I’m an eighth grader at Frank Ryan Intermediate School in Ottawa, Ontario. I participate in various school sports and activities; ambassadors, basketball, cross-country, girls coding, newspaper club and many more.

Ever since I was young, I’ve always wanted to go on a student exchange trip. I read about programs hosted by Experiences Canada, and I thought that living somewhere else for a while would be the coolest thing in the world! I wanted to have my own Indiana Jones adventure, so when my teacher approached me to go on an exchange trip to Bathurst, New Brunswick, I immediately said yes! I was looking forward to immersing myself in a different culture, improving my French skills, and meeting new people. After being a part of an exchange, I realized how lucky I was to have that opportunity!

I live in the suburban area of Ottawa, Ontario. It is a fairly large and loud community. When we arrived in Bathurst, we were surprised to find out how quiet it was there. There was barely any traffic and outside noise, which was great for the tired Frank Ryan students who wanted to sleep after the long flight. Bathurst is a very small city and where my host family’s house was located, everything we needed was in close proximity. The chances of getting lost were very small, which was a major plus for me, a person with no sense of direction. Both our communities are very cold.

I think that this exchange was a wonderful experience for my peers and I to develop our independence and to be more confident. I might have even found a place that I would like to retire too! I love how calm Bathurst is, and I would love to live there later on in life!

My experience hosting was wonderful! We had the chance to be the first hosts of the exchange, which meant we were the ones making the first connections. My teacher paired me with a wonderful “twin” and we had a ton of fun together. We got along straight away and were laughing and giggling every day. She also helped me come out of my shell.

My best memory of the week I was hosting was when my “twin” and two of our friends were playing Super Mario Bros. together in my basement. We were laughing, yelling and screaming at each other all night, and I felt like it was a great icebreaker and a wonderful bonding experience.

My second favourite part of the exchange was when my classmates and I were on the plane on the way there. One of my best friends was flying for her first time, and I was happy that I could experience that with her. I loved seeing how excited she was seeing how high in the air we were. The whole flight, we were singing, dancing and listening to our favourite songs.

I was placed with the nicest host family in the whole world! They treated me like their own and helped me immerse myself in their culture and language during my stay. I had a host mom, a host dad, a brother and sister. I don’t have any siblings, and I was happy to be the “big sister” of my exchange twin and her brother. I felt super loved and I was sad to leave.

A student exchange seemed a bit scary at first.  I was scared to leave Ottawa without my family, but I feel like it was a great experience for everyone! I got to learn more about myself, make new friends and experience new things! If anyone is uncertain about doing an exchange, you should try it! Who knows what you might discover?

By Hana Vinette

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