At first glance, Nick Watson of Stone Mountain is a typical 11-year-old.
But this summer, when other students were sleeping late, swimming and riding their bikes, Nick was busy serving as a foreign ambassador for the United States.
“It was a good experience. I learned how to make friends easily,” Nick said.
Last month, Nick joined three fellow Atlanta area 11-year-olds and a chaperone on a 28-day trip to Paris as an American Ambassador for the Children’s International Summer Village.
Established in 1951 by Doris Allen, the Summer Village brings 11-year-olds from across the globe to a host city, in an attempt to promote cultural education and outreach.
This year’s Village hosted 61 children from various nations including Italy, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, Israel, and Brazil.
When Nick arrived in Paris, he spent his first weekend with a host family that took him on a tour of the city, including a visit to the Eiffel Tower.
Nick stayed in the Village, learning about other cultures, celebrating traditions on “National Nights,” learning to play soccer and making international friends.
Nick said the best friend he made was an Italian boy named Mattia.
“He couldn’t speak English well, but we still communicated with each other through hand language, and sometimes I could just speak to him and he’d understand.”
Tait Anberg, founder of the Atlanta chapter of the Village, says the program allows children a different perspective on their world.
“The children learn that though there are many differences between people, it’s the similarities that bind us together,” Anberg said.
Nick said he was surprised by the number of similarities between the children, but he noticed several differences as well.
“We had a lot more in common than I thought we would — but they have more ettiquette and it’s appropriate for them to curse there,” Nick said.
Nick also said the international children dress differently than those in the U.S.
In his travels, Nick saw Notre Dame, the Arc de Triumph and witnessed Lance Armstrong competing in his final Tour de France. But Nick said his favorite activity was a scavenger hunt around Paris.
Nick’s mother, Phonda Barksdale, said the Village was a positive experience for her son.
“He got to see the differences and similarities between kids from different cultures. There was no prejudice there,” she said.
Nick, who returned home July 29, said he would like to participate in the Village again next year as a Junior Delegate of the Interchange program.