Au pair Kiah Appledore enrolled in the Washington, DC course offered by the Borough of Manhattan Community College earlier this year. As part of the course, she traveled with Cultural Hi-Ways to America's capital city in April 2015. Here is Kiah's account of her experience.
Hi my name is Kiah Appledore. I'm 20 years old and I'm from Victoria in Australia. I'm currently living in Pennsylvania with my absolutely amazing host family and looking after their 2 beautiful children who are 2 and 4 years old. I wanted to be an au pair with Go Au Pair as I’m crazy obsessed with kids and I'm absolutely in love with America ever since I was a little girl. I was fortunate to be able to participate in this travel adventure with Cultural Hi-Ways! I wanted to provide a full account of my experience so that other Au Pairs will see how easy and fun Cultural Hi-Ways made this experience.
The tour was organized through the educational component of my au pair program. As an au pair I must complete 6 credit units or 72 hours of college classes throughout my 12 months in the United States. The educational class I chose was a 3 weekend course at Peirce College. These classes took place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday the 14th of March, Sunday the 22nd of March, and Sunday the 12th of April. On Saturday the 18th of April, 2015 I departed 30th Street Station embarking on a weekend tour of Washington, DC.
I found out about this class when my local area representative posted a different tour on our Au Pair Facebook page. I went on the link to check out the tour and then explored the different sections of the site which is where I found this class. That is another thing I loved how easy the site was to navigate! There are clear headings at the top such as education, tours and pick-up locations.
The application process Cultural Hi-Ways put together was really easy to follow which I was so grateful for as I am terrible with technology!
Once the sign up process was complete, I received an e-mail with my pre-class homework.
As we walked into Peirce College for the first time we were immediately greeted by reception and politely asked to sign in. After we did so we went up the elevator to our classroom. As I walked through the college I couldn’t help but notice the cleanliness of the university. You could clearly tell the staff had pride in the university. As I walked in I was immediately greeted by the friendly reception staff! We signed in and were directed on how to get to our classroom which I truly appreciated. Once settled in the classroom we met our teacher Allison Menditto. Allison was a fantastic teacher and I hope anyone who does this class in the future is lucky enough to have her! She was so friendly and nice and extremely patient especially to those for who English was not their first language. The class went well, we learnt about the history of Washington, DC, specifically the American Revolution and civil rights, and had group discussions about the similarities and differences on wars in our own country.
The second class focused on Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War. I found all three of these topics fascinating and went into thorough detail that I never would have learnt without attending this class. I give credit once again to Allison who made topics that I would have found totally boring, as I always hated history at school, something I actually enjoyed!
The third and final class was without a doubt the most fun! We spent the morning watching Forest Gump which was totally amazing because although I’d seen the movie before, I never paid attention to all the historical references it included such as the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War. From there we looked at Kennedy, Elvis, and Watergate.
The Washington, DC tour was the final component to my college experience in order for me to receive my 45 hours. It began on April 18th at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. Cultural Hi-Ways did an outstanding job at ensuring all students were adequately prepared for this trip by sending constant updates throughout the coming weeks on tour guides, utensil requirements and departure times. Having this information well in advanced made me feel safe with the company I was travelling with.
The bus departed 30th Street Station at 10:10 a.m. and as soon as I stepped on to the coach I was dumbfounded with the 5 star quality of the vehicle. The seats were comfortable and had plenty of leg room, the aisles and seating were clean and free of rubbish/trash and the driver and tour manager took pride in the bus and its passengers. Our bus driver's name was Jeff and our tour manager was Ron Dingman. Both of these gentlemen were welcoming and kind, they were easily approachable, funny and enjoyable company for the entirety of the journey!
The trip began on time which is something I loved and we were immediately informed on the itinerary of the trip by being given an orange envelope filled with monument information, phone numbers of the hotel and drivers and a list of every student on this trip!
Upon reading the form with a list of every student on the trip I was able to discover the 3 other girls that I would be sharing a room with for the weekend. I was pleased to read that my roommates were from the classes I had been taking and that I’d made friends with rather than 3 random strangers who signed up for this class. This made me feel as if Cultural Hi-Ways truly cared about my experience and is something I honestly appreciated!
After a lunch stop at Union Station we set off to our first landmark which was the White House! This was definitely my favorite site of the trip! After that we left and went to the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflection Pool. Both of these were absolutely outstanding! From there we went to the National Mall from which we saw the World War One and Two Memorials as well as the JFK Memorial.
So once we’d seen all this we headed to the hotel to check in (We stayed at the Hilton Arlington). The hotel was absolutely magnificent! Stunning design, gorgeous, furniture, friendly staff and comfortable beds, it was absolutely perfect! From the moment we arrived at the Hilton I was amazed: the front entrance was free of any trash, any cars out the front were high class which gave the hotel a rich feeling, and there was a gentlemen member of staff holding the door open for us girls which I thought was so caring and considerate. Ron had gotten the keys for us so we went straight to our rooms and, once again, a member of staff was minding the elevator to make sure we all knew where we were going and didn’t over fill the elevator.
When I got to my room, it was absolutely beautiful! Being the person I am, I went and jumped on the bed straight away! It was so comfortable I felt like I was lying on clouds! The view was astounding, and the bathroom was clean and elegant! We were supplied with all utilities we could possibly need such as bathroom toiletries like shampoo and conditioner, charging facilities, coffee and tea! As well as things I never would have thought of such as an iron! From there I left and headed out for the night with a friend of mine.
I had my alarm set bright and early for 8 a.m. on Sunday so that I was up and ready for another jam-packed fun-filled day! The bus was loaded with our luggage at 9:15 a.m. and left promptly at 9:30 a.m. expressing once again of the many reasons I loved my experience with Cultural Hi-ways!
Our first stop was the Air Force Memorial. We spent 20 minutes there before being dropped at the National Mall and being given 3 hours of free time. I chose to see the Washington Monument as well as the Holocaust Museum, both free attractions.
This trip was absolutely once in a lifetime and I could not recommend it enough!