Hutt/Tempe Sister City 10 Year Reunion Trip
Heidi Bradshaw participated in the 2004 Student Exchange. In 2014, she was offered the opportunity to attend a 10 year reunion trip of all the delegates who went to Tempe.
In 2004 I was lucky enough to be chosen to go on this exchange programme to Tempe, Arizona. My 'American sister' Sarah and I got on really well and have since kept in contact over the last 10 years.
Last year in October 2014 one of the Tempe delegates, Heather Nyheart, put in all the hard work and organised a 10 year reunion for us all (the first of its kind since the exchange programme started many years ago). Unfortunately I was unable to go until I met David Edgington at the welcoming for last year's delegates in Lower Hutt. He was very generous and offered to give myself and the other delegates from my year a grant from the US Embassy so that we were able to attend the reunion. For this I am extremely grateful.
We arrived in Tempe on the 5th of October and went straight to the house of Sarah's parents. It was insane how much time had passed yet nothing had changed. Her parents, Bill and Nancy were just as welcoming and hilarious as the last time I was there and we sat outside in the crazy heat catching up and enjoying a much deserved beer after our 30 hours of travelling.
Our two week trip was jam-packed full of amazing dinners, catch-ups, sight-seeing, NFL games, parades, Oktoberfest, and most importantly the reunion. Unfortunately, not all of the original 56 delegates were able to attend now that we're all old and married with children....but it was amazing to see the people that could make it, 33 of us in total, especially since I had not seen any of them in 10 years. It was a night full of reminiscing, especially when they played a video of all the old footage and photos from 2004, most of which had all of us in fits of laughter and embarrassment at our teenage selves.
We also had a memorial for Barry who was a delegate from Ireland; he passed away suddenly when he was just 18. The next day we planted a tree for him in the Sister Cities Garden at Kiwanis Park, which was really lovely, and his family were happy to hear that we remembered him so fondly.
Overall it was another amazing opportunity only made available to me through my involvement with this wonderful exchange programme. I hope that for years to come many more young kids get the same opportunity that I did, to meet and make new lifelong friends with other families around the world.