Annual Vail exchange program rolling again |

Annual Vail exchange program rolling again

Scott N. Miller
NWS Exchange Students DT 12-8

EAGLE-VAIL – To heck with the cold, bring on the hill.That’s the attitude a pair of Australian teens have brought to Vail for the next several weeks.Damien Jewell and Brodie Galbraith, both 17, are the latest participants in the Vail Valley Exchange. That program, funded by the towns of Vail and Avon, Eagle County and Vail Resorts, every year brings a couple of teens from the area around Mount Buller in Australia. The teens – who are on summer break from school – are given jobs by Vail Resorts and stay with the families of a pair of local teens.This year, the families of Vail Mountain School students Bianca Gordon and Kelsey Ferguson are putting up the Australians. This summer, Gordon and Ferguson will stay with Galbraith and Ferguson, and take jobs around the Mount Buller area.It’s only been a few days, but Galbraith said he’s excited to be out in the world.”I’ve always had an ambition to travel,” he said. “This is nice because you have a sense of independence, but you still have the support here.”And, so far, Galbraith is impressed with what he’s seen. “The landscape is nothing like I’ve seen before,” he said. “And it seems America is just a little more luxurious. At least it is here.”Both Galbraith and Jewell are working at restaurants on Vail Mountain while they’re here, and both said they’re most interested in skiing. But their host families will get them out of town occasionally.Both will attend the Dec. 24 game between the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, and Vail Valley Exchange Director Chip Domke said he’s heard about the teens going on a few other family trips as well.

When Gordon and Ferguson are guests in Australia, word has it they’ll attend at least one Australian Rules Football game, a sport that, to the untrained eye, looks more like a bar fight with a ball than athletic competition.”There’s a lot I need to do before I go,” Gordon said. There’s work to line up, visas to arrange, and a host of other small and large chores.Fortunately, the exchange program takes care of most of the big jobs, lining up work for the Australian kids, and helping with visas and travel arrangements for the American students.It would be easy to think the program has kids beating down its doors. That’s not usually the case. In fact, program backers generally have to recruit students from Vail Mountain School and Battle Mountain High School.Gordon, who’s lived in the valley her whole life, has known about the exchange for some time, she said. “I wasn’t too interested, but then I heard the presentation and Chip made it sound like an amazing opportunity,” Gordon said. “I talked to more people about it, and it sounded better and better, so I applied, interviewed, and was accepted.”If the experience of Jewell, Gordon’s Australian guest, is any indication, there are some little things visitors need to learn. For instance, what Americans call peppers Australians call “capsicums.””They were talking about bell peppers before dinner the other night and I didn’t have a clue,” Galbraith said.One pleasant change for the Australians is powder snow.”The powder’s great,” Galbraith said. “At Buller, if you fall over you’re wet for hours.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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