By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
Laisee Shakespeare, a freshman at Maquoketa Valley High School in Delhi, became a student ambassador with the organization People to People earlier this year. The organization, which started in 1956 by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, encourages young people to have direct interaction with ordinary citizens around the world. It promotes cultural understanding and world peace.
This June, through People to People, Shakespeare visited multiple European countries in a matter of three weeks! She traveled to Ireland, France, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands and England.
Some of the highlights for Shakespeare included the Eifel Tower in Paris, France; the multiple castles all over Europe; and the interaction between people from all over Europe.
“You got to know all types of people on this trip,” said Shakespeare.
She traveled with about 40 other student ambassadors and adults from all over the Midwest, ranging in ages from middle school through high school. The group stayed in dormitories and hotels while on the go.
The People to People organization planned everything for these young people, down to every detail including where they would eat their daily meals. Shakespeare recalled when eating breakfast at one restaurant on her trip, they wanted refills on their drinks. Not knowing the language, she said they handed the servers their glasses, hoping they would bring back the right beverage.
The trip was so well organized that everyone’s food was pre-ordered at the restaurants to cut down on ordering time.
In Ireland, Shakespeare said they got to take horse cart rides through the mountains, and then boat rides to and from the coasts.
While in the Netherlands, she said they heard about people wearing clogs, but didn’t believe it until they actually saw people wearing wooden clogs.
“It was loud when they walked,” Shakespeare said.
One of the other sites and stops on her trip included the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, which is actually located in Frank’s former house.
“It was a lot bigger than I thought,” recalled Shakespeare. She said when reading the book, it’s hard to imagine how big her house truly was.
In England they experienced flying off of a large catapult. Shakespeare said the ride was closed to the public, but open to the student ambassadors.
“Everywhere we went, there were signs welcoming us,” said Shakespeare.
When getting in line to ride the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel situated on the banks of the River Thames, the students received passes to be first in line, a special perk to being an ambassador with People to People.
The group also visited many historical sites, including Normandy, France, where the U.S. landed during World War II on D-Day.
“It was sad seeing all of the thousands of white crosses in the field,” said Shakespeare of the site in Normandy.
While traveling Europe, their People to People group also came across other People to People tours from across the U.S.
Now that she’s back and rested from one trip, Shakespeare is quickly preparing for yet another People to People trip to Washington, D.C. This is not just any trip to our nation’s capital; Shakespeare will be attending President Barack Obama’s inauguration!
The five-day trip will include the sites of D.C.: meeting with Ken Walsh, chief White House correspondent; visiting the Smithsonian, White House, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery; listen to a keynote speech by Mary Jean Eisenhower whose grandfather was Dwight D. Eisenhower; touring the U.S. Capitol building and the Library of Congress; walking the National Mall; attend an exclusive People to People Ambassador Inaugural Ball; and more!
Having never visited D.C. before, Shakespeare said she is looking forward to seeing all of the historic places. She said her teachers at MVHS told her this is an historical trip she couldn’t pass up.
“I’m excited to represent Iowa, my community and my school,” she said.
Of being part of this organization, Shakespeare said it has given her some wonderful opportunities she would not have had otherwise.
“I’ve made a ton of friends and the experience will look great on college applications.”
Shakespeare’s mom, Kyla Shakespeare, said being a student ambassador has opened her daughter up more.
“It’s allowed her to step out of her comfort zone,” noted Kyla. “She’s gained a lot of confidence.”
Shakespeare said, “These trips have allowed me to see how other people live all over the world. You can’t get these experiences from a text book.”
PHOTOS: Top: The People to People tour visited many castles across Europe. Here, Laisee is in the garden at Warwick Castle in the United Kingdom. She said there were peacocks everywhere in the garden, seen in the background of the photo. Bottom: Laisee Shakespeare stands on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. This was just one of the many stops and countries she visited as part of a three-week trip with People to People as a student ambassador. (Photos submitted)