Experiencing life down under | VailDaily.com

Experiencing life down under

Carolyn Pope/Special to the Daily
Back Row: Tom Greene, principal of Bendalla Secondary School, and Carol Myles, assistant principal Front Row: Rick and Mary Sackbauer with exchange student Jill Clarke

Lusting for fish and chips and an old-fashioned game of cricket? Perhaps you’d like to meet a marsupial face to face or maybe you’re interested in experiencing the different culture of those folks down under?

If you’re a junior in high school at either Battle Mountain High School or Vail Mountain School, this could be your chance. This cultural exchange program has been a part of the Vail Valley for the past eight years. Four fortunate students swap towns for six weeks during their respective winters with two sister communities, Benalla and Mansfield, located in Victoria, Australia.

Both cities are approximately two hours northeast of Melbourne. Benalla, a rural community of about 18,000, is reminiscent of the town of Eagle in the 1970s, says Rick Sackbauer, board member of the Vail Valley Exchange Program.

Mansfield has a population of about 8,000, and is near the base of Mt. Buller, a popular locale for many Vail ski instructors who teach down under during the Australian winter.

Experiencing people in a different culture is a key for the participant, Sackbauer says.

“It’s about people,” Sackbauer says. “It’s not about ski corporations, shires or towns. I’ve made some great friends through this program.”

Alexandra Dulude, a senior at Vail Mountain School. participated last year.

“I loved meeting so many nice people and getting a grasp of the culture, but not as a tourist,” she says. “The people chosen need to be friendly and outgoing, willing to put themselves out there and meet people. It’s important that they want to get as much out of the experience as possible.”

One of the most unique experiences for Duncan Robinson, another Vail Mountain School student who went to Australia last year, was hunting for kangaroos. He worked at the race department at Mt. Buller.

The snow and weather conditions were pretty nasty, he says.

“It would rain one day, then snow the next,” he says.

Two students are making the trek from Australia to Vail, arriving in December and staying for about six weeks. Andrew Riley, a 17-year-old junior, attends Mansfield Secondary College. He’s an animal lover and his home is also home to a dog, a cat, 17 cows and a couple of sheep. He resides with his mum and dad, two sisters and a brother.

Jill Clarke, also 17, attends Benalla College and is very musical. She plays classical clarinet and saxophone. She has one older sister and is allergic to cats.

“We are having this open to any student who considers themselves an ambassador to the Vail Community,” Sackbauer says. “One student will be sent to each city for a six-week time period in summer of 2004. Local students will be the hosts this December and January, then they swap houses this summer.”

To be considered, the family must have the ability to host a boy or a girl for about six weeks this winter.

The meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at the Vail Library, and is open to Eagle County juniors at Vail Mountain School and Battle Mountain High School and their parents.

This program is generously sponsored by the Town of Vail, which provides the airplane tickets and spending money.

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