PAX international students from India, Ukraine, and Latvia in front of a waterfall on an enhancement trip in North Carolina
Community coordinator Tracy Bolin's three adventurers (l to r): Aurelija, Yuliya (FLEX, Ukraine), and Sadia (YES, India)

Small Town, Big Hills

I got a chance to experience one of the most exciting and fun FLEX adventures in my exchange year so far. For my first PAX enhancement activity, I went on a weekend trip to Spruce Pine, North Carolina—up in the mountains! There alongside my community coordinator and two amazing exchange students who I now consider my friends, I visited the North Carolina Mining Museum and a small cozy town called Little Switzerland.

At the Mining Museum, we walked through the Bon Ami Emerald Mine and learned facts about the historic equipment, minerals, and people working there in the past. It was so interesting to learn that men working in the mines used Miner Safety Lamps that stopped working and warned them when the oxygen level was too low.

We were really impressed to learn that ultraviolet was used as a source of purification and separation of minerals; and that even everyday products like soap, toothpaste, floor tile cleaners, and lipstick have minerals in them! After exploring the Mining Museum, we went to Little Switzerland, where we got to see inside a post office, visited a general store, checked out little souvenir shops, and had delicious lunch at the local restaurant.

And of course, we had so much fun getting to know each other, going hiking to a 50-foot waterfall, taking photos of the beautiful scenery, and sharing lots of facts about our countries! Thanks to the FLEX program, I've met new amazing people and already learned so much about the American culture and history!

—Aurelija (FLEX, Latvia), hosted by the Myatt family (NC)