Report by Katy Parkinson—Year 11
It has to be said the only thing worse than trying to contain the excitement of 13 school children on a five hour train journey, is following it by an eight hour flight. How Mr Stephens and Mrs Hargrave survived that day I will never know, but somehow everything went smoothly and there we were, in America.
Although we were all pretty jet lagged, everyone was wide awake when we reached Mechanicsburg Area Senior High (MASH). There was much screaming when we were reunited with the American friends that we first met in June. We were finally able to meet the families of our exchange partners and I think I speak for everyone when I say I now have a new adopted family.
On Saturday everyone went apple picking at Paulus’ Apple Orchard. In the evening we travelled down to Gettysburg for a ghost tour. The stories they told about the civil war, when the North were fighting the Southern states’ pro slavery ideas were very interesting. The tour leader was very theatrical and although I don’t believe in ghosts, I found myself walking rather quickly back to the car afterwards.
Monday morning brought a tour of the school building and facilities: a pool, (American) football pitch, an athletics track, music rooms and a huge auditorium- (high school musical flashback...!). The structure of the American schooling system differs from ours with Elementary school, (4-11yrs) Middle School (11-14yrs) and High School, (14-18yrs).
On Wednesday the American and English students visited the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. We went to lots of museums; we also saw the WWII, Korean and Vietnam War memorials. I found- in particular - the Vietnam War memorial very touching, as I studied this war in year 10. Wall upon wall of names introduced a sense of realism and put into perspective what had seemed just figures in a text book. We had the chance to view the Lincoln and Martin Luther King memorial also, it was amazing to see such iconic places in the flesh.
On Friday we visited the State Capital Building, which was ridiculously grand and is the place where state and local laws are passed, there were rooms that were the equivalent to the House of Commons and House of Lords. We arrived back at MASH in time for the PEP rally: (basically a shouting match between all four years, to get everyone excited for the evening football game). The football game was just something else, a real American experience. The Colour Guard (like cheerleaders but they twirl batons and various props) cheerleaders, and one of the best high school bands in the country were all spectacular.
We spent another busy weekend with our hosts, ending on one of the highlights of the trip... Hershey’s Chocolate World and Theme Park!
On our last day at MASH; we said hasty goodbyes to our new found friends and met in the evening with the close families of our exchange partners. We had pizzas and ice cream cake, to celebrate a truly amazing 11 days as well as the birthdays of, students, Georgia and Greg! After many tears we left the following morning, but we still had two days in the “Big Apple” to look forward to. In those two days we managed to see all of the famous landmarks... Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero (9/11 memorial), Grand Central Station, Bloomingdales, Central Park, the fountain in the opening credits of “Friends”, The Empire State and Times Square by night.
At our hotel on the last night, there was much sitting on suitcases to squash them shut before we were finally taken away to the airport in nothing less than a limousine!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Stephens, Mrs Hargrave and all of the other teachers involved in the exchange, for their brilliant organisational skills and the effort they so selflessly put in.