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Winter GAIL Exchange to Kimball Union Academy, USA

These summer holidays, I have been on a GAIL exchange to Kimball Union Academy (KUA) in Meriden, New Hampshire, USA, about 2 hours drive north of Boston. KUA is one of the oldest schools in the US, founded in 1813, and is set in a rural campus where 75% of the students board.

I am lucky enough to be living with the Beaupre family at their home close to school and experience what it is like to live in the small town of Meriden. Waking up in the morning and looking outside at the winter wonderland that is my host family’s backyard, I soon fell in love with this place. My time as a KUA day student began with me trying not to slip on the icy driveway, eating the multiple choices of food in the Dining Hall for breakfast and then heading off to class. 

Finding my classes at the start was challenging, but every time I asked someone for help they were so kind and understanding.  That’s one main aspect that I have enjoyed and appreciated so much here. Because it is a small school with only 350 students everyone knows each other and the environment is so caring. Teachers and students would come up to me in the Dining Hall and introduce themselves, making me feel very welcome in this wonderful school.

Classes are very different with small groups, and oval tables that everyone sits around. They also have a variety of choices, so I took advantage of that and chose to do a ceramics class, introduction to architecture, American history, an English class taught by my exchange Dad, and a dance class. Just from being here a few weeks, I have learnt a vast amount, from how to make a vase to designing an information kiosk, and learning about the leadership of Thomas Jefferson. 

In the winter, classes finish earlier than usual due to the shorter days, and every student heads to their activity. I chose to do recreational skiing, and shortly found out that I would be skiing with an Australian from Brisbane who I then bonded with over the differences of America; for her not having marmite or vegemite in the Dining Hall.  During the week we went to three different ski fields, and when we arrived at the field we had freedom of what we wanted to do, making the evenings my favourite part of the day. 

One part of KUA that I have really found amazing, as did Lily Wigglesworth (last year’s exchange student from Kristin), is how international the school is. I met so many people who were from all around the world; Mexico, Pakistan, Germany, and then people from all over the United States, I felt very included in the variety of accents. 

After skiing, I would walk up the hill in temperature typically in the minus 10 - 20 degrees.  It was dark by then we and would be able to check the games of the week to find that a varsity hockey game is on, so we would support the KUA Wildcats. I had never watched ice hockey before, and the atmosphere was amazing, many people would come and support and it was always a great time.

The whole experience has been amazing, and I recommend this GAIL exchange to anyone considering it. It is a great opportunity where I have learnt a huge amount, been welcomed into a very cool family, and become part of the KUA community.

By Santenay Jordan