A most amazing time in Australia for Vail Valley student | VailDaily.com

A most amazing time in Australia for Vail Valley student

Kristi Waring
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail DailyThe Vail Valley's Kristi Waring feeds a kangaroo during her trip to Australia as an exchange student

VAIL, Colorado –This past summer I, Kristi Waring, had the privilege of representing Vail in the annual Vail Valley Exchange Program to Vail’s sister city, Mansfield, Victoria, Australia.

The Vail Town Council selects a high school junior as an ambassador from the area each year. This meant that I traveled to Australia for the Southern Hemisphere winter for four weeks, and Australian Zoe Brinkley came and stayed with my family for the Northern Hemisphere winter for six weeks.

I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I had the most amazing time in Australia. It was truly life changing and a trip to remember. From hand-feeding kangaroos, skiing at Vail’s sister resort, Mt. Buller, and even professional Australian Football League games, it was all a great time.

Zoe and I became best friends. We have kept in contact via Facebook and e-mail almost everyday since I returned. I know that we will be lifelong friends, even from across the world.

Zoe was not the only lifelong friend I made during my stay though. She happily introduced me to all of her friends from school and skiing. Every single one of them made me feel so welcome. The Australian community as a whole is inviting, warm, and friendly.

Temporarily moving in with the Brinkleys was the easiest part of my trip. They made me feel right at home from day one. Zoe’s mother, Kathy, and father, Ray, felt like my second parents, and her two brothers, Liam and Hamish, feel as much like brothers to me as my own brother.

They included me in family outings, fun family traditions and family movie nights. We had some good laughs and lively discussions over different names and pronunciations for things. Ray had a really hard time believing that I would ever eat a raw bell pepper or as the Aussies call, them capsicums. I also willingly tried and enjoyed vegemite.

During my stay in Mansfield, I was able to shred the slopes of Mt. Buller while Zoe was at school. Being a competitive mogul skier for the freestyle team here in the valley, I met right up with the freestyle team at Buller. I got to meet even more people, train a little bit, and rip the mountain with other kids my age.

Skiing kept me very busy during the week and on the weekends was my down time to hang out with Zoe and friends.

Every Saturday morning we would hop in the car with some Killer Python gummies, a meat pie, Honey Soy Chicken chips, Cordial to drink and head to the local Mansfield “footy” game. I’m not sure how to explain footy other than a mix between rugby and American football. It took me a few Saturdays to get all the rules down. The Aussies are passionate about their footy.

Traveling to “Aus” was easily the best trip of my life. I am hoping to go back next summer, their winter, to visit Zoe and company again.

The exchange was such a life changing opportunity. It is offered to local juniors in high school around the valley. If you are a junior this year, don’t miss the opportunity to apply for this program, and have a chance to travel across the world and make friends for life.

It was the time of my life, I made a considerable amount of new friends, I learned a lot, and I was 100 percent honored to represent the Vail Valley.

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