For ten days in January, 47 Australian students were hosted by Gilbert High School students for an amazing experience. The program sponsored by Educational World Travels was coordinated by Spanish teacher, Ida Gaumitz.
Gilbert High School Sophomore, Nick Fluegel received parental permission to participate in the program. Based on the content of the Australian biographies, Nick selected Thomas Marriot, a student from Turramurra High School in Sydney to be his exchange student.
“I thought he would be a good fit for our family because he and I are athletic, his mother is a teacher like mine, and he is a recently graduated senior. My sister is also a senior," said Fluegel. Halfway around the world, Fluegel and his sister began skyping with Thomas in November so they could get a feel for what he wanted to do, eat and see while he was in Gilbert. Memorable activities for the Fluegel family and Thomas included the “down” times when they would just hang out and talk, playing Australian rules football (footie) and American rules football with friends, visiting Arizona Chase Field and Jobing.com Arena and tasting Australian foods such as Vegemite and Tim Tams, and American food such as Butterfinger candy bars and cheese fries.
Thomas Marriott said, “The difference between Gilbert and Turramurra is the school spirit and sporting culture.” The main sports in Australia are cricket and rugby with the club teams prevailing over school ones. “Everyone knows when the Gilbert Tigers are playing”, added Marriott. “More could be done at our school to resemble that atmosphere at Gilbert.”
GHS Sophomore, Emma Helvig enjoyed activities such as horseback riding with her visitor from Melbourne, Sophie Elam. Helvig selected Elam because “she appeared adventurous and outgoing”.
Gilbert host families provided Aussie visitors with a bed, breakfast and dinner and weekend activities in order that their new friends could experience life as an average Arizona teenager. Spending one day on campus was all that could fit in their busy schedules, which included day trips to Tucson, Sedona, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Phoenix and Tempe. Five Australian adult leaders travelled with the students. Before arriving in Arizona, the group toured parts of northern and Southern California.
Ellen Fluegel is an English teacher at Gilbert High School and served as a host parent during the visit by students from Australia.