In September 2014, we had the privilege of being a part of an exchange with Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, America. This was an incredible experience that we both learnt a lot from and where we created many memories and gained many friends for life.
We woke up at 6:30am to begin our travel to Virginia Beach. This involved 2 flights, one to Newark and the next to Norfolk, our final destination. After 21 hours of travel, we were greeted by our hosts at 7:00pm on Friday night. We were paired with sisters and shared a house for the week.
All the Glenlola students did different things over the weekend depending on what our hosts had planned for us. We went to the beach for the day as the Neptune festival was on. This is an annual festival celebrating the God of the sea, Neptune. There were parades and different stalls all along the beach front. That night Harriet and I, along with her host, Camille, went to a Girl Scout camp and slept in a tent, where we ate smores and sang camp songs. Caris went to the Beach Movie Bistro.
On Sunday, we went to Krispy Kreme for breakfast where they had a huge selection of delicious doughnuts. We arrived home just in time for church. After church we went to our host’s grandparent’s house. All the extended family travelled down to meet us which was very kind of them. Grandmama (their grandmother) cooked us American-style hotdogs with a huge variety of sauces and sides. After lunch, we canoed in the lake in their back garden and ate smores around a camp-fire with the whole family.
The next morning, we were up at 5:00am for school; it was still dark and the roads were empty. Our hosts were both involved with the morning announcements. They are broadcasted from a studio with a green screen all around the school. When classes began, we were given a tour around the school. It was huge and already we could see many differences between it and Glenlola.
We then went to the aquarium, where we saw sharks, sea turtles, seals and many other aquatic animals. Lunch was on the beach in a famous local restaurant called Waterman’s. We walked around all the beautiful sandcastles and tried our best to replicate them.
On Tuesday morning, we went to the famous Chrysler museum which we absolutely loved. We really appreciated getting some time to be quiet amongst all the craziness that is America. After the museum we went to a glass blowing demonstration. Who would have known that glass would be so astonishing? After a very chilled morning, we were then were let loose in a shopping mall.
On Wednesday, we went to a small town called Jamestown which was the first settlement in America. We were distracted by the actors around the town and lost our tour guide but we really enjoyed the day nevertheless. We then went to Williamsburg for lunch, where we were serenaded by whistles, flutes and banjos. After lunch we went for a walk around the beautiful, historic old town.
On Thursday, our last day at Tallwood High school, we performed presentations to various groups in the school. Our presentation was focused on the leadership available in Glenlola. We then shadowed our host’s classes which was fascinating. The school was non uniform but with the large lists of clothing requirements we felt thankful for our uniform. That night there was a big football game being played. We helped the cheerleaders make posters which we held as we walked onto the field with the marching band before the game. Unfortunately the football team lost but we were highly entertained by the cheerleaders on the sidelines.
The next morning, emotional goodbyes were exchanged by all. Our second flight back to Northern Ireland from Newark airport was cancelled. We were put up in a hotel for the night, and after 48 hours of travel we finally got home to our own beds.
This trip was an amazing experience that we will cherish and look back on for the rest of our lives.
By Caris Agnew and Harriet Bradford