Student Exchange: A World of Differences – and Similarities – in South Africa

Max_Kaspy_004My time is almost over in South Africa and I will definitely miss attending school at St Stithians College in Johannesburg. You’d be surprised how much this school differs from LCC. First things first, the school campus is at least ten times the size of LCC’s. I have to be honest and say that it is a bit overwhelming to be here as a new student. Without my exchange student’s help, I would never find my way to our next class.

Not only is this school impressively big, but it is also one of the best cricket and tennis schools in Africa. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be attending this fascinating school. In addition, the school is completely outdoors, meaning that when you step out of any class, it leads you outside. Therefore, having rain isn’t ideal.

Lastly, at St Stithians, electronic devices aren’t often used in classes. In the vast majority of classes, everybody takes handwritten notes and all work is also written by hand. At LCC, we have our work online most of the time.

Despite their differences, there are some parts of Saints and LCC that are similar. Everybody has their own desk and there are generally six periods in a day (which is one more than us). There is an option of bringing your own lunch or eating at school. Everything else is pretty much the same.

The first three weeks I was in South Africa were the school holidays. During my holidays, my exchange family brought me to a nature reserve called Ingwelala. That was, without a doubt, an unforgettable experience. We slept in huts with thatched roofs in the middle of the bush. The bush is the home to lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes, hyenas, bucks, snakes, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, baboons, warthogs and many more. This means that we were living in their home and had to accept that there was a chance that any sort of animal might come near us. For a Canadian who has only ever seen wild bunnies, this was an exhilarating experience.

The big five of South Africa were considered to be the five most dangerous animals to hunt (today, with wildlife preservation efforts, the expression refers to observing these animals). They are the lion, the elephant, the rhino, the leopard and the buffalo. It is considered fortuitous to see any of them. During my stay, I had the chance to see lions, elephants, buffaloes and a rhino. This is four of the big five!

A story I must tell is when a spotted hyena came to our porch when we were eating dinner. That’s right, this 120-pound, five-foot (in length) deadly animal came within three feet of me when I was eating a delicious steak. Note that hyenas have the tenth strongest bite in the world. This means that they can bite through a brick wall. When we saw the hyena come on our porch, nobody moved or said a word. On the outside, I seemed as immobile as a statue, but on the inside, I was completely freaking out. The worst part is that the hyena went behind me, therefore out of my line of vision. At that point, I had no clue where it was or what it was doing. Luckily, it left peacefully and nothing bad happened. Looking back at this, I appreciate the fact that I was able to be part of an exciting, wildlife experience.

All in all, South Africa has been very enriching in the sense that there are very different lifestyles around the world. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I will definitely cherish these last few days in this exotic country. – Max Kaspy ’20 Exchange Student at St Stithians College

Student Exchange: Lion Pride in Beautiful South Africa

2017_2018_Student_Exchange_Kirsten_Hardiman_003I can’t believe that it has already been two weeks since I arrived in South Africa to begin my student exchange at St. Stithians College. The school campus is beautiful. It consists of girls’ and boys’ preparatory schools, as well as two colleges, sports facilities, fields and housing for teachers. It was a big change for me to go from a co-ed school to an all-girls’ school. Another dramatic difference is the campus itself. The actual classrooms are closed in with walls and a roof; however, as soon as you step out of the classroom door you find yourself outside. With the exception of the classrooms, the entire campus is exterior.

Living in Johannesburg differs greatly from living in Montreal. The biggest difference is the fact that there are walls lining the streets, everyone lives in gated communities and students attend gated schools. Upon entering a gated community, you are first met by an officer and then you have to go through two more gates in order to get to your house.

On my fourth day at my “new” school, the Saints Sports Festival began. This festival takes place once a year and is the biggest high school sports festival in all of South Africa. I took part in war cries and had an opportunity to watch numerous matches, such as netball, rugby, and field hockey.

My billet family later took me to see my first cricket match.  I had a great time learning about a new game, which is one of the most popular sports here in South Africa.

This past weekend, my exchange family brought me to Lion Park near Hartbeespoort Dam. We drove through the park, stopping along the way to get very close and personal with lions, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, wild dogs and many more animals. My favourite experience at the park was petting the lion cubs. They were gentle, soft and dog-like but it did hurt if they snapped at you or got their claws on you. They were very playful and loved belly rubs.

I can’t wait to get closer to my new friends and billet family over the next six weeks; I already feel so at home here. School breaks for three weeks next week and my family is taking me on a tour of South Africa. We will be visiting Cape Town, the port city of Durban and Kruger National Park. I am so excited and can’t wait to tell you all about my adventures! – Kirsten Hardiman ’20, Exchange Student at St. Stithians College.

Student Exchange: Living & Learning in Argentina

2017_2018_Student_Exchange_Isabelle_Whittall_007This past month, I have had the chance to attend school and live with a family in Argentina. It has been an incredible experience, full of new and wonderful things to learn each day.

The lifestyle here is very different. The food consists of a lot of meat, and almost every dessert has dulce de leche, a sweet spread that is similar to caramel. Some of my favourite foods here have been alfajores, empanadas, and asado. Every day we have a fourth meal – tea – in the afternoon, and dinner is eaten around 10 or 11 o’clock. This means we go to bed much later, which I thought might be hard to adjust to, but I became accustomed to the new food and schedule very quickly.

At school, we have class in one room, and the teachers come to us. At Belgrano Day School, there are 10 periods in a day, and many more classes than we have at LCC. Along with the core classes, they have economics, multiple science classes (such as biology and chemistry), and two elective courses, with the choices of art, drama, music, IT, and business studies. Half of the classes are in English and half are in Spanish. Instead of vending machines, BDS has a kiosk outside, where you can buy lunch, pastries or snacks.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, we have PE. After lunch we drive 40 minutes to a large campus with locker rooms and fields, where we have class for the rest of the day. Girls can play field hockey or volleyball, and boys can play rugby, soccer or volleyball.

On the weekends, I’ve had the chance to explore the city and experience the culture. I have gone to two quinceñeras, which are traditional parties for girls when they turn 15. They are huge events that last all night, with food, festivities, and lots of Latina music. I’ve also been around the city. Two weekends ago, we took a bus tour around Buenos Aires, going to La Boca, Puerto Madero, Palermo, and other areas in the city. I had the chance to try some food, see some monuments, and overall get a feel for what the life was like.

Last weekend, we stayed at the beach house of my host’s cousin in Mar del Plata, where we had some delicious churros and spent the days on the beach. My first weekend, we went to Lollapalooza, a huge music festival with artists such as Khalid, Imagine Dragons, Wiz Khalifa, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance the Rapper, and more. It was an incredible experience and a great way to start the trip.

Throughout my time here, my Spanish has been improving. My host’s family and the people from school all speak English, so I always have a way to communicate, but I have been trying to practice Spanish as much as I could. At home, the host family speaks Spanish with me and I speak it as well, to practice. At school, the students speak only Spanish with each other, so I am constantly surrounded by the language. My vocabulary has expanded quite a bit and I’ve gotten used to the Argentinian accent.

It has been an amazing month, and it’s hard to believe I only have one more week here. I have met so many incredible people and made so many memories that I will never forget. I feel so lucky to have been able to spend this time here, and know it is an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life. – Isabelle Whittall ’20, Exchange Student at Belgrano Day School

Sustainable Development for a Better Future

Design_InnovationI’ve always been interested in architecture. When I was little, I used to build houses out of wood, draw floor plans of my room, and play on interior design apps. As I got older, I started watching a lot of HGTV and going around the city taking photos of different buildings.

Last year, I joined Project 2050, a club that focuses on how we as a society can adapt to the environmental and societal impacts that are predicted by the year 2050. I started working on an architectural project on sustainable development and wanted to continue working on it, since it focuses on ensuring a better future. This year, I chose Design and Innovation as my elective. For the first couple of months, we learned how to use different tools in the Fab Lab and got to make a bunch of different things and, in December, we started planning our end-of-year project. Every student in the class has to come up with their own invention or concept and present it in May at the Design Fair. Because I had done a lot of research for my sustainable development project and I was really passionate about it, I decided to use it as my final project. Originally, I wanted to create floor plans and a model of my community. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to have time to do everything that I had planned to do, so I learned how to adapt. I have no idea why, but for some reason, I thought that I would be able to complete a job that takes architects and developers years to do, in the span of five months.

I decided to create a website instead, so I started learning HTML and CSS. I never expected to be learning how to code and I thought that I would probably be using the laser cutter and not much else. Being in Design and Innovation has taught me how to better adapt to situations quickly and how to work more independently. The experience that I’ve gotten so far has been great and has opened the door for so many opportunities.

Besides being in the class and in Project 2050, I’m also lucky enough to be going to San Francisco for a week in June with 10 other LCC students. The purpose of the trip is to meet entrepreneurs, visit the Google and Facebook head offices, and get a better understanding of the evolving tech community. I’m really into law and debating, but because of everything I’ve learned since I started using the Fab Lab, I’m considering going into a more tech-centred job.

Even if you aren’t interested in any of these things, and you’re not a part of any design challenge or club, the Fab Lab is still open to you. If you’re into science, there’s a doctor who is looking for students’ help in making 3D printed prosthetics for his patients. If you really like fashion, there are sewing classes every week in the Lab, there are professionals that come in every once in a while to teach courses, and the Fab Fashion challenge is going on right now. Even if you’re really into art but not that great at using technology, you can help come up with sketches for a public sculpture competition being held in NDG, or you can learn how to use different software to make your sketches a reality. No matter your interest, there’s some type of opportunity available for you in the Fab Lab.

I know you’ve all heard people say that we’re so lucky to have the resources available to us at LCC, but the fact is, that’s true. Because our Fab Lab is part of the International network of Fab Labs, your inventions can get recognized all around the world through Instagram. You might not think that Design and Innovation is for you, but you might be surprised and learn something new, just like I was. – Ella Waxman ’19

The Privilege of an Education

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_005Last summer, I travelled to China on a trip organized by Me to We, a non-governmental organization which helps create sustainable change by transforming local and global communities. J’ai voyagé avec sept autres étudiants autour de mon âge venant de Montréal et New York, ainsi que deux animateurs de Me to We. From my past experiences at the Round Square conference in Argentina last year, as well as volunteering in the local community, I was always interested in community service. However, I can honestly tell you that this trip changed my life.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_001Nous avons passé nos premiers jours à Beijing en visitant des sites bien connus, tels que Tiananmen Square, des temples Buddistes, et nous avons même monté la Grande Muraille de Chine! Nous avons ensuite conduit pendant plus de six heures à une communauté rurale, Gufubao. It was a relief to finally be away from the pollution and smog of Beijing, and beautiful is not a good enough word to describe where we were. Nous étions complètement entourés d’énormes montagnes et des champs de maïs. It was really amazing for us to meet the kind locals, who take great pride in their natural environment, regardless of the extreme poverty that they live in. In addition, they always ensure that their environment is being taken care of, by being cautious of how much water and food they consume, as well as constantly making sure that their agriculture is properly cultivated and protected. Some locals even took us on hikes around the community, where we saw some unbelievable views.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_003Pendant dix jours, nous avons enseigné l’anglais à des enfants défavorisés, et nous avons travaillé sur la construction d’un enclos pour des cochons, la première source de revenue pour la communauté. L’école était un bâtiment de briques avec trois salles de classe et un petit terrain de jeu dehors, les deux construits par Me to We. Lorsque nous sommes arrivés, nous avons été accueillis par une cinquantaine d’élèves, âgés entre cinq et 12 ans, qui étaient très contents de nous voir. Since it was July, all of these students were in the middle of their summer holiday, so you would think that going to school in 40 degree weather for the entire day was not exactly what they wanted to do, right? Wrong. These kids were more than happy to do so. Puisque les enfants parlaient très peu d’anglais, ils étaient très excités de nous montrer qu’ils pouvaient compter de un à 10, et qu’ils connaissaient les couleurs de l’arc-en-ciel.

Meghan_Fersten_Blog_006Why did I choose to write about teaching English to students in China? Well, we later learned that only 1% of students who have attended the school in Gufubao go on to university. That’s only seven or eight students at LCC progressing to CEGEP or college. Think about that for a second: all of the hard work that we put into our studies every day would only pay off for seven or eight of us in the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools combined!

We’re so lucky to go to LCC, with its amazing education programs and opportunities, inside and outside the classroom. Seeing how much the students in Gufubao appreciated going to school made me reflect on how I see education. Now, I go to school every day wanting to learn more. I’m excited to see where my education will take me, so I can use it to make a difference. Going to school is a privilege, and I think it’s important for everyone to realize that, just like I have. – Meghan Fersten ’18