This is the story of how two girls, from different cultures and countries (and speaking two very different languages), became the best of friends on a hallway at Explo. And it's just one example of how Explo helps facilitate lifelong friendships between students the world over.
Above: Bridget (left) and Olivia in Paris, 2006
Bridget Fitzpatrick’s best friend didn’t grow up down the street, go to the same school, or even belong to the same extended family. She doesn’t even live on the same continent.
So how did Bridget and Olivia — both now college students — meet and become such fast friends? By deciding, one summer, that they each really, really, really wanted to come to Explo. And as 4th- and 5th-graders, they just happened to live on the same floor.
We first heard about this story of lifelong friendship from Dan Mantell, a member of our Board of Trustees. His daughter Katie, now an engineering student at the University of Pennsylvania, was the catalyst. She wanted to go to Explo — and convinced her parents that her friend Bridget just had to come, too. If not for that, well, Bridget and Olivia might never have met.
According to Dan, the decision to send Katie to Explo took place before Katie, or his wife Marsha, even woke up. One winter day, Dan received an orange packet from Explo with a video inside. That Saturday morning, Dan woke up early to watch it.
"I was blown away," Dan says. "I thought, ‘the kid has to go to this program!’ But she was our first child, just a little 4th-grader, and I was thinking, there’s no way she’s ready to go to Explo. There’s no way we’re ready."
But Dan got Katie up to watch the video anyway, and she was just as enamored by the program as her father. Marsha wanted Katie to attend as a day student, but Katie and Dan prevailed. And that summer is when Katie and Bridget first met “a little Parisian girl on their floor named Olivia,” Kate Findlan (Bridget’s mom) says.
Above: Olivia (left) and Bridget (with Bridget’s little sister) during their first Explo summer.
Becoming Lifelong Friends
Bridget and Olivia became such good friends that the following summer, when Olivia needed to fly over from Paris a few days early, the FItzpatrick family greeted her at Logan Airport and welcomed her into their home like one of their own. From then on, for the next few summers, they reconnected at Explo — and they were inseparable.
"Bridget loved Explo," Kate says. "But I loved it because Explo prepared Bridget to go to college. Really, the groundwork at Explo helped Bridget become acclimated to college in a way she wouldn’t have been able to otherwise."
And, Kate says, Bridget loved seeing her friends again — especially Olivia. So much so, in fact, that since their summers at Explo, they’ve visited one another in Massachusetts and in France, and now, just over a decade later, Bridget and Olivia reunited in Paris during Bridget’s junior year abroad in Spain.
So can students find lifelong friends at Explo? (We think yes.)
Have you made lifelong friends at Explo? We’d love to hear your stories! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the tales of how you and your Explo mates became lifelong friends.
Note: This story first appeared in March, 2012.