Grand Junction student awarded expense-paid trip through Europe

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Viviane Turman, 15, of Grand Junction will be spending several weeks traveling around western and central Europe as a student ambassador.

Grand Junction High School ninth-grader Viviane Turman will travel through Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland this summer without paying a dime for flights, housing and most meals.

The 15-year-old is Colorado’s recipient of a 50 for Fifty scholarship, which is offered to one student in each state this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the People to People student ambassador program. The scholarship pays full tuition for 50 students to participate in People to People trips abroad this summer.

Sixty thousand U.S. students applied for the scholarship. Turman will use hers to travel to Europe for 20 days this June through People to People, a program created in 1962 to foster global understanding by sending American students to countries on all seven continents (yes, including Antarctica) to learn about other cultures.

People to People Ambassador Programs are the travel leg of nonprofit organization People to People International, created in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Turman said a teacher nominated her to participate in the program and she decided to go after hearing about her mother’s experiences on a People to People trip to France and Russia in 1975, when she was a Grand Junction High student.

Hundreds of students will participate in People to People trips this summer, including a handful of central Western Slope students who will travel together on the same trip as Turman. The other students have to fund-raise or pay for their trips.

Turman will visit sites such as the Eiffel Tower and Vatican City. But her role as a student ambassador means she’ll delve further into other countries’ cultures than some tourists. She will also speak with Holocaust survivors at a World War II concentration camp, stay with host families, taste foreign foods and may have the chance to speak with foreign dignitaries.

“The getting to know people part” is what she is most excited about.

Turman said some people may assume they know about another culture based on stereotypes.

“You really don’t know until you get to know the people or their country. Understanding the cultural differences and the similarities is important,” she said.

Turman’s father, Jeff Turman, said he is proud of his daughter, who had to go through an interview and selection process to be approved to go on a People to People trip. Scholarship recipients, though, were chosen at random.

“I think they picked wisely,” he said of People to People’s choice to send his daughter on a trip. “She will be a good representative of American high school students.”


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