|Trip to the USA (September 2013)|
IMPRESSIONS (BY LEA SAMONIG, 7A)
Well, imagine you are standing at Vienna airport, together with a nice group of other students and you are waiting for your flight to the United States - how would you feel? I can just try to express what we felt - we all were so excited and looking forward to spending fifteen amazing days abroad! Of course, we all had been talking about this trip long before, we had heard a lot about America's incredible history, and about this mysterious country, where dreams come true! But no one of us knew exactly what we really should expect and what's going to be behind all these stories and stereotypes we have been familiar with because of newspapers and Hollywood films. We were all so lucky (thanks to our parents and our teachers) to get the chance to form our own opinion about this huge country and its inhabitants and this is why we want to share our impressions with you right now!
We spent the first two days in New York, the city that never sleeps! Despite the fact that we didn't have a lot of time there, we managed to see so many beautiful and stunning things and we also had some free periods to go shopping, to get some typical American food or just walk down the endless avenues. One of the highlights in New York was the great view from the top of the Rockefeller Center and the harbor boat trip during which we passed the world-famous Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I also have to point out our visit to the 9/11 Memorial because I think it was a rather emotional visit for some of us.
After these two days, which were full of new impressions and good mood, we went on a long bus-trip to North Carolina, where we were going to see our host-families for the first time!!! The night was already breaking in when the bus arrived in front of Cary Academy. All these friendly faces and welcome-posters made us forget how nervous we actually were. The welcome couldn't have been more warm-hearted!
Nobody had really big problems becoming part of our host-families - it was so easy to get a place in the families and to join their everyday life, so we all passed almost two weeks full of fun, new friends and great opportunities to try things we had never done before. Some of us joined sports-teams in high school, some were able to work out with personal trainers, some visited concerts and some went to football games. We all got so close to each other and were able to make new and wonderful friends!!!
After a long day of travelling, we arrived home safely, with so much experience, improved English skills, new motivation, personal growth and a big smile on our faces! Now we are all waiting for our American friends to come and visit Austria the following spring!
OUR DAYS IN NEW YORK
After an 8 1/2 hour flight we finally reached New York City. After landing it took us another three hours to go through customs and immigration and ride on a bus to our hotel in Manhattan. On the bus we got a first impression of how big the city really is. We arrived at the hotel in the afternoon, checked in and unpacked our suitcases. After relaxing a bit in our rooms we met in the lobby to explore parts of New York for the first time. We started to head north towards Times Square but when we were about half-way up a heavy thunderstorm hit us. It was pouring with rain and we decided to have dinner first and then give it another try and walk on to Times Square. Unfortunately, the weather didn't get any better and so we had to postpone our walk to Times Square to the following day. We were a bit sad about that but in the end it was a good decision because none of us had an umbrella and we arrived in our hotel soaking wet.
The next day we got up at about seven o'clock to have some breakfast. Some of us were up much earlier because we still had to get used to being in a different time zone. After breakfast we met in the lobby at nine o'clock. This day was dedicated to Lower Manhattan. We took the subway downtown and got off at Brooklyn Bridge, from where we walked on to the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site. One can say that it is like a graveyard for all the people who died in the 9/11 attacks. It is a tribute of remembrance and honor to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The Memorial's twin reflecting pools feature the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood. The names of every person who died are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools. Some of the names had white roses attached - a guide told us that they celebrated the birthdays of each of the victim every day and that on their birthdays the names of the people got white roses. Most of us were deeply moved by this site.
The rest of our first morning in New York we spent at South Street Seaport. We had some free time there to have some lunch, do some shopping and enjoy great views. After lunchbreak we went a bit further north and strolled across Brooklyn Bridge. We didn't have enough time to cross it all over to Brooklyn but most of us managed to get to the middle and enjoy some more great views on the city. After that we went back to South Street Seaport where we boarded a boat for a harbor cruise. This was one of the highlights in New York. We had a great time and the weather was perfect as well. Some of us were able to see the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island building for the first time. The view on the city was gorgeous as well. We took lots of photos to show the people at home that we were really there! After the boat ride we spent some more time exploring Lower Manhattan, walking through the Financial District and Wall Street.
In the evening we finally managed to go to Times Square. We were amazed by all the lights and shops - it was almost overwhelming! We spent about two hours at Times Square and then went back to the hotel very tired and ready for our beds.
On our second day in New York we headed north. At first we took the subway to Midtown Manhattan. The first highlight of the day was our visit to the Rockefeller Center. We did the "Top of the Rock" tour and went all the way to the top of the building where we enjoyed marvellous views. Fortunately, the weather was perfect as well so that we were able to see all of Manhattan form a bird eye's view. Altogether we spent about two hours at Rockefeller Center. After that we went to Grand Central Terminal, the old railway station, for lunch. We were impressed by the beauty of this building. It is a sight of its own! In the afternoon we split up in three groups. Most of us went to the Guggenheim Museum, a few picked the Metropolitan Museum of Arts and some of us decided to have a closer look at central park. In the late afternoon we were able to walk along 5th Avenue and do some more shopping before returning to our hotel in the evening.
Summing up, the days in New York were perfect just a bit too short for everyone.
SCHOOL LIFE AT CARY ACADEMY
After a welcome reception in the SEA lounge, student council leaders worked with our students in two seperate groups and showed them around on campus. We were all overwhelmed by the size and neatness of the premises: A lavish green in the center for playing frisbee, a generously laid out library with comfy chairs, a friendly diding hall with a terrace for eating outside, a highly modern theater with a television studio...and, last but not least, really enjoyable classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
All of our Austrian students were required to shadow their partners for class periods depending on their partners' individual schedules. So all of them gained first hand insight into American high school - or in Cary terms - "high academy" - life. Whether it was solving differential equations in Maths, learning about the cleavage of cells in Biology, acting out impromptu sketches in a drama workshop with Mr. Michael Hayes, discussing Civil Rights issues with Mr. Micheal McElreath or joining pottery classes - our students participated rather actively and blended in really well.
Cary Academy students are encouraged to play a great variety of sports. Our students were given the unique opportunity to join their partners in team and individual sports where students develop a healthy respect for daily exercise, competition and the rewards of good sportsmanship. Needless to say that our students were of course also generously allowed to use all sport facilities.
A group of ten students even met up with Mrs. Lanze, one of the teachers of German, and planned presentations for German periods in middle school. The little beginners were quite excited about having the opportunity to talk to 'real natives' and visibly enjoyed the pictures and songs our students had prepared for them.
"Building relationships for a lifetime" - this heartwarming idea is what Cary Academy sees at the very center of its academic mission. The Graz/Cary exchange program sets new cornerstones and new ceiling tiles for lasting relationships every other year. Maybe some of them will last for a lifetime?
During our time in North Carolina we went on several fieldtrips organized by our American colleagues. On Wednesday, September 18th we spent a full schoolday in downtown Raleigh. At first we went to a place called Krispy Kreme Donuts where we all enjoyed having some fresh and warm donuts. Next, we got a tour of Government's Mansion, a beautiful building which is the home of the governor of North Carolina. Then, we all went to the Natural Sciences Museum on a self-guided tour. We were impressed by the beautiful arrangement of all the artefacts. After having some time off for lunch we went to see the IMAX movie "Hubble" which was also very interesting.
Our second field-trip was a half-day fieldtrip after school. We went to see the University of North Carolina and the city of Chapel Hill. The following day we visited another universtiy campus, Duke University, and got a very interesting tour by a student who studies there. He showed us around the huge campus and told us everything about studying in the United States. He also gave us tips of what to do and how to apply if we wanted to study in the United States as international students. After the tour we visited the Duke Gardens, which are also part of the universtiy campus. It's a very nice and quiet place where students get the opportunity to relax and study in the middle of flowers and trees.
On our last field trip we went to Greensboro for a full day. We went to see the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro. The museum is situated in a historically well-known building, the old Woolworth Building. The building became famous in the 1960s. During the Civil Rights Movement the sit-in movement started in this building. We got a very impressive and moving tour by an African American woman who had experienced segregation herself when she was a child. She guided us aournd the building in a very emotional way and took her time to show and tell us every detail. We got to see the actual lunch counter where the sit-in movement started and lots of other artefacts. What an awesome tour! After this tour we went back to our buses to go to Cracker Barrel's where we had a big "Americana style" lunch. On the way back home to Cary we stopped by some outlets where we had another hour to do some shopping.
OUR DAY ON THE BEACH
On Saturday, September 21 we were up very early even though it was the weekend. At 7.30 AM we met in order to catch our buses to Fort Fisher Beach. The bus ride to Fort Fisher took about two hours. When we were on the bus it was raining quite heavily and we were worried about how our day on the beach would turn out. But when we arrived in Fort Fisher, it cleared up and eventually even the sun came out. Our first stop at Fort Fisher was for the North Carolina Aquarium. Some of us did a scavenger hunt there, the others just walked around and had a look at all the animals and plants on a self-guided tour. All in all we spent about an hour and a half at the aquarium before heading on to the beach. Fort Fisher State Park Beach is a beautiful sandy beach and the waves are quite high. Nevertheless, some of us plunged into the water right away. We spent about three hours on the beach - swimming, sunbathing, enjoying our packed lunches, having nice conversations with our American friends and just having a fun day. We all agreed that the hours on the beach went by way too fast. We would have liked to spend much more time there!