Melendez explores nations through People to People program
While traveling with People to People Student Ambassadors, sophomore Stephan Melendez poses in front of the London Bridge in England. The group experienced many European countries in about a three-week period.
After selling burritos on campus last year, sophomore Stephan Melendez raised enough money to explore Europe with the People to People Student Ambassador organization. He and his group traveled to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England and other nations.
People to People offers various programs for students to experience the world. Melendez's trip consisted of student, leadership, sport and citizen programs combined into one experience.
While on his journey, Melendez got acquainted with various cultures over the course of about three weeks.
"It was overwhelming to experience all of the cultures," Melendez said. "We spent about three or four days in each country. This trip gave me a new perspective that America is not the only mighty country; there are many other strong nations in this world. I learned to have more respect toward people."
Since Melendez intends to pursue a career in architecture, he enjoyed visiting the buildings in Europe and comparing them to American structures.
"Downtown London is much more modern, but mixed with colonial style," Melendez said. "I learned that architecture is not just about the buildings; it gave me the understanding that it's the passion and details that makes the buildings great. I'm also a businessman, so traveling in Europe expanded my mind in the business realm."
While traveling from country to country, Melendez experienced each culture through its unique food palette. Some local delicacies in France include escargot (cooked snails) and fried frog legs, which are uncommon in an American diet.
"I tried so much food, but my favorite was escargot and fried frog legs," Melendez said. "Escargot is very salty, with garlic kick to tone down the saltiness. The frog legs taste like chicken and are prepared with a sweet powder, like batter, that is fried. Frog legs are interesting because the meat is transparent.
During his visit to France, Melendez toured the iconic Eiffel tower. The group spent about three to four days in each country to absorb the culture.
"But one thing I did not like about the culture is the buffets. Unlike American buffets, they only allow one time through the line, and they are serious about it. They even had security guards standing at the beginning of the lines."
According to Melendez, he and his group were able to experience preferential treatment when sightseeing.
"It was really cool to have a Parliament official talk to us," Melendez said. "We got like a first-class treatment because we were able to do things that most people do not get to do, such as private tours. We went on this one tour of a Holocaust museum, and that was very interesting. After seeing that, it really made me appreciate that I live in a good, safe country, and it is something that I will always keep."
During the trip, the group spent a day at an orphanage playing with kids. At an adoption fair the next day, about 10 children were adopted, Melendez said.
"I'm glad that we did community service," Melendez said. "It was really beneficial to see the kids get excited when we spent the day with them and when some of them got adopted."
After having a unique experience in Europe, Melendez said he is already trying to plan another excursion.
"I want to go to either Hong Kong or Australia," Melendez said. "Next time I'm hoping to get sponsors from companies to help me, or I may put on car washes to raise money."
For more information on summer vacations, read the Sept. 13 article, South Africa experience impacts sophomore.