TWO of the most famous landmarks in the United States and Ireland - the White House and Aras an Uachtarain - were visited by students from County Limerick and Limerick in Pennsylvania as part of their ongoing exchange programme.
Founded in 2007, the programme sees students from ColÃ¡iste ChiarÃ¡in in Croom take part each year in an exchange with Spring-Ford High School in Pennsylvania.
The hope now is to expand the project so that students will stay for even longer periods of time and will take part in work placements in each country.
Last November, 16 students from ColÃ¡iste ChiarÃ¡in along with the school principal Noel Malone and Irish and media studies teacher Matt Kelly, made the journey to Pennsylvania.
While there, the Irish pupils, along with their American counterparts, attended the high school and visited a number of landmarks.
For 16-year-old Lorraine Oâ€™Connor from Banogue it was her first visit to the US.
â€œWe went for two weeks. We went to Washington, we saw the monument and the White House. We got to see things that I would only see on television,â€ explained the fourth year student.
â€œWe put on a show for the American students, some of us played music and more of us danced to show them what life is like in Ireland and prepare them for their visit,â€ Lorraine added.
While in Ireland earlier this month, the American pupils, along with their Irish counterparts, attended school and visited places of interest including King Johnâ€™s Castle in Limerick, Bunratty and the Aran Islands.
â€œWe met the President of Ireland at Aras an Uachtarain and got to shake hands with him,â€ explained Noel Malone jnr from Pallaskenry.
â€œWhile in America we lived in houses with the students â€“ you get to experience their lives as well. You wake up earlier, you finish school earlier. The school is like a college, itâ€™s massive,â€ he added.
According to teacher Matt Kelly, the most unique thing about the exchange is itâ€™s not just about students going on a trip, â€œthere is a whole exchange in terms of culture and family lifeâ€.
â€œAt the moment we are expanding this so that in the future we will have internships that we can develop. So if Lorraine or Noel decide they want to go over there, we are going to set up an internship programme whereby they can go to Pennsylvania and work there and stay with the family for maybe a month. Again the students from Pennsylvania could come to Limerick and work with some companies here,â€ he said.
Meetings have also taken place with Shannon Development and City Hall with a view to bringing a band from Pennsylvania to Limerick and opening up further opportunities between both countries.
â€œThey have a massive band and with Limerick having such huge tradition in the band festival we want their band to come over here and perform in Limerick. About 10 of their VEC committee flew over to Limerick and spent about a week travelling around the country with our group. Three business people came over and one musical conductor who went to the world music centre,â€ Mr Kelly added.