Keep an Open Mind, Try New Things and Enjoy the Adventure

day-838784_960_720If there’s one thing we, as high school students, hear more than anything else, it’s the questions: So, where do you see yourself in a couple years? Or, What do you want to study when you graduate?

And if there’s one thing we feel more than anything, it’s overwhelming guilt when we are unable to come up with a solid answer to these questions.

You see, high school is the time to discover what you enjoy most. It’s the time for “personal adventure”.

Personal adventure can mean infinitely different things to different people. In fact, the words themselves only mean whatever you want them to.

Perhaps, for you, personal adventure could mean taking part in that annual March Break trip you’ve been hearing about for the past couple of years. Maybe it means standing up at Model UN or debating and speaking in front of a crowd. Or maybe it’s simply just raising your hand in class to make your ideas heard.

No matter what it means to you, high school offers you a unique chance to create your own little adventures. We won’t again be lucky enough to have so many opportunities placed in front of us while having so few responsibilities.

Because personal adventure is more than just enjoying the time we have here to the fullest. It’s more complicated than saying carpe diem. It presents the opportunity to discover not only what we actually want out of life, but why we want it and how we’ll get there.

There was a point in my high school career where I hadn’t realized the importance of these little adventures. In fact, I had planned my entire life out for the next two decades. That’s longer than any of us students have been alive.

In grade 2, I saw the movie Nim’s Island and decided that I wanted nothing more than to become a marine biologist. I was so sold on this idea that by the time I reached Middle School, I had a list of my top universities planned out. Then, grade 9 rolled around along with a year-long biology unit in science. I then realized how little I enjoyed the topic (sorry Ms. Commerford). So then, what was I supposed to do? These plans I had made to last a lifetime had suddenly fallen apart in a matter of months and I felt lost. Although we may feel confident in our own judgement, it’s impossible to know what we will enjoy before we have enjoyed it.

The thing I realized then is that excessive planning for your future takes an excessive amount of time; it leaves you with a one-track mind that is wholly closed off to new ideas and experiences.

The second I realized I no longer knew what I wanted to do was also the second I began to try new things. I signed up for every club, eager to see what I had been missing. I found a love for Model UN and politics, realized how much fun physics was and took every opportunity I was given to travel to new places.

When I was locked in to biology, I stopped myself from straying too far from it. Why waste my time doing things that won’t help my future career? And I’m not advocating for you to join a club to pad your resume. I’m asking you to not be defined by your future plans.

Because, in the end, that’s what high school is for. high school isn’t here for us to already know how our life is going to roll out for the next 20 or 30 years. High school is here for us to try new things, go on wild trips, meet new people and make life-changing memories.

So enjoy the time you have here. The future may seem infinitely brighter than the present but along the way there will be spots of darkness. And when you’re fighting to see the light at the end of the tunnel of those dark places, you must be able to look back and feel the warmth of the memories you forged to help you get through it, not the pressure of exhaustive plans that were born out of the illusion that they would save you.

To those who don’t know what you want to do in the future, you’re not alone. To those who do, I trust your judgement, and I know that you will find success and happiness in whatever you choose. – Emma Belhadfa ’18

Student Exchange Australia: An Unforgettable Experience

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After spending a great time with my exchange Lachlan’s family in Queensland, I had the chance to start school at Carey Grammar. Although I was a little anxious as I didn’t know what to expect, I was quite excited to finally meet the students and attend classes in a foreign country.

On the first morning of school, I was welcomed by the school’s exchange coordinator and introduced to four other exchange students from New York. We received our school and gym uniforms, which was very much like ours other than the colours, as well as a laptop and a schedule. We were now well equipped to start our first days at Carey Grammar.

One of the first things that I noticed upon arriving at the school was how big the school was. The “Kew” Campus, as the students called it, took up a whole city block and had numerous buildings to accommodate the 2,000 students. The Middle School Area, which holds students from grades 7, 8 and 9, was comprised mainly of a main hall and two outdoor areas with classrooms around the borders. At first, I was a little intimidated by its large size, but after a few days and a lot of help from Lachlan and the other year 9 students, I became more comfortable around the campus and found my way to all my classes.

What I also found interesting at Carey is that their curriculum is quite different than the one at LCC. My schedule and even those of my classmates in Melbourne had less time slots dedicated for core classes, which allowed students to participate in more electives and other classes, which I thought was interesting. I was given some unique courses such as an introduction to coding, an economics class and a unit on CSI and forensic science. I thought that these classes were all awesome and engaging. My personal favorite was the economics class because the teacher, Mr. Warmbrunn, would give very informative lectures and we started a neat project where we pretended to buy stocks to see how well they would do.

The core courses at Carey were like ours in that they taught English, Math, Science and History. The only major difference was the language course that everyone had to take. The students had the choice between French, Chinese, German and Indonesian. This course was taken as a second language and for most of the students, they had started in Grade 7. We also had, once a week, a class called C-Change, where we would discuss how to develop personal qualities that are important to our well-being and how well we interact with others. This class would finish with a chapel session. With all of these different features in the school, Carey was definitely a great place to attend.

As part of the exchange experience, Lachlan and I, together with the other exchanges and their partners, went to Healesville Sanctuary, which was home to many indigenous Australian animals, including koalas, kangaroos and even platypus. It was remarkable that we could get so close to the animals without them even moving. We even saw some of the world’s most dangerous snakes, which I was happy to see through the glass! My favorite animal was the dingo. The animal is only found in Australia and is half-dog, half-wolf. We caught them right before their morning walk and we took pictures right next to them. It is a beautiful animal and was unlike anything I had ever seen.

With all their great athletic facilities, I was really looking forward to playing a sport at the school. At Carey, everyone has to participate in a sport and since Lachlan plays field hockey, I would try out this sport. I didn’t know anything about the sport and figured it would be similar to ice hockey, a sport that I really enjoy playing, but it was completely different. Everything from the field and the number of players to the sticks and balls were different. The game actually bears a closer resemblance to soccer. Although it took some time to get used to, I had lots of fun playing the sport and was even able to play in 3 games, which was an amazing experience. I was also very surprised to learn that field hockey is one of the largest sports in the world and is played almost everywhere, especially in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Speaking of sports, I also had the opportunity to watch an Australian Rules Football game with Lachlan and his family at the MCG. The game was so entertaining and although I didn’t quite understand the rules, the atmosphere in the stands was incredible. Both teams had a passionate fan base that weren’t afraid to share their sometimes-colourful opinions. The game itself was very fast-paced and finished with a very high point total. This sport seems to combine the best of many different sports that are more common in North America, like rugby, handball and soccer. It was loads of fun!

Spending five weeks in Australia was an incredible experience for me that I will never forget. Although it was difficult to leave my family, I was able to visit Australia and discover its incredible natural life and culture. I also had the chance to take part in some unique classes and meet some really nice people at Carey which was lots of fun, even if it is my summer break. I also believe the exchange has helped me become more mature and responsible as a person. Finally, and most of all, I met a really great friend in my exchange Lachlan and I hope that we will stay in touch and see each other soon. – Andrew Fata ’19 Exchange Student at Carey Baptist Grammar School

Student Exchange: The Colours of India

Photo5Imagine this, a display of fluorescent colours, laid on the smooth marble floor, to create fanciful patterns, such as bright fuchsia lotus flowers with forest green backdrops, or candles that burn purple flames, much like in a child’s dream. These picturesque creations are a renowned form of Indian artwork, known as rangoli. They are most often seen during festivals such as Diwali, the festival of luminous decorations, which commemorates the return of Lord Rama, as well as the triumph of light over darkness and during Holi, the festival of colours.

India is a diverse nation, which has multiple states that spread amongst its vast territory, and each state has its own customs and traditions including food which varies greatly within the country. If you visit the city of Bangalore, in the southern region of Karnataka, you will discover a white spongy, circular white cake made from rice, called idli, along with tasty coconut chutney. In the northern state of Punjab your mouth will water at the smell of fried parathas, filled with green peas and potatoes. Finally, In the state of Madhya Pradesh, your taste buds will be delighted to try bhutee ka kees, a corn based dish, served with chick peas.

When I’m not trying these delectable repasts, you will find me dancing in the Daly College dance studio. I have tried the Punjabi dance style, which incorporates sporadic jumping motions, as well as impeccable coordination. There is also a contemporary dance which requires gracefulness and balance. Finally, my favourite dance originates from Rajasthan, however, this one was too arduous for me to try, given the pots that must be placed on your head!

Though every state has minor cultural differences, each part of the country celebrates a month long tradition, celebrating the return of the god Shiva. People walk for days to temples to worship this god, transporting holy water in little pots hanging from each side of their body. Driving down the road, you witness a sea of saffron orange, with fanciful decorations as they pursue their quest to the temple. I take in the moment, not letting time evade me, and observe the wonder which lies in front of me. – Jane Robeck ’19 (Student Exchange, Daly College, Indore India)

Student Exchange: Exploring Melbourne and Northern Queensland

IMG_0928After spending more than 20 hours in flight aboard three different planes, I arrived in Melbourne in the morning of July 8 where my exchange, Lachlan, and his family were waiting for me. Although I was very tired from the long trip, I was looking forward to seeing Lachlan again and to finally meet his family. They were all very welcoming and I felt comfortable with them right away.

It is now winter in Australia and Carey Baptist Grammar School is currently on their holiday. We took advantage of time off school to explore the city of Melbourne. We took the train downtown to the Flinders Street Station and explored the Central Business District of the city. We spent some time walking around the Yarra River and visiting places like Federation Square. The city has a lot of very interesting modern art sculptures with a heavy Aboriginal influence, which I thought was very impressive and neat. We also went to the Eureka Tower, which is the tallest building in Australia. From the 88th floor, we could see the entire city, including the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Art Centre and St Paul’s Cathedral. It was really spectacular! I also got the chance to visit Monash University, where Lachlan’s dad works in physiology. He is doing research on diabetes and obesity and how the brain is linked with these two things, which was really interesting. He had a lot of animals in his basement that he was testing on like rats, mice and rabbits. We also visited a 3D print lab on the campus which was amazing as they were printing with all sorts of different materials, including stainless steel.

I went with my exchange family to Port Douglas in Northern Queensland, where it was much warmer than in Melbourne. Even though we spent a lot of time swimming and going to the beach because it was so warm and nice outside, we also explored different places in the area. We first visited Mossman Gorge, which we got to after driving past what seemed like endless sugar cane fields. The rocks in the gorge were massive and the trees and plants in the area were really colourful and nice to look at. We also went to the Daintree River which was near the gorge and took a crocodile tour. This area is known for having a large crocodile population and we saw quite a few of them. I was amazed at how calm they stayed even though our boat was very near to where they were resting. We also saw some unique birds and a few tree snakes whilst on the river.

On another day, we went up to Cape Tribulation, which is a massive beach on the coast of the Northern Queensland that James Cook found when he first discovered Australia in 1770. On the way to the beach, we stopped at the Daintree Discovery Centre, where we learned about the oldest rainforest in the world and how the ecosystem worked in that part of Australia. It was very interesting to learn about this unique place because I never would have expected that there would be a rain forest in Australia but it was quite remarkable. They were also showing many old animals that lived in Australia that are now extinct, including dinosaurs and procoptodons, which are sort of like giant kangaroos. When we arrived at the Cape, I was shocked at how untouched the place was and how they’ve kept the water and the beach so beautiful.

However, the highlight of the trip for me was when we went snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. I didn’t really know what to expect since I had never snorkeled before but it was an amazing experience. We went to three different places on the reef and we were able to see many different fish, sharks, oysters and corals living together. Some of the fish were so brightly colored and fluorescent it was as if they were artificial. We also saw massive grouper fish and even a couple reef sharks. The coral was also impressive and we could see how important it is in providing shelter and food to the other organisms in the sea. Although I wasn’t able to take a physical memory of what I saw, this was something that I will definitely not forget. It was an awesome first week that I really enjoyed. I discovered a lot about hidden parts of Australia that I didn’t previously know about and I’m happy I had the chance to visit these special places.

School will restart soon and I will be able to participate in classes and meet new people, which I am looking forward to. Even though I am going to school in the summer, I’m sure that it will be a very unique experience and I can’t wait to start! – Andrew Fata ’19 Exchange Student at Carey Baptist Grammar School

Student Exchange: A Taste of Everything in Buenos Aires

Avinash_LalOn June 21, I took a 13-hour flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentina is such a great place with a lot of amazing people. So far I am having a great time and learning more about Argentine culture. I am very happy here in Argentina and I’m sure this feeling will last for the entire trip.

I’ve made many new friends at Belgrano Day School. Most are in my classes, but there are also some people I met during lunch and other activities. Everyone at BDS is very nice and welcoming. Whenever I enter a new class, the students give me a place to sit, the teacher introduces them to me and then lets me introduce myself to the class. There are six other exchanges currently at the school with me, all from different places in the United States: Colorado, North Carolina and New York. I am the only Canadian and the only one from my school.

The Belgrano Day School campus is much like LCC. They are both day schools and have a similar sized campus (though LCC is bigger), but instead of having fields on campus, when we have gym class we take a 30-minute drive to the fields that the school owns.

I have done a lot of different things, such as a walking tour of the city, visiting different neighbourhoods, and watching the school play, which was utterly amazing. Over 100 students joined the musical play, The Wedding Singer, and it was extremely well done.

The food is also very good in Argentina with a lot of meat products, such as steaks, milanesas and asado, Argentine dishes. Their desserts are also very good. They have medialunas which look like croissants but taste a bit different, and also alfajores, a cookie filled with dulce de leche, their version of maple syrup.

The main differences between Canada and Argentina are that there is no snow in the winter, the class setup, and the driving.

In Buenos Aires, even during the coldest time of year, July (yeah, that’s surprising), you will not find a trace of snow anywhere. This is not how I imagine winter, since in Canada temperatures can go down to -40º Celsius.

The class setup is different in that students stay in the same class and teachers change classes. There are some classes that they have to move for, such as art, music and lab, but they mostly keep the same classroom. The school day starts at 8:15 am but ends at 4:05 pm. Eight hour school days instead of seven! There are many classes that are in Spanish, but I didn’t choose them as there was enough Spanish being spoken in the English classes and my Spanish is not quite up to par with theirs. Each period is 40 minutes and are in groups of two, so if you don’t have lunch during that group of two, you have the same class for 80 minutes instead.

Finally, the driving is very different as well. In Canada, most people are respectful of pedestrians, but in Argentina you better watch out because they will not stop for you. The bus drivers are crazy as they rarely obey street signs and don’t look out for people walking.

I am having a lot of fun and I am glad I have much longer to stay. I have enjoyed going everywhere whether it is to the top of a lighthouse in the middle of the city with the other exchanges, or to a different neighborhood where the walls have graffiti art on them. I am truly having an amazing time in Argentina. – Avinash Lal ’19, Exchange Student at Belgrano Day School