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GAIL Exchange - Kelsey Schiltkamp

We say farewell to Kelsey - our first GAIL exchange student.

Kelsey Schiltkamp arrived in January this year (2016) with warm smiles and with some nervous apprehension. Kelsey is from Kimball Union Academy, a private boarding school in New Hampshire, USA and a fellow GAIL school (KUA website). The first week was a bit of an 'adventure' for everyone involved and Kelsey was a little nervous at first. She said “coming from a boarding school that I had lived at for four years, I was afraid of being a new student in a country on the other side of the world from the community I knew and felt comfortable in. It was an adjustment but I soon became very comfortable at Kristin and in New Zealand and I enjoyed being outside of my comfort zone.” The Wigglesworth family, Kelsey's homestay, were very welcoming and made her feel at home straightaway. They live in Silverdale (15min north of Auckland on a lifestyle block), and she was quickly inducted into the 'kiwi' way of life. The Wigglesworth family are involved in the GAIL exchange as their daughter Lily will be travelling to the US and attending KUA for 8 weeks later in the year.

For Kelsey, week four was a real highlight of the term - our Camp Week. She spent five days at Whale Bay in Raglan - one of the world's most famous surf beaches. Activities included learning to trap pest species in the bush, kayaking and body surfing, taking photo's of wind farms and learning to do the dishes by hand! It was during this camp that she really began to make strong friendships. Kelsey came back to school ready to learn to surf and took the opportunity to travel with Kristin School to Muriwai Beach and take lessons.

Throughout the term, Kelsey continued to make new friends and learned more about our culture and experienced our 'active and outdoor' way of life. She was constantly bombarded with questions about the current US presidential candidate campaigns, something she tried to avoid discussing too often. When she wasn't at school, she was busy visiting local beaches, our capital city Wellington and other tourist destinations around the country. She has experienced Maori culture, our natural landscapes and enjoyed kiwiana favourites such as L&P and mince pies!

It was sad to see Kelsey leave at the end of the term. All her teachers commented on what an asset to their classes, especially bringing an American perspective into discussion. Kelsey in her final reflection said “The experience made me realise that I am someone who is very adaptable. I easily got used to living in New Zealand and I really enjoyed being with people that I could relate to even thousands of miles away from where I was actually from.” This is further evidence of the power of GAIL exchanges to promote international perspectives and understandings about people and cultures different from our own. We certainly hope to continue to have KUA students visit Kristin in the near future.

Finally, we look forward to Lily Wigglesworth's exchange in December, as she heads to Kimball Union Academy over our summer holidays. There, Lily will experience student life in one of the most prestigious high schools in America. I am looking forward to helping Lily plan and prepare for her trip.