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by Kenyelle Walker, staff writer

“You just got chocolate from someone in Denmark!” said Lauran Ross’ surprised mother. The gift was no surprise for Ross, an Up with People alumna.

Ross is a graduate of UWP’s global leadership program and has traveled through many parts of Europe and Thailand gaining new friends, exciting stories, and pictures on the way. Now Ross is sharing her experience with students at HPU, while working to bring more UWP students to school and more HPU students to UWP.

The UWP program, according to its literature, gives students the opportunity to travel around the world, stay with local host families, get exposure to different cultures, and be of service to different communities through outreach projects and performances.

The entire program lasts for six months, with the first month devoted to preparation, and HPU students can earn 15 credits. (See Facts.)

The cities and countries that UWP visits vary depending on the group, usually called a cast. The current cast is visiting parts of Mexico, Thailand, and the United States.

Asked if UWP was like study abroad, Ross explained that “With UWP, you get a chance to build lifelong friendships because you grow together,” unlike study abroad, where the main focus is still in the classroom.

Ross was eager to share some of her favorite experiences. One group event, called Education Day, involved separating the cast into three groups: “The Chinese, the Japanese, and then the rest of us,” Ross recalled. The discussion was on how each of the two cultures understood the events of World War II. The versions of the two groups, based on what they learned in school in their home countries, varied greatly.

Ross was deeply moved. “Listening to the two points of views—they were completely different. What was supposed to be a one-hour discussion lasted three hours.” She believes it a rare event that people can get together and discuss such tough issues in a civilized and understanding manner. “The people [in the cast] are very accepting and kind, unlike anywhere else—which is really hard to find,” she added.

Ross is now interning at HPU in a program to help inform HPU students about the UWP program. She is also starting a club, Global Link, for students who are interested in culture, the environment, and travel. She plans seminars on global issues, and potlucks, and invites people to visit the UWP Web site at upwithpeople.org, or e-mail her at lross@upwithpeople.org.

Another great place to find out what UWP students are up to right now is the blog at castb2007.com shared by Kalamalama section editor Nicole Loschke, who is currently traveling with the UWP program.

More facts:
- UWP alumni in Hawai‘i currently: 70.
- UWP was the first international youth group to visit China in 1978.
- UWP was received 14 times by Pope John Paul II.
- UWP has performed four Super Bowl half-time shows.

Upcoming Events:
- In November the UWP will be performing for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the first time.
- UWP will be at the Rose Bowl, Jan.1, in Pasadena, Calif.




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