bob's Tires, Clark's and Mi Ranchitos helped sponsor her trip.
Holt and her parents went to orientation meetings before the trip to learn the protocol for being a student ambassador and got to know the chaperones beforehand.
Holt kept a daily journal to get school credit for her trip. She also prepared a brochure on Australia before she left. Holt was busy with activities through the day but got to meet local people at night while they were hanging out at the hotels and restaurants.
The population in Australia is very diverse, consisting of Asians, New Zealanders, Canadians, British and Australians, she said. Holt also met aborigines.
"The people were really nice. They just came up and started talking to you. It was pretty cool," she said.
They didn't see a cricket game, but their leader taught them how to play Rugby, which is similar to football. Rugby and soccer are the biggest Australian sports, she said.
Australia was very Americanized in places with McDonald's and other fast food restaurants, said Holt. It was winter in Australia during Holt's stay with the temperatures in the l'50s.
The language was different. Australians had different words for things, like sunnies for sunglasses and trackies for sweatpants, said Holt. The first week it took them a while to understand what people were talking about, but they caught on after a while, she said.
Would recommend it
Holt said she would recommend the experience to others. She has been invited to go as a student ambassador again next year to England, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Holt's dad Jason Holt was very pleased with the People to People student ambassador program. He wished he could have joined it as a kid, he said. Her trip taught them a lot they didn't know about Australia, he said.
"It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Brittany Holt.
Holt said she likes to read fiction and fantasy. She is a huge fan of the Harry Potter series and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. She also likes animals and computers and likes art and business computer classes in school.
She said she made a lot of friends during her trip.
"I'm ready to go back," said Holt.
For more information about the People To People program, go to www.studentambassador.com.