I just met up with a former student here in Quebec City – she was not one of my students from Spruce Grove, she was a student from Quebec City who I met during my first SEVEC Student Exchange – when she was in grade 7. Since that time, she lived with my family during a summer holiday and then again when she had completed her school, before beginning her training as an x-ray technician. She is twenty-one years old now and we have stayed in contact since that first exchange experience, exactly ten years ago.
Coincidentally,the exchange that I am participating in this year with my Greystone students ended up having us paired with the same school I was connected with 10 years ago.The teachers and students we are matched up with are all new to me; however, they have made us feel so welcome that already, it feels like we know each other well. Once again, I am reminded of what an incredible opportunity this is for our kids (and adults) to build relationships with others who are interested in taking their learning about the country and its people outside of the walls of our schools.
We are being treated to some new experiences here in Quebec and it is really helping all of us appreciate the unique, proud culture of our French Canadian neighbours. The people here have been so kind, fun and welcoming. Our students have been taken into the homes of the students from Quebec and this weekend, we are getting text messages from the kids telling us about all the places they are going – the Winter Carnival, Sugar Shack, Ice Hotel, to name just a few of the highlights. The host teachers here in Quebec are treating our teachers to some excellent experiences, too – Rempart Junior Hockey Game, dinner out to a favourite restaurant while also giving us time to do some exploring on our own. During the weekdays – there are daily fieldtrips planned to a range of places – everything from a Circus School (Quebec is home of the world famous Cirque du Soleil) to an outdoor snow park – Valcartier. What an amazing opportunity for all of us.
What I am most proud of – our students have stepped up to live in the homes of complete strangers, who don’t speak a whole lot of English, and they are growing in so many ways. They are operating outside of their familiar comfort zone and are demonstrating an openness to build relationships and gain a deeper understanding of the French Canadian culture. What an excellent example of authentic learning.
The experiences on this trip might just give our kids the confidence they need to continue taking risks to try new things and learn and grow from the process. Who knows, maybe they will still be in contact with the people they meet from this trip – in ten years time!