HHS pair gets high on the lands down under

Even though they’ve been home for two and a half months now, a pair of Hillsboro High School students are still enthused about their summer experience in the lands down under.

Adam Driggers, a senior, and Megan Vogel, a junior, were

accepted last spring as student ambassadors with People to People, the organization begun by fellow Kansan Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.

The pair joined 32 other students in the Wichita region for a two-week learning and recreational tour in Australia and New Zealand.

“The purpose of People to People really is to promote understanding between different countries and cultures,” Driggers said. “The best way to learn about a culture is to go there.”

Driggers first became interested when, out of the blue, he got a letter from the organization.

“The way I understand you get chosen is that a teacher or somebody nominates you,” he said.

He went to a preliminary meeting with several hundred other young people to hear about the program, then interviewed for a spot in the delegation.

Driggers said he liked the notion of learning by being there.

“You can read all the books you want on Australia and New Zealand, but once you go there you learn so much so quickly,” he said.

Driggers mentioned the trip to Vogel and the notion struck a chord with her, too.

“I always wanted to go traveling,” she said. “I thought this would be the perfect opportunity.”

The delegation flew out of Wichita June 6 to Los Angeles, where they caught a 12-hour flight to New Zealand. After a brief stopover, they landed in Brisbane, Australia, for the first leg of their tour.

The itinerary in Australia included stops at a farm, an island south of Brisbane, and the cities of Brisbane, Tamworth and Sydney.

In Tamworth, members of the group were parceled out to private homes for the first of two “homestays.” That was a good experience, said Driggers and Vogel, but they agree their time in Australia’s capital city was the highlight.

While there, they visited the world-famous Sydney Opera House, climbed the Harbor Bridge and took in numerous other tourist sights.

“I loved Sydney,” Vogel said. “We went on a harbor cruise the last night we were there. They kind of had a disco-type thing going on, but I didn’t even go to that. I just stood on the front of the boat, watching the city from the harbor. It was

really pretty.”

Tight scheduling kept the group from stopping at the Olympic Village, but Driggers said he enjoyed becoming familiar with two popular local sports, rugby and cricket.

“I had never seen cricket played,” he said. “I didn’t know the rules, but I picked it up pretty fast. It’s a real interesting game.”

From Sydney, the group traveled back to New Zealand, landing first in Christ’s Church. They also took in the South Island and southern coast of the country, the capital city of Wellington, a homestay in Palmerston North, a trip to Roarua, where they participated in a ceremony with the Maori native people, and then a final stop in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city with 1.8 million inhabitants.

A highlight of their stay in New Zealand was rappelling down a 200-foot cliff at a camp-like setting called Rock & Ice.

“I had no doubt in mind that I would do it,” Vogel said. “I’m the kind of person who likes to do that kind of thing.”

Though Australia and New Zealand have many similarities, the Hillsboro pair did notice some differences.

“The accent in Australia is harder to understand,” Driggers said. “In New Zealand, it’s more like our English.”

Vogel said Australians appear to be more relaxed and laid back; New Zealanders tend to be more uptight, including about their national identity.

“New Zealand has a huge rivalry with Australia, but Australia doesn’t really care about New Zealand,” Vogel said. “New Zealanders are constantly talking about it.”

Driggers got a taste of that rivalry when he wore an Australian rugby shirt to a soccer match between the two countries’ national teams.

“I got some jeers from New Zealand fans,” he said.

The delegation returned to Kansas June 22. The two Hillsboro participants felt the investment of time and money was well worth it because the trip broadened their horizons.

“I think I became a more open person,” Driggers said. “I knew Meg, but otherwise I didn’t have any friends on the trip. To make friends, you have to be open. You can’t close yourself off.

“Plus, meeting people from a different culture all the time, I had to be open to talk to them,” he added. “Before, I might have been more closed.”

Vogel said the trip convinced her that she wants to travel more cross-culturally, perhaps even attend college in Sydney through a Kansas University program.

“It really made me realize and appreciate how different other cultures are,” she said. “It really made me want to learn more.”

Driggers agreed.

“I’ve got it in my system for traveling, so I want to continue,” he said.

“It’s fun to learn about other cultures. It really makes you a better person, I guess.”

Driggers may get another chance to travel with People to People next summer. He was nominated for “Student Ambassador of the Year.” If he is selected, he will receive a free trip to Greece.

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