Student ambassador trip helps develop cultural understanding

People to People selects Millstone youths to travel overseas


Christina Cingolani and Christopher LaRosa spent part of their summer seeing people and cultures in another part of the world.

Christopher LaRosa, 16, and Christina Cingolani, 13, cousins who live in Millstone, unexpectedly met up in Ireland when they were traveling on separate People to People Ambassador Program trips this summer. Christopher LaRosa, 16, and Christina Cingolani, 13, cousins who live in Millstone, unexpectedly met up in Ireland when they were traveling on separate People to People Ambassador Program trips this summer. Both Cingolani, 13, and LaRosa, 16, participated in the People to People Student Ambassador Program. Since 1956, the program has helped prepare students for success in a globalized world through international travel experiences.

Cingolani and LaRosa are cousins. While they went on separate People to People trips, their travel groups unexpectedly met in Ireland. Cingolani’s group traveled to the British Isles. LaRosa’s group traveled to Ireland, Whales, England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

“I went to a lot of different places and saw a lot of castles,” Cingolani said, noting that Conwy in Whales was her favorite place to visit.

LaRosa went to the peat bogs and Dublin in Ireland. He saw England from the London Eye and viewed France from the top of the Eiffel Tower. He also toured Amsterdam and visited World War II memorials in Baston, England.

The People to People program promotes cultural understanding by giving participants a chance to have personal interactions with people living in different countries. Cingolani and other members of her group spent two days with a family in England.

“Their culture is pretty similar,” she said. “They have the same kinds of food as we do in America.”

LaRosa lived with a family in rural Ireland for a couple of days.

“Everyone is the same,” he said. “There are minor differences. In Ireland, they’re big on Irish dancing. The granddaughters showed us an Irish dance before we went out and did it.”

The program also aims to give students experiences they never had before. Both Cingolani and LaRosa repelled down a castle wall in Whales on their trips.

“At first, it felt like you were going to fall to your death,” Cingolani said. “Then, there was a point where you just went down.”

LaRosa said, “That was terrifying and amazing at the same time.”

Cingolani added that the experience showed them that they could do anything they set their minds to.”

The cousins took the same lesson away from all of their experiences on the trip.

“I definitely enjoyed the trip,” LaRosa said. “It was amazing. I learned that even in other countries everyone is still the same.”

“I learned that even though there are different kinds of things in every culture, cultures are very similar, and people are all the same,” Cingolani said.

Both said they would recommend the trip to other kids their age because it helps build selfconfidence, establish lasting friendships and gain greater understanding of people and cultures around the world.

This was not Cingolani’s first People to People trip. She went to Hawaii in 2007 at the age of 10. Her mother, Carmela, said she was reluctant to let her daughter go the first time.

“To me, sending a 10-year-old to Hawaii on a 13-hour flight is not a smart thing to do,” she said.”

However, her husband, Anthony, saw the trip as an opportunity for their daughter and convinced his wife to attend meetings about the program.

“The group meets every month,” she said. “Before the trip, you get to meet the parents, kids and leaders. The program is well organized.”

When her daughter went to Hawaii and returned home safe, having climbed a volcano and visited other cultural and historical sites, she was impressed with the difference she saw in her child.

“She came back mature because they had to do everything themselves — carry their own luggage, do their own laundry,” she said. “Since then she’s been saying that she wanted to go back. We were able to send her again this year.”

Both cousins will be attending Allentown High School in the fall; Cingolani as a freshman and LaRosa as a senior. Cingolani said she would like to have a career as an orthodontist. LaRosa said he wants to study psychology and law to become a lawyer.

For more information about People to People programs, visit