Student Exchange: Journey to South Africa

Margo_Baltzan_2018_2019_001As soon as my plane hit the ground in Cape Town, South Africa at 12:06 am, I knew the six weeks to follow would be some of the most incredible weeks of my life. I was greeted by my host family which included my exchange, Rosie, and her wonderful parents, sister, and three dogs. Over these past two weeks, the once foreign city of Cape Town has quickly become my home away from home and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the differences as well as similarities this part of the world shares with my own home.

First of all, I have to admit that the weather here is in every way better than in Montreal: in the past week, it has been nothing but sunny and 35 degrees, a definite improvement to the temperature back at home. In terms of the country itself, my host family lives in a small estate called Pear Valley, which is surrounded by tall mountains and lush vineyards. The drive to school is, in one word, breathtaking.

The schools here are very different compared to LCC. First off, instead of walking through a hallway, you walk through gardens or across grassy fields to get to your next class, which I enjoy. Additionally, students in grade 10 are given more freedom when choosing their elective classes. I am currently taking a course in business studies as well as another one in Afrikaans, a language spoken by many South Africans. The sports are also quite different. Netball and water polo are very popular, as well as “social tennis” which, summed up, is tennis for people who are not very good at tennis.

South Africa is currently experiencing a drought as well as electricity shortages, which lead to something called “load shutting”. Every day, for two to six hours, all electricity is cut off, which is something I am not used to, having lived in Montreal all my life. Although it is hardly an inconvenience for people like Rosie’s family who have a generator, many families and most schools are affected by it. That being said, not everything here is different in terms of day to day life and school; the classes are structured more or less the same as LCC and the people here, although from a different hemisphere, are still just as warm and welcoming as my friends back at home.

When I am not attending school, my exchange and I are either meeting up with friends at one of the neighbouring towns of Paarl or Franschhoek, or just relaxing outside in our friend Eva’s pool. Last weekend, I had the chance to visit Cape Town, known as the “cultural capital’ of South Africa. We had lunch on the waterfront, a lively part of the city filled with music, food and tourists. After that, we embarked on a five-hour tour of Robben Island, the infamous island where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners were detained between 1964 and 1991, during the apartheid era of South Africa. Many of the tour guides had been prisoners themselves, and it was incredible to hear their stories. To top off the weekend, we visited a cheetah sanctuary and encountered cheetahs, and Rosie and I fell in love with a meerkat named Sebastian.

All in all, it seems impossible to have done so many incredible things in such a short period of time, and yet I can’t believe two week have already gone by. I look forward to my next four weeks here and I can’t wait for whatever this wonderful country has in store for me next! – Margo Baltzan ’20, Exchange Student at Bridge House

Student Exchange: Welcome to Australia!

2018_2019_Alexandra_Payne_004I arrived on a Friday and, that weekend, we had a lot of fun. On Saturday night we went to Brighton Beach, where there are famous beach boxes. It was beautiful and a good way to see what Australia was like, though I was a little jet-lagged. We swam in the ocean and hung out with a couple of my exchange’s friends. That week, I went to Carey Baptist Grammar School and met all of her friends, who were very welcoming! It was really fun and I was excited to meet so many new people.

On the weekend, we went up to Bundalong to the Murray River where we waterskied and kneeboarded. It was so exciting and a great way to get to know my exchange. It was really hot – almost 32 degrees – which is the opposite of home. All in all, it has been a great experience so far and I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here! – Alexandra Payne ’21, Exchange Student at Carey Baptist Grammar School

Head’s Blog: Air Conditioning & Energy Consumption

Although this has been a very challenging winter with radical temperature shifts, last summer was the hottest on record in Montreal. Montreal is a city of extremes, shifting from as low as -40°C to +40°C, a major differential and one of the most significant temperature shifts in the world. No wonder our roads are so bumpy with a long cycle of freezing, thawing, and freezing again.

If you harken back to last summer, the extreme heat we had was also experienced across most of North America and Europe, with the hottest spot being in Portugal in July, with temperatures above 45°C. Weather experts expect more of the same next summer.

With extreme heat as an apparent new normal, people need to realize how much energy is expended on air conditioning (AC) in our homes, at work, and in public gathering spaces, such as malls and theatres. But it’s important to also realize that AC is actually heating up our whole planet and scientists predict it could add half a degree to global temperatures by 2050.

As incomes continue to rise in Asia and Latin America, more and more people can now afford AC, which historically has been a luxury in many corners of the world. At current rates, it’s projected that the number of AC units will increase by 250% in the next 30 years. That would mean that all the AC units across the planet would then consume as much energy as all of China does today.

In terms of environmental impact, this would mean 82% more greenhouse gases than we produce now, and half a degree could be added to average global temperatures. Note that heat from AC units in cities can add as much as one degree at night.

According to the Global Economic Forum, 21% of global electricity demand is now being attributed to AC alone. So it’s an area we can and should target for reductions.

One simple way to address this could be to raise so-called comfort zones of AC in homes, restaurants and malls by a few degrees from mid- to high-teens (mid-60s in Fahrenheit) to above 20°c (or mid-70s F), so that the electrically-powered units don’t have to work as hard. I’m sure there are a lot of other innovative ways to cut back on AC energy consumption.

Last November, a new competition was backed by the government of India, with Richard Branson as the spokesperson. The Global Cooling Prize is a prize for innovation in addressing energy costs related to residential cooling technology design. It offers lots of incentives: $3 million in prize money over the next two years. So clearly, it’s a bigger issue than most of us have probably realized until now.

I recently urged our capable senior science students to put on their thinking caps and propose a solution to this mounting global problem. Why not submit an LCC student proposal? The Global Cooling Prize organizers are just waiting to dole out $3 million in prize money! – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Head’s Blog: Appreciate the WOW Moments!

wow-2780576_1280We all live in a digital information and innovation age, and every day we see or consume hundreds, if not thousands, of images and stories through various forms of media. Given that tsunami of information, I sometimes worry that we have all become somewhat immune to wonder and what I like to call WOW moments. That’s when an idea or development stops you in your tracks because it is simply awesome in every respect. Sometimes, we need to stop and think: WOW, that’s truly amazing! That’s happened several times to me in the past few months and I’d like to share a couple of my personal WOW moments.

Seven years ago, Quebecer Maurice Desjardins lost his nose, lips, teeth and upper and lower jaw in a horrible hunting accident after being shot in the face. Consequently, he couldn’t breathe, speak or swallow properly. After healing, he was so disfigured he hid away from the world.

Last fall, all of that changed with Canada’s first successful face transplant. Montreal plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel Borsuk performed the 17-hour procedure with the support of dozens of medical specialists. Desjardins also had prepared for two full years for his face transplant, including many hours with a psychiatrist to prepare for the possibility that his body would reject the face or the reality of taking on a whole new identity with a new face.

Dr. Borsuk and his team also practised for two years. The face is not a single organ, but involves many muscles, nerves, bones and skin. The new face came from a brain-dead man whose blood-type, skin tone and facial measurements closely matched those of Desjardins and whose family gave permission for the donation after his death. And a few months following the face transplant, things seem to be going well.

I find the whole concept to be astounding – in a good way – and clearly life-changing for the recipient, with incredible implications for people in the future who may be injured or disfigured in some way. For me, that was a real WOW moment!

Another WOW moment happened for me in December when I watched a segment of the CBS news magazine show 60 Minutes. It profiled Marshall Medoff, an 81-year-old eccentric genius inventor. Inspired by the beauty of his regular visits to a local nature reserve and the constant doom-and-gloom stories about our global environment, Medoff felt compelled to address significant issues harming our natural world. Despite his age and lack of formal science training, Medoff put his personal life on hold and concentrated on finding solutions in a rented garage for some fifteen years. He emerged with piles and piles of papers and hundreds of ideas, many of which he has since patented after seeking support from scientists who helped him move forward.

Three of his ideas are particularly notable and he has managed to receive private funding and turn the ideas into reality. First is the development of a completely plant-based sugar that is not harmful to teeth or the human body. Second is the creation of a kind of plant-based plastic that is fully biodegradable, and third is a fully renewable plant-based fuel that can power vehicles and heat homes. Each of Medoff’s initiatives has the capacity to address major environmental issues that threaten our sensitive global environment. Despite his lack of training, his ideas have developed into reality and the board of his company, XYLECO, is now populated by notable scientists and inventors. Amazing. Another WOW moment!

So I urge you to try and not be too casual about all the news that you absorb today and every day. Seek – and hopefully feel – your own WOW moments in the next several weeks before our spring break. Maybe you’ll be inspired and the next great innovator, just like Marshall Medoff or Dr. Daniel Borsuk. May the force be with you! – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

 

 

“Adapt & Embrace the Change”: Two Students Reflect on their Student Exchange Experience

Elizabeth_AssimesElizabeth Assimes: Last year, I went on exchange for four weeks to Melbourne, Australia, and attended Carey Grammar School. I was very nervous to meet my exchange and had all the typical ‘what if’ thoughts: what if we didn’t get along, what if I didn’t enjoy school or what if I didn’t like the family I was about to live with? Mainly, I was scared to spend a month on the other side of the world and not enjoy it.

Today, I can happily say that my exchange has become one of my best friends. Australian schools are really cool, and I now have a second family on the other side of the globe. The most important thing I learnt on exchange is to have an open mind and to stay positive. Remembering that you’re travelling to another continent to experience and embrace the differences of other places is the key to enjoying an exchange, because it’s really amazing to live in a culture unlike our own.

Exchange was one of the best experiences of my life and I will hopefully will return to Australia this upcoming summer!

Isabelle_WhittallIsabelle Whittall: Last year, I went to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I had already met my exchange, since she came here first, so I wasn’t as nervous. Because I chose to go to Argentina, I experienced culture shock. I had to speak Spanish with my exchange’s family and friends, which was hard at first, but I ended up improving my Spanish a lot and the people I spent time with improved their English as well. I went to a music festival, a lot of quinceaneras (a girl’s fifteenth birthday celebration), ate empanadas, and learned how to play field hockey. Essentially, I experienced life as an Argentinian teenager for five weeks. I became best friends with my exchange, and I talk to her all the time. In fact, I spent a week with her and some of her friends in New York this summer, which was amazing. Becoming best friends with an Argentinian girl ended up being one of my favourite parts of the experience.

Elizabeth: Isabelle and I both had great times on our exchanges and loved the experience. But I’m not going to lie: even as someone who has lived in three places and two continents, I was scared. It’s scary to go to another continent and possibly not have a good experience, but you shouldn’t let yourself miss this amazing opportunity LCC offers based on ‘what ifs’. Exchange is all about adapting and embracing the change and it’s something I highly recommend.

-Elizabeth Assimes ’20 & Isabelle Whittall ’20