Writer . Editor . Author
Ah, penpals. We all had one when we were 10. Mine started exactly at that age through the International Youth Society (IYS), where I paid a dollar for a friend. By the time I was 17, I was writing to over eighty friends around the world, found through Friendship Books, which are unofficial penpal networks. Not all of them lasted till today, of course, but here are the original three from IYS:
Amanda Aquilina from St Helens in Triq El-Kiet, Malta
Amanda was my very first penpal when I was 10. We wrote fervently to each other for a good eight years. We shared stories of our homes, families, schools, culture, food and bought gifts for each other every Christmas. I remember a picture of her at age 10, and here is a picture of her at age 17. The last thing I remember about her was that she studied accounting at her local university, which was full of Chinese students! We stopped corresponding by the time I left for college, and I haven’t been able to find her on Facebook since.
Ida-Sofia Maliniemi from Helsinki, Finland
I don’t remember very much about Ida, except how beautiful Finland must be from all the pictures she showed me! Our correspondence was very short and not particularly meaningful – all I felt was how remote Finland was and how different their lives must be.
Sarah Hughes from Carlisle, England
Sarah was my first British penpal, and she talked mostly of her school, her twin sisters and horse riding. She was one of four British penpals I wrote to; the others being Damien Radcliffe from Newcastle, Lisa Jayne Carroll from Widnes and Graham Weavers from Southampton. At that age, I could not imagine the lives and locations of these names, until my stint at The University in Manchester actually brought me pass Carlisle on the bus, Widnes on the train, Newcastle to visit a friend and even met up with Graham in London!