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Student travels across Europe during summer

Posted: August 16, 2011 12:00 p.m.
Updated: August 17, 2011 5:00 a.m.
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Summer vacation offered more than just a break from school for 15-year-old Mason Wolfe.

Mason spent 19 days seeing land marks like Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower and the Coliseum in Rome.

Mason, a rising sophomore at L-EHS, was nominated to take part in People to People (P2P), a program launched by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to create opportunities to bridge cultural and political borders through direct interaction and travel.

Mason traveled to England, France and Italy over the course of 19 days this summer. He, along with 17 other students from South Carolina and 20 students from Maryland, had an “awesome experience,” he said.

The trip was anything but spontaneous. After being nominated, Wolfe had to fill out an application and go through an interview process to be selected. After being chosen he and his parents attended classes and meetings to be prepared for the adventure.

“The meetings helped us understand how everything would work, what to expect,” Jill Wolfe, Mason’s mother said. “It’s such an honor that Mason was nominated for this. I’m thrilled he had this opportunity.”

Mason also had to attend a three hour class every month starting about a year before the trip.

“We basically learned about what we would need and how we should behave and dress,” Mason said. “We also did research on the countries we visited.”

All the preparation was worth it, Mason said.

The People to People Ambassadors first arrived in London, where they saw The London Eye, the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, met a member of parliament, visited Buckingham Palace and saw the changing of the guards first hand.

Mason said from London, the group took an overnight ferry to Omaha Beach where the mayor spoke to the group. The ambassadors also visited the graveyard where soldiers who died on D-Day were buried.

“You know, you talk about history and these things in class,” Mason said. “But it’s so much different to see it in person.”

From there, the group explored France, visiting the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre Museum.
Next on the agenda was Italy, where Mason and the rest of ambassadors had the opportunity to visit villages around the Mediterranean Sea. While touring in Italy, Mason lived with a local family for three days.

“That part was neat because the family took me to see a lot of the medieval Roman towns,” he said. “The only difficult part was communication. They spoke English, but sometimes it was hard to have conversations.”

While in Italy, Mason saw the Statue of David in Florence and the Coliseum and the Vatican in Rome. He also had the chance to repel down the side of a castle.

The only not-so-thrilling part of the adventure was the cost.

To help his parents, soon after deciding to take the trip, Mason began working to save money.

Mason sold pecans that he picked up in his yard, did yard work and saved money he received as gifts during Christmas.

“We were very proud of him,” Jill said. “He worked very hard for this.”

Mason said overall, it was an “experience of a lifetime.”

“I would love to travel to other countries after this experience,” he said. “It’s one thing to see these places in books and learn about them in school, but actually being there, it’s awesome.”

Mason lives in Lugoff with his parents, Kip and Jill Wolfe and sister, Marina, 11.

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