A DOZEN American students spent a week in the area on an exchange, which involved Roseberry Comprehensive, together with two other County Durham Schools.

The visitors spent a day in school, visiting lessons and taking part in discussions.

English students were very surprised to hear that guns were not commonly owned in the visitor's hometown of Ithaca, which is about five hours drive from New York.

The American visitors were intrigued by terraced houses, something many of them had not seen before.

Seven days to see the North-East were simply not enough. Host families had the first weekend with their visitors, and chose where to go.

As their visit coincided with the Jolablot Viking Festival, many people went to York to see the Viking parades and battle.

One confused US visitor was heard to ask, "Do people always dress up in the UK?"

We also introduced our guests to the Cornish pasty, something they had never heard of before.

The visitors found the North to be a very beautiful place - very green. Northumberland and the Lake District took their breath away, even in February.

Whitby was voted the coldest place they had ever been - not surprising, because it snowed.

One family even took their guests to a medieval banquet, and played the roles of baron and baroness.

Shopping seemed to be a favourite hobby, with the MetroCentre voted the best place to shop, simply because it was so like the "malls" in the US. Eldon Square was a close second with Durham, Edinburgh and York described as "cute".

After their visit to the North-East, the US students spent two days in London, visiting the British Museum and the Tower of London, before flying home.

The return visit takes place in October, when English students will stay with US families. As well as staying in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of the US, they will have the chance to see Niagara Falls and spend two days in New York.