Student Exchange: Discovery in Johannesburg

Constitution Hill 2I have been in Johannesburg for a little over a month and this exchange is going by so fast! I wish I could stay longer but sadly I only have two weeks left. I have experienced so many new things and discovered the history of their beautiful country.

In the past month, I was lucky enough to go on two community service days. We visited two different schools and they were both amazing experiences. The first school we visited was one for refugee children. These children have gone through so much in their lifetimes but they are all happy and so interested. The second school was for children with learning disabilities. This school surprised me because there are only three classes. It was so nice to meet all the kids.

I visited Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum and learned about the history of the Apartheid government and their oppression of coloured people that ended only in 1994.

We went to Cape Town for the weekend and I got to visit so many different places such as Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years), Two Oceans Aquarium, the Cape Wheel, V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain, Camps Bay Beach and a market with local vendors. I met a man who was put in Robben Island Prison as a political prisoner for standing up to the Apartheid government. I heard his story of the horrible treatment of prisoners and the way that they were forced to live. I was surprised to learn that many former political prisoners still live on the island! Cape Town is a beautiful and historic city and I would love to go back someday.

Saints is very different from LCC in many ways. With their extra-curricular activities, people often finish school around 10 pm even though classes end at 2:40 pm. Their sports are also different. I have tried new sports such as netball and diving. They are both fun and popular here. Also, some sports that are popular in Montreal, such as ice hockey and basketball, are not popular here. Lastly, their campus is huge compared to LCC, with a labyrinth of boarding houses, a chapel, two field hockey turf fields, a dam, three pools, tennis courts, netball courts, seven separate schools, as well as countless sports fields.

I have gotten used to the girls-only school but it is very different from LCC. Even though the boys and girls are on the same campus, they are very separate and boys and girls rarely see each other. I think that coed is a nicer way to go to school.

My host family has been so nice and welcoming and has worked hard to make sure that I enjoy my time here. I will be sad to leave all my new friends who have made me feel like South Africa is my home. I will miss South Africa and I hope that I can come back one day.– Natasha Ryan ’19, Exchange Student at St Stithians Girls’ College

Student Exchange: A Canadian’s Survival Guide to Life in Australia

As my time in Adelaide, Australia comes to an end, I reflect back on everything this trip has taught me. It taught me to be independent, how to step further out of my comfort zone than I could ever imagine and, most importantly, it taught me how to be a better version of myself. I learnt about new people, cultures and traditions. Over these past six weeks, I became immersed in Australian culture, although Bronwyn’s (my exchange) parents are American.

Let’s make a few things clear. First of all, you will NOT see kangaroos and koalas roaming the streets (unfortunately). Secondly, not all Aussies surf. Some do, but unless they tell you about it, don’t assume! The word “thongs” will most likely be used often and it doesn’t mean what you think it means… It means flip-flops! (Kind of confusing, I know.) There is, apparently, a HUGE difference between chips and hot chips (I’m still not quite sure what the difference is but I know it’s there.) Australians do not spend every minute of every day idolizing Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter, and lastly, not once did I hear anyone say anything about putting shrimps on the barbie!

During my time here, I experienced a lot of different things. I had the opportunity to visit Sydney and see famous sites like the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I had heard so much about both those places and it was amazing to see them in person. School in Adelaide is very different from LCC. Not only is it completely foreign territory but everything’s outside! You catch some sun just walking from one class to another. I was lucky enough to participate in Westminster’s swimming carnival. They have houses like we do at LCC and students in each house swam different races and did relays. It was nice and interesting to see a somewhat familiar activity where houses were competing against each other all the way across the world.

It took awhile for me to adjust to all the changes but that’s okay. As hard as it was to adjust to things like the 15-hour time change and making new friends, going on an international exchange has been a worthwhile experience and has changed me for the better. I was able to form bonds that will hopefully last a lifetime and I hope I’ll be able to visit my Aussie friends soon! – Sophie Levy ’19, Student Exchange at Westminster School

Student Exchange: From Beaches and Waterfalls to the Sydney Opera House

StudExchange_LadyMethodist_EWaxman_2016_2017_001Over the past week, I have gotten to see and do so much. Even though the weather hasn’t been the best, with rain almost every day, we did get two sunny days on the weekend. On Saturday, we went to Dee Why beach and I went into the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The temperature outside and in the water was great, and although the current was too dangerous to go swimming, we walked along the beach, went up a cliff and saw a great view, and then went swimming in an ocean pool. An ocean pool is a pool built on the beach that is filled with ocean water. It was really nice going in the pool because, unlike the ocean, there were no sharks in there!

After our day at the beach, we had fish and chips while watching the sunset over the water, and then we went home. The next day, we woke up early to go to the Blue Mountains, an area that got its name because of the density of Eucalyptus trees. We spent the day hiking to waterfalls, lookouts, and enjoying the nice weather. Our first stop in the mountains was at a national park where we saw wild kangaroos. I got a lot of pictures of the mountains and with the kangaroos. We then went from lookout to lookout getting tons of pictures. I saw the three sisters, a famous rock formation in the Blue Mountains, and then we went for lunch in a valley. The weather was great and we had an amazing time.

It ended up raining nonstop for the rest of the week but by the time the weekend came it cleared up again. I’ve only seen a live recording of an opera in a movie theatre with my grandfather, so seeing La Traviata Saturday night at the Sydney Opera House was a once in a lifetime experience. The Opera House was filled with windows that had great views of the harbour and when it got dark at intermission, Sarah, her mom Janet and I, went out on one of the balconies and took pictures of the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park, an amusement park in Sydney, all lit up. The costumes and the set for La Traviata were fantastic, and some of the notes the lead vocalists hit were amazing. I had such a great time and really enjoyed the performance.

On Sunday, we went to Darling Harbour to walk around and go to the aquarium. It was overcast again but we were able to take the ferry to the harbour. While the ferry got closer to the city, we could see the Sydney tower through the fog and a lot of new glass buildings along the water. Before going into the aquarium, we walked around the harbor and saw a model of the boat that James Cook used when he discovered Sydney. After a short but heavy rainstorm, the sky cleared up and it was really sunny outside. We walked around the water some more, and then went to the aquarium where we saw a whole bunch of different aquatic animals native to Australia. There were Jellyfish that changed colours, different types of coral, stingrays, dugongs, sharks, and many other types of fish and crustaceans. I really don’t like sharks but I found it very cool being able to go through a glass tunnel to see them swim over us.

Already three weeks in and I have seen and done so much. I have pushed myself to try new things and I have made so many memories that I am sure to remember for the rest of my life. This trip has been amazing and I can’t wait to experience everything the remaining three weeks have to offer. -Ella Waxman ’19, Student Exchange at Methodist Ladies’ College

Student Exchange: Learning Something New Every Day in Colombia

I have been living in Bogota, Colombia for a week and half and it has felt like the longest 11 days of my life. I feel like I’ve lived here my whole life and that is because my host family and friends in school have made me feel so welcome and at home.

The journey here was very emotional. This was the first time I had ever been away from home for more than a week. After having an emotional farewell with my best friends and family, I flew to Toronto with my dad and stayed the night. On February 17, I said goodbye to him and that’s when the journey truly begun. I was all alone and all the responsibility was on me. I made it through security, got to the gate and then took a six-hour flight to Bogota, Colombia. The flight was great and before I knew it, I was already with my host family on the way to the house. I have never met such caring people in my life. I am so grateful to have been placed with my host family.

As my journey began I was introduced to many new foods, which I loved, and A LOT of Colombian music that I can’t stop listening to. On my second day, I went up this mountain and saw an amazing view of Colombia. The city is so beautiful and the best thing about it is that it reminds me of my home country.

I started school feeling very nervous but everyone was so nice. By the end of the first day, I had talked to almost everyone in the grade. As I spend more days in school, I’m becoming closer to everyone. Believe it or not it has been a bit hard to communicate with everyone. Even though my first language is Spanish, in Colombia they have a different vocabulary and A LOT of slang which I’m starting to get the hang of. School is very different from LCC but in a very good way. Classes are easier and I spend a lot of time outdoors, which I enjoy.

Every day I learn something new about the culture here and that’s what I love about the school and my host family. I’ve done things I thought I would never have the courage to do and I’m having the time of my life. I have taken many videos and pictures, which I’m excited to share with my friends and family when I get back home.

I have become a very independent and social person, which is what I wanted to get out of this experience. When first coming here, I thought that not being in Colombia at the same time as my exchange Andrea would be difficult, but it really hasn’t been that hard. I get along very well with her sister Camila who is in the grade below and we have so many things in common.

My trip is just beginning and I’m very excited about the rest of the adventures and the people I will meet.

I don’t think anything can prepare you for something like this but it has been the best decision I have ever made and I’m so grateful for everything. I know that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity I will never forget. – Sofia Araya Meier ’19, Student Exchange at Colegio Anglo Colombiano

Student Exchange: Getting a Taste of Sydney

Harbour_BridgeAfter twenty-two hours of flying and layovers, I finally got to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport on Sunday, February 26. I got my bag in less than 15 minutes and met my exchange, Sarah, at the arrivals gate. When we stepped outside, it was very humid and I was thankful for the shorts I put on before landing. I slept for about ten hours on the plane so by the time I landed, I wasn’t tired, and I had enough energy to walk around.

Sarah’s dad dropped us off in downtown Sydney, and the two of us walked around the water. We went up to the Sydney Opera house and continued into the area known as the Rocks, where there was an outdoor market. Then we got lunch from a really good bakery and ended our day in the city by going to Woolworths, a grocery store, to get different types of Australian food. I tried a whole bunch of Aussie treats and, of course, I tried Vegemite: a mixture of salt and yeast that tasted like salt water to me.

When we went back to Sarah’s house at the end of the day we got our things ready for school, baked muffins, and ate dinner outside. Their backyard was filled with different types of parrots that were flying all around us while we ate.

The next day was my first day at school and it was really nice. The school is on two separate campuses that are just down the street from each other. Instead of advisory, they have something called lunary, which we have twice a week with our house, Whitley. At Methodist Ladies’ College, we have to bring our own lunches and snacks, but they do have a nice cafe that they call the canteen, where you can buy food.

So far, this trip has been amazing. I was able to travel here on my own through three different time zones, I’m on the other side of the world experiencing new cultures and going to a new school, and I’m having a lot of fun. – Ella Waxman ’19, Student Exchange at Methodist Ladies’ College