Exchanging cultures after two years of anticipation


Lindsay Benza '23

Senior Maddy Ball experiences Sacred Heart Network Exchange after two years of travel restrictions.

As the Sacred Heart Network Exchange program takes place during students’ sophomore year, COVID-19 presented obstacles for members of the Class of 2023 who planned to visit foreign countries in 2020 and 2021.  Due to health and safety concerns, there was no traveling during the exchange program.  However, over the last two years, Senior Maddy Ball and her exchange student, Augie Williams, from the Baradene College of the Sacred Heart in Auckland, New Zealand, developed a close bond despite living over 8,000 miles apart.  Since sophomore year, Maddy and Augie built a friendship virtually.  Maddy and Augie finally ventured to each other’s home countries in order to fully experience the Sacred Heart Network exchange program December 2022.

Maddy and her family welcomed Augie to Greenwich, Connecticut, December 5.  In the last two weeks of school before Christmas break, Augie formed friendships, engaged in classroom discussions, and learned about American culture.  She experienced the holiday traditions on King Street, such as the all-school Christmas carol sing-along and the cookie exchange.  In addition to on-campus activities, Augie visited New York City, New York for the first time.  She enjoyed seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, shopping on Fifth Avenue, and exploring the Bryant Park Winter Village.

Augie experiences the holiday season during her visit to the United States.  Courtesy of Maddy Ball ’23

Over Christmas break, Maddy accompanied Augie back to Auckland.  Maddy’s two-week visit took place during New Zealand’s summer season, so instead of attending school, she experienced the island’s many outdoor activities like boating and hiking.  A highlight of Maddy’s visit was bungee jumping off the Auckland Harbor Bridge.

“I made many memories during my trip,” Maddy said.  “It was very special to experience Christmas with Augie’s family and try all of the traditional New Zealand holiday dishes.  I think my favorite part of the trip was jumping off of the Harbor bridge in Auckland.”

Maddy bungee jumps off the Auckland Harbor Bridge in New Zealand.  Courtesy of Maddy Ball ’23

As an avid skier and hiker, Maddy has a deep appreciation for nature.  Her favorite aspect of New Zealand was the scenery.  While Auckland has urban areas, it also consists of oceans, lakes, hills, and mountains.  Maddy expressed her admiration for the unique landscape.

“New Zealand is very different than any other place I have visited before,” Maddy said.  “The sun is harsh, and it is easy to get sunburned because of the island’s damaged ozone layer.  The climate is tropical, and everything is really green.  Augie took me on a boat one day, and the views of the land from the ocean were unforgettable.  The ocean was the most beautiful color, and the mountains are covered in big, green trees.”

Maddy and Augie visit the beaches near Auckland.  Courtesy of Maddy Ball ’23

Maddy is thankful for the experience the exchange program provided, as she had the opportunity to travel to a new country and build a friendship with someone she would not have met without the Sacred Heart Network.  She hopes to visit New Zealand in the future.

“I enjoyed being able to build a friendship with someone in another country,” Maddy said.  “My experience visiting New Zealand and getting to know Augie is something I will cherish forever.”

Featured Image by Lindsay Benza ’23