In March, 21 students from the Sacred Heart School in Tullamore made a memorable trip to Chandler, Arizona, as part of an exchange with Tullamore's twin town in America.
One of those students, Aoife Maher, recently recalled the trip in fond terms, saying, "what many people may see as just a school trip or even a holiday is so much more; or me, it was an experience of a lifetime and I’m sure all the girls feel the same way."
She said that her and her classmates got the chance to experience a whole new way of life, meeting new people and learning new things along the way.
Despite most students wanting time away from school on a trip like this, Aoife says that, "going to school in Seton Catholic Prep was definitely one of the highlights" of the trip for her.
"The major difference for me was that you do not have to be in the same grade (year) as someone to be in the same classes as them," she said.
"Another notable difference would have to be the types of classes they have; while most of our classes are exam
focused, Seton Catholic Prep offers more skills focused classes such as dance, pottery and drama."
The Tullamore group had the chance to absorb all that American culture has to offer, including taking in a baseball game, during which Mr. Mahony from Sacred Heart threw the first pitch.
"We got to do lots of other activities outside of school like attending mass in Tuscon Cathedral, visiting an Indian Pow Wow and a Science Centre. Standing on the baseball field under a blue sky with an 80's soundtrack was an iconoclastic moment for me," Aoife commented.
"In many ways this captured that American spirit; the baseball, the endless rules and the sheer fun of the game."
The group also tried new foods, including Mexican, opening up new flavours to them, and Aoife remembers the entire trip as an "opportunity of a lifetime."
"I know this trip was different for each and every one of us but you could tell by the tears in the airport that it was an amazing trip for all," she added.
"As I waited in Phoenix Airport for the flight home, I mused on the desert sunset dipping below the Camelback Mountains and knew that my world had just gotten a lot bigger and had a lot more possibility for me," she concluded.
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