“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

 

 

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: Journey to Cape Town

2017_2018_Student_Exchange_Kirsten_Hardiman_005Life has been incredibly busy since I wrote my last blog.  My host family took me on an adventure around South Africa during our three-week school break. The first leg of our journey started with a flight to Cape Town where I had the chance to go to many beaches, view the city from the mountain, visit an ostrich farm and travel to Cape Point.

Cape Town is famous for its beaches and for the great white sharks that live in those waters. We spent a lot of time exploring the various beaches. Cape Town is equally famous for its mountains. Table Mountain is the tallest of them all and a very popular tourist site. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to the top of the mountain and see the entire city far out into the ocean.

Next on our agenda was the ostrich farm where I got to eat ostrich meat for the first time. Feeding the ostriches was a strange experience as the ostrich pecks at your hand when he is trying to eat the food.

Our final stop was Cape Point, which is the most south-western point of the entire African continent. I got to climb a lighthouse and look out onto the ocean. The Cape Point experience was not all fun and games though, as we were confronted by wild baboons who were running around the site. At one point, we made a dash for our car and once safe, laughed our heads off.

After Cape Town, my host family took me to Kruger National Park where I was able to see animals native to Africa.  Although I didn’t enjoy the 4 am wake-up, it was an unforgettable experience.  We spent the whole day in the park and I got to see elephants, giraffes, water buffalo, hippos, lions and almost too many impalas up close and personal.  It was especially cool to see the rhinos, given their status as an endangered species.

After the park, we went back to the lodge and played board games, followed by a master chef challenge where all the kids were paired up and had to cook dinner.

This experience has simply been incredible and even though we are back in school tomorrow, I can’t wait for the next three weeks with my family and friends. – Kirsten Hardiman ’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