Caitlin Tan Published

Common Interests: Listen To Teenagers From Appalachia And Wales Chat Connections


Appalachia has had hundreds of years of connection to Wales — people have been immigrating back-and-forth between the two regions since the late 1600s.

Our Inside Appalachia team has continued this through its Folkways program, by connecting teenage students in both Wales and West Virginia.


Courtesy Mackenzie Kessler
Mackenzie Kessler, a high school student from Fayette County, West Virginia, has been exchanging audio messages with teenagers in Wales.

Originally, students from Merthyr Tydfil, Wales shared “audio diaries” with students in Lincoln County, West Virginia in 2019 and early 2020. They recorded themselves discussing serious subjects, like what life is like in current or former “coal country,” and more fun topics like favorite foods and what these teens do for fun. Subjects included Tudor’s Biscuit World, “plain pizza,” Doritos with salsa and the FIFA World Cup video game. Can you guess which choices were from Wales and which were from West Virginia?

Throughout 2020, the Inside Appalachia team helped the Merthyr Tydfil students, Ela Cudlip and Sam McCarthy, connect with two teenagers in Fayetteville, West Virginia, Brooke Thomas and Mackenzie Kessler. As one might imagine, the pandemic was on their minds.

Other topics discussed in the audio diaries include first love, getting a driver’s license and thoughts about the future, i.e. to go to college or not. These were topics that are universal for everyone in their teens – regardless of where they live.

This story is part of our Folklife Reporting Project, a partnership with West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia and the Folklife Program of the West Virginia Humanities Council.