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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Guest Post: 2016 County Kildare Exchange

Read about our 2016 County Kildare exchange from one of this year's participants, Chandler Hendren.

2016 Lexington-County Kildare Student Exchange

As one who had always wanted to travel, the moment I heard about the Lexington Sister Cities Exchange, I knew I had to apply. Applying was probably one of the best decisions I ever made, because now I have made lifelong friends and memories I could never forget.

For those of you reading this that want to apply and get accepted into this amazing program, I encourage you to immediately contact your counterpart. Molly and I were friends from day one in January when we first began talking. We would FaceTime at least once or twice a week, we knew everything about each other. From the moment she got to Kentucky we were best friends.

While our Irish counterparts were in Kentucky, we did hundreds of activities. We went rock climbing, hiking at natural bridge, swimming, camping and ate so much food. Molly and I also gave Zoey her first ever corn dog. Also, we went laser tagging and watch a Legends baseball game.

Day 1: After a very long flight, I was absolutely exhausted but way too excited to care. We got our luggage and got on a bus that took us into Kildare, where we met our counterparts to have breakfast. With all the excitement, you would have thought we hadn’t seen each other in months. After breakfast we all went our separate ways. Molly’s mom took us back to the house and I got settled in before we went back out to meet Molly’s friends. We decided to meet up with two other pairs, and we went to a farm to relax for the rest of the night.

Day 2: This day was one of the days i was looking forward to the most and one of the only days we really slept in. Molly’s dad started the morning with a traditional Irish breakfast. We soon started to get ready for Longitude, a music festival that we had all been looking forward to. We arrived at the festival around 3 o’clock and immediately ran into Molly’s friends. I had never met so many people in such a small amount of time. They were all so welcoming and wanted to know so much about where I was from and about America in general. I felt as if I had been their friends forever. We listened to music, danced and had one of the best nights ever.

Day 3: Today we went into Dublin to visit the Guinness factory and do a little bit of sightseeing. We walked around Dublin and did some shopping and ate lunch. We then all met up at St. Stephen's Green, a beautiful park in Dublin and just relax and played a bit of soccer.

Day 4: On day 4, it was our first planned group activity. We spent most of the day at Avon Ri, where we all threw on our wetsuits and went kayaking. We paired up, played games and raced back and forth across the lake in our kayaks. We also did some archery and then ate lunch. After lunch, we did some rock climbing and a participated in a rope course. After we were done we drove back into Kildare and went to Eddie Rockets for dinner and then got our camping stuff for Zoey’s house. We had bonfire and camped out on her farm.

Day 5: Molly and I didn’t really have much planned for this day so we took our time getting ready and went shopping at Newbridge. We spent most of the day there and ate lunch and I did a lot of shopping. Later that night all of us met up at Brona and Gavin’s house. We had a BBQ and they taught the Americans how to play rugby.

Day 6: After Molly and I had gone to Newbridge the day before, many of the other counterparts decided take their counterparts there also. We joined them for a second round of shopping and lunch. Later that evening when we had taken the bus back home, we got ready to go to the Naas Racecourse. It was only a short walk from Molly’s house, which was perfect since we didn’t have to find a bus or ride to get there.

Day 7/8: Molly, Oscar, Ellie and I headed to Dingle with Molly’s family. Molly has a house in Dingle so we spent two nights there. When we arrived we walked into Dingle to grab dinner. The next morning, we woke up and went to the beach and drove around Dingle and went to see the Blasket Islands.

Day 9: We headed back to Kildare. We ordered a pizza and relaxed after the long drive. Later that night Molly had everyone over to enjoy the last night as a group.

Day 10: Last day in Ireland. We decided to go into Dublin one last time. We got lunch, met with a few others in the group and did some last minute shopping. After, we went back to Molly’s house so I could begin to pack. After packing, we went over to Liadan’s house and enjoyed some music and dessert.

I hope this encourages those of you who are unsure of applying. I would recommend it to anyone who loves traveling and new cultural experiences.  Making friends and memories while being able to experience a new culture is one of the best choices I have ever made. Saying goodbye to everyone was the definitely the hardest part. I have missed everyone so much but I know I will be back soon and make more memories with some of the best people I have ever met.

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