Two young students from Bega are packing their bags ready for the trip of a lifetime this winter.
Jess Heaton, 19, and Matthew Gibbs, 17, have been selected as travel ambassadors for the Bega Littleton Sister City Exchange 2018 tour to the US. They caught up with others in the delegation as well as friends and supporters at a bonfire night on Sunday.
For Jess it will be her first overseas trip; for Matthew, who has a couple of cruises under his belt, it will be his first international flight.
He was chosen for the trip as a student ambassador, having to go through a selection process including interview and presentation stages.
“I didn’t hear back from them at first, but it turns out my email wasn’t working,” Matthew said.
“I got a phone call one day saying they had been trying to reach me and would I be happy to come in for an interview that day. I said to work I needed an hour’s break for lunch and I wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I did the interview in my KFC uniform!”
Matthew said he really keen to see what life is like in Bega’s sister city as well as share what growing up in Bega for him is like.
There’s plenty of ground to cover, with the enthusiastic young bloke into software coding as well as local theatre – most recently he played the Genie in Spectrum Theatre’s all-youth production of Aladdin Jr.
“Life’s hectic, I have a lot of interests and I try to space everything out so I can do all the things I love doing,” he said.
He has already been in touch with his host family, “who are almost perfect” – with interests in the local theatre and a son into robotics competitions.
Jess is studying a three-year Diploma of Event Management at Bega TAFE, completing the course this month just ahead of the plane trip to America.
She said she was “extremely grateful” for the opportunity to share experiences in the events and hospitality industry overseas and get insight unlikely to be found in a regional NSW town.
“Ever since I was five years old I’ve been saying I want to see the world,” Jess said.
“Now to get to go with such caring people and stay with families that are just as friendly is a wonderful opportunity.
“I’ve only ever been in Bega, so I’m telling my host family just to show me as much as they can – there’s not going to be anything I’m not interested in!”
Although only meeting through the Bega Littleton Citizens Exchange program in recent months, Jess said she was looking forward to travelling with Matthew as part of the tour group.
“It’s amazing to see someone young with so much passion. It’s going to be a fun trip.”
The tour group has plans to visit the Houston Space Centre and Dallas Cowboys NFL stadium, while their stay in sister city Littleton coincides with Western Welcome Week, making for a busy agenda. They fly out in August.