Do you have any first or second hand knowledge on the "People to People Ambassador Programs", based in Washington DC?
September 19, 2012 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any first or second hand knowledge on the "People to People Ambassador Programs", based in Washington DC?

I have a child in 6th grade and recently we received information on a program called the "People to People Ambassador Programs". From the looks of it they are a legit organization, and have been in existence for many years, but I have never heard of them.

I'm looking for any info people may have on the organization, or even better if you have been a part of it (or know someone who was). Specifically, he is looking at the program to Alaska seen here.
posted by jeremias to Education (21 answers total)
I was invited to go to Australia with them many, many moons ago (early 90s). Near as our research at the time could uncover, they're not so much a scam as a really really expensive trip.

And, despite what the letter would have you believe, it's not a prestigious honor to be invited. The company bought your child's name from a mailing list. Most kids at my school got an invitation to their informational meeting.

As my parents couldn't afford it at the time, I didn't end up going.
posted by inturnaround at 9:40 AM on September 19, 2012

I have a grandson in 6th grade and would love to help him go on a wonderful trip. I just spent a few minutes looking at their site and could not find the cost of trips anywhere, that makes me suspicious!
posted by mareli at 9:44 AM on September 19, 2012

As a secondary director, I am asked every year to "nominate" kids for this trip. The form has enough space for tens of kids and there are no real qualifications to nominate them. As inturnaround said, it is just an expensive tour trip.
posted by _DB_ at 9:45 AM on September 19, 2012

When we were in high school, I had a friend whose sister went on an Australia trip. It wasn't a revelatory experience, but she had a good time and had her horizons reasonably broadened. It's much more expensive than taking a family trip overseas, but if you value the kid having that experience with a peer group instead of the family, it may be worth considering.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:45 AM on September 19, 2012

I don't know anything about the program, but the Alaska itinerary would be super-doable as a family trip (or mother/son - father/son). Even with two airfares, it would probably be cheaper.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:46 AM on September 19, 2012

My daughter received such an invitation, and we went to the introductory meeting. Somewhere we found a brochure with the prices published, and it seemed clear that for the cost of sending her to Europe with them for four weeks, i could take the two of us to Europe for four weeks, and not on a shoestring budget either. They had a great deal of material on what a great opportunity it was, including some specious correlation=causation claims about how many of the participants go on to college, but in general I was not impressed.
posted by ubiquity at 9:53 AM on September 19, 2012

My sister did this, and, as Holy Zarquon noted, it was a good time and her horizons were broadened. She still keeps in touch with her homestay family, and the daughter even came to visit her a few years ago when they were in the States.

P2P are very well-prepared with dealing with overseas and travel issues. In the meetings, we learned lots of little bits of travel advice that I still use.
posted by hmo at 9:58 AM on September 19, 2012

I was invited to go in 5th grade. Not a scam. Once you've been invited, you can go the next year or the year after. I have friends in real life who attended and they had a lot of fun.
The first year I was invited, my delegation was going to Australia and my parents thought that was way too far for me. The PtP reps said that I could go with another delegation that was going to Western Europe if we were willing to drive to a different county for monthly meetings. So you do not necessarily had to send your son with the local delegation if you have issues with him traveling to a particular destination.
posted by lovelygirl at 10:00 AM on September 19, 2012

My son traveled with them to Austrailia for 21 days in 2004 when he was 14. It is a legit organization but just as others have posted your child is not all that "special" for being selected and it is quite expensive for what it is. That being said he had a wonderful time, learned how to travel sort of on his own (without mon & dad) and made some really good friends. It also really opened his eyes to the opportunities to travel.

They had lots of prep and info meetings and the parents really got involved with everything. The only thing I didn't like was the main group leader was not as on the ball as she should have been so communication with parents during the trip was not as it should have been.

I say if you can afford it and your child is mature enough go for it.

posted by MrsMGH at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2012's a bit more than all that, for one: they invented the concept of "pen pals" (yep, thats them)...and it's more than just an expensive actually get to visit the kid you've been writing to (or most do, anyway...there are travel complications...for example, a large tour group might not make it to every pen pals home town, but they do try to hit the major cities nearby, to make it easier to meet)
I went with them to the soviet union (and it was one of the few ways to travel there at the time iirc) thru my russian class in high school, after participating in the pen pal program as a class activity. It was a whole lot of fun (even though i was without my luggage for the whole 3 week trip...good riddance eastern airlines!), very educational, we had great guides and chaperones, saw an amazing cross-section of culture, art, and history, visited both major cities and small towns...i have a bunch of great memories...
But, what really stands out for me about the p2p program as a whole, and the best reason to go with them, is their whole concept of "student ambassadors", that when you travel, you represent your country, and that you need to treat the culture you are visiting with dignity and respect, no matter how alien or backwards it seems to you...that you are indeed visiting someones home. I am constantly amazed, in my other travels, how few of my fellow americans seem to grasp this fact (and dont get so smug, england, ive SEEN u on vacation), really, you're going to eat that chili dog (and where did u even FIND that?) right here in the Louvre? Really? Srsly?
posted by sexyrobot at 10:18 AM on September 19, 2012

I remember being "selected" for one of their trips when I was in middle school. I somehow managed to drag my parents to the information session. Even at the time, it was really expensive. There was some sort of fund-raising aspect to it as well, as I recall, probably to make the bottom-line cost a bit easier to swallow.

The cost was the deal-breaker for my family; there was no way they were paying as much as a family vacation just to send me to Australia (or wherever) for a few weeks. I got told I had to wait until highschool, and do a regular study-abroad semester instead (which would have actually been cheaper since you're not paying for a bunch of chaperones). Of course, by the time I got to highschool I didn't want to part with my friends for that long, and never did it ... which was probably my parents' cunning plan all along.

Anyway, I don't think it's a scam or anything, just a pricey trip. Probably a neat experience if you can afford to do it without your kid incurring any guilt... although on the other hand, if you can afford it without trouble, there are probably a lot of even-more-interesting experiences that you could arrange for the same price.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:19 AM on September 19, 2012

I had two close friends do it in high school; I think it was the first time for both of them that they had been out of the country, and it was a really big deal for them. So definitely not a scam, probably over-priced, does provide slightly more advanced cultural interactions than just your average trip abroad. If he's interested in more domestic sites like Alaska, you might also look at the Outward Bound camps, and there are probably normal summer camps in Alaska that might cover the same material but at a lower cost.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:28 AM on September 19, 2012

I don't know of any kids going on it, but a friend of mine goes on the trips as a chaperone to the kids. She's been to Australia and to France/Italy. She had a blast both times and I guess if you go as a chaperone they actually pay you to do it! It sounds like a pretty sweet way to travel, if you like kids.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:38 AM on September 19, 2012

It's a very pricy trip, but you get to do a lot of stuff that would be serious work to arrange otherwise.

I went to Australia with them when I was 14. Three weeks, starting in Queensland and working our way down the east coast to Sydney. We went snorkling at the Great Barrier Reef. We spent the night at a cattle ranch where we wrestled calves, nibbled tentatively at bull testicles fresh off the bull, and had the ranch hands teach us to crack whips. All kinds of wildlife area visits. We went to a crocodile farm and a golf course that's famous for being dense with kangaroos. I got boomerang throwing lessons from indigenous Australians. There was a brief homestay. It was pretty great, all around.

And it was the first time I had been on a trip without my parents, which is kind of invaluable.
posted by zjacreman at 11:02 AM on September 19, 2012

I still, to this day, have an otherwise inexplicable affinity for Australian hats.
posted by zjacreman at 11:03 AM on September 19, 2012

I did a People to People trip in the early 1990s to Australia and New Zealand. However, nowadays (and maybe even back then) there are lots of other organizations that do this sort of thing, so shop around.

Pros, in my eyes, were that our group was from within an hour of where I lived, so we got to know other kids that lived nearby. The chaperones were local teachers that we met (and my parents met) before the actual trip, so that was a good thing.

It was a life changing experience for me because it was the first major independent thing that I did away from my parents.

The "bad" stuff that happened can happen on any trip. I was amongst the younger participants at 14 or so, and certainly the "older" participants 16 and up exposed me to a lot of things that I wouldn't have been exposed to at that early age (drinking specifically - but I also got exposed to great music!).

I think that I was a little wilder when I came back, due to the taste of independence that I got.

But all of this was my experience at 14, not a 6th grade experience.
posted by k8t at 11:06 AM on September 19, 2012

Oh yeah - I got some college credit for going on the trip. I just had to write a report. It was a huge pain later in life when I had to assemble transcripts (applying to grad school or grants).

The activities we did were not really educationally-oriented, although we did some cultural things - we lived in a Maori village for a day and went to a number of animal centers. We had 2 host stays I think, and those really stuck with me. But we also did fun things like snorkeling.
posted by k8t at 11:09 AM on September 19, 2012

I think one of the things that make P2P different than your standard family vacation is the access that they can give. The kids sometimes stay in homes of locals, and they may have access to semi-private meetings with local government officials or famous cultural people (depending on where you go). Those things are hard to do if you are organizing your own family vacation.
posted by CathyG at 12:37 PM on September 19, 2012

Lots of good advice above -- I went with them to Europe (England, Denmark, Germany, France for 3 wks) in middle school. As others have said, it's a completely legitimate program; I think I even had to interview for my slot. We did lots of basic tourist stuff -- the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower in Paris; my homestay in Denmark was kind of lame, but I did get to see my first R-rated movie out of it, so there was that. It was what put the travel bug in me, and I ended up doing an exchange year in high school and then the Peace Corps largely because of the good experience I had with P2P.

I'm a little sceptical about going somewhere else in the US, though, if only because the "getting out of your own cultural context" thing was important for me -- what do you think your child would get out of it that taking a family vacation up there wouldn't do? On the other hand, even though it was an organized trip, I felt a sense of independence and adventurousness that inspired further travel (my parents had to look up our hotel phone number and call me because I was having such a blast away from home that I didn't bother to call for two and a half weeks). It would definitely at least be something to consider.
posted by wandering steve at 2:29 PM on September 19, 2012

Middle school children of friends have gone within the last year or so, found it expensive but beneficial. We were offered P2P, researched options and for the then price, convinced ours that a more formal exchange summer or single term exchange program through a group such as AFS or YFU would be better if she could wait until she was older. She ended up going for a year, got some HS credit for the classes taken, the PTO gave her some funding, and her colleges really liked it as it was considered more independent than a P2P, or similar highly supervised stay.
posted by beaning at 3:16 PM on September 19, 2012

I traveled with them to the USSR (in 1987, when there was a USSR), and it was a great opportunity to access things I could not have accessed as a tourist. I'm not sure how it would work for a place like Alaska where there aren't the same issues of access, language barriers, and cultural/political sensitivity, but in general I was satisfied with the support the organization provided to our group of teenagers.
posted by judith at 8:19 PM on September 19, 2012

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