Emily Rock will be spending several weeks this summer taking in some of Europe’s most iconic landmarks.
The soon-to-be sophomore at Whitehall High School will spend three weeks in Europe as a People to People ambassador.
“I’m very excited,” said Emily. “My mother is a little nervous but I’m not.”
The People to People movement was launched in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the ambassador program is the organization’s global educational travel provider.
Emily said she first learned of the program after a friend received a letter detailing what the organization does.
“My mom suggested that it was something I should do, so we went to a People to People meeting in Saratoga,” said Emily.
After learning more about the program, she and her mother, Heidi, scheduled an appointment, applied, and were accepted.
But there was one small catch: they had to figure out how to pay for the trip.
Although there are scholarships available, the People to People program is not free. Rock’s trip will cost approximately $8,300 and that doesn’t include spending money.
So Rock sat down and started writing letters to local businesses and residents seeking their support.
“I sent out probably 500 letters,” said Rock, who in some cases went door-to-door seeking help.
The hard work paid off. Between donations, a few small fundraisers, and her own personal savings, Rock was able to raise about $2,000.
Her parents pitched in the rest, with one caveat; she would have to work it off by helping her father at his landscaping business.
The trip will be the first time Rock has ever been in an airplane, about the only part of the trip that made her nervous.
“She told me, ‘Mom, I’m scared to go on a plane,’ and I told her you’re more likely to get in a car crash than a plane crash. Three hours later we got rear-ended,” said Heidi Rock. “After that she wasn’t scared any more.”
The program in which she is enrolled is called the “Heart of Europe.”
Rock will attend a bon voyage party at the end of month and will depart for Rome on Friday, July 6.
She will spend a week in Italy, three days in Austria, another three days in Germany, and one day in Switzerland before the trip comes to an end with five days in France.
Rock will visit the Vatican, learn how olive oil is made, tour the canals of Venice, bake Austrian apfelstrudel, learn traditional folk dances, explore the Chateau de Versailles, and stand atop the Eiffel Tower.
She will also spend three days living with a family in Germany, practicing their customs.
“They don’t stop their daily lives. You eat what they eat and do what they do,” said Emily, who has a German heritage.
She said all that pales, however, to the events planned for Sunday, July 15.
“The highlight of the trip is the chance to meet a survivor from a concentration camp,” Emily said.
Her mother said Emily enjoys reading books on female Holocaust survivors so the chance to meet an actual survivor in the flesh really puts it into perspective.
Emily, who is an avid dancer, hopes to spend a semester aboard studying when she is in college.
“This will be an opportunity for her to get her foot in the door and see what it’s like,” said Heidi. “She’s very excited.”