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Spectacular Australian exchange

Special to the DailyExchange students Rachael Fricke and Harper Kaufman, with Mt. Buller in the background.
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My name is Harper Kaufman and I am a senior at Vail Mountain School. I had the privilege of representing the Vail Valley in the 2008 Vail Valley exchange.

This meant that not only did I have the chance to travel to Mansfield, Australia, for five weeks during my summer, but I hosted an Australian, Rachael Fricke, at my house during our winter.

In all, I had the time of my life throughout the whole experience. I formed lifelong friendships with my host sister and many others, boarded the slopes of another continent, introduced Rachael to the beauties of the Vail Valley, and traveled to an entirely new hemisphere.



Staying with Rachael, I got to know her family and friends very well and Mansfield became my home away from home. Her family was welcoming and I loved spending time with her parents and two siblings, Anne Marie and Max.



Rachael’s house was beautiful, with a good view of Mount Buller out the window, Max’s motocross track out back, and some horses right next door. The Frickes live just a few minutes from downtown Mansfield where Rachael went to school and I volunteered at a local shop called the Produce Store.

The Produce Store was great to me and I met many people just by spending time there. It kept me busy, and I got to see another aspect of life in Mansfield.

On days I was not working, I would go to school with Rachael. Their school experience was much different than mine and it was interesting to observe the life in an Australia public high school. There were kids from “year 7,” or seventh grade, to year 12 in one school. She had only about 50 kids in her class.



Her friends were very welcoming and interested in learning about me and about the United States. Many had travelled to the U.S. before and everyone had heard American music, watched American television, and was up to date on American news.

Rachael was able to take me snowboarding up on Mount Buller for a couple of days. Luckily it snowed while were up there and so the skiing was quite good.

Rachael and I also got the chance to stay with her aunt in Melbourne, the nearest city. It was such a beautiful city with great shopping, night life, and people. Our days in Melbourne were exhausting but some of the best of my entire trip.

Rachael also took me to the nearby Hillsville Sanctuary where I had the chance to pet kangaroos and see many, if not all, of the other native Australian animals.

Rachael and her mom, Lisa, took me to a professional “Footy” game. I saw the Kangaroos beat the Hawks in what I would describe as an exciting mix of football, soccer, and basketball. The culture at these games is exciting ” devoted fans come out from both teams because the stadium is not technically home to either team.

Going to Australia was by far one of the best things I’ve ever done. The Vail Valley exchange helped me through any complications and logistics. I was given a ski pass down in Australia just as Rachael was given one for Vail Resorts. My job at the produce store was arranged for me based off of my interests.

The exchange is such an amazing opportunity offered to local juniors that I strongly recommend any and all to apply. It was the time of my life, I learned a lot, I made many friends, and I was honored to represent the Vail Valley overseas.

The Vail Youth Ambassador Award is warded annually by the Vail Town Council to two high school juniors in an effort to foster culture understanding between Vail and its sister city, the Mansfield Shire -Mt Buller in Victoria, Australia.

The winners get to participate in the exchange program.

Applications, which can be filled out at http://www.vvex.org, are now being accpeted and are due Oct. 24. Interviews will take place Oct. 30. Applications can also be printed and mailed to Vail Valley Exchange, P.O. Box 1431, Vail, CO 81658.

Questions can be sent to Chip Domke at vvex@vvex.org

For more information, there will be an informational meeting on Oct. 16th at 6 p.m. at the Vail Library.


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