On April 7th, 2024, students and teachers from Glebe Collegiate Institute (GCI), in Ottawa, Ontario embarked on our journey to Naujaat, Nunavut. After four flights, we finally landed in Naujaat, a stunning Inuit hamlet of just over 1,200 people, located in the Kivalliq Region of Nunavut, on the Arctic Circle. We were greeted for the first time with friendly faces from our fellow Exchange students, and headed to Tuugaalik High School, where we would be staying for the week.     


“The word of our arrival in Naujaat spread like wildfire, and we were quickly welcomed into the school and community. Before our first night in the Arctic was even over, we had already made an abundance of new friends”. 


Arrival in Naujaat


All throughout the week GCI Exchange students could be seen roaming the halls with their Tuugaalik peers, playing basketball, volleyball, tag, or cards, and spending hours discussing pop culture. We were given a tour of the town and its staple establishments: the RCMP station, the local Hamlet, the local Co-op and Northern store, local hockey rink (Go Naujaat Whalers!) and the Catholic mission, Our Lady of the Snow. Our group also visited the local elementary school, Tusarvik School, where we were treated like pseudo-celebrities by beaming kids. 


Our days on the land were very enjoyable and well spent. Thanks to several hunters and other community members, we had the opportunity to go ice fishing, ride across the frozen Hudson’s Bay, on sleds, and hike around the beautiful lands surrounding Naujaat. We visited the nearby whalebone beach, where we saw the bony framework of a bowhead whale from a past hunt. The landscapes on the Arctic Circle were stunning, yet harsh, but luckily, we had adequate clothing for the weather. Thanks to the gracious community members of Naujaat, we were kept well-fed and protected from the elements. On one late night, we looked up at the moon and saw a beautiful green aurora filling the sky with flowing green ribbons. The rugged tundra of Naujaat was vastly different from the forested hills and urban developments of the National Capital Region. However, whether we were looking out over an icy bay or across the mountainous landscape, the land surrounding Naujaat was breathtaking and picturesque.      


Arctic terrain


During our stay at Tuugaalik High School, we were fortunate to attend and participate in lively square dancing and drum dancing ceremonies hosted by the community. These cultural celebrations included throat singing from community elders, who thereafter taught our students about traditional Inuit games, toys and tools, and recounted stories about their historical lifestyle. In the evenings, our students joined Tuugaalik’s after school youth program and worked on sewing seal skin mittens (using rabbit hide as a substitute). We used traditional sewing techniques and ulus to cut the hide. Upon our final day in Naujaat, we had the chance to sample raw caribou meat and arctic char! 


Group bonding


As most Youth Exchanges go, we hosted the students and teachers from Naujaat in our hometown, Ottawa. The switch from negative 20 degrees Celsius to over 30 degrees Celsius was a big change for our Exchange partners, but they adapted quite well to the heat. Even though it had been over a month since we last saw our Exchange partners, both groups of students rapidly reconnected with one another. We went to several museums across Ottawa, we visited Parliament and spectated a “Question Period”, and we went on a tour of the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal health. Tuugaalik’s trip in Ottawa also included a trip to the Nunavut Sivuniksavut school, where we learned about the amazing post-secondary program offered to Inuit students there. 


Throughout the week, we showed our new friends around downtown Ottawa and visited many establishments that we took for granted, such as malls, arcades, movie theaters, and McDonald’s. To finish off Tuugaalik’s trip in Ottawa, we hosted a goodbye potlatch where everyone shared their favourite moments of the Exchange. From visiting museums to riding the O-Train, it was great spending time with the Tuugaalik students. This exchange was a wonderful learning experience for all, that led to immense personal growth. Words fail to describe the rich sense of community, the exceptional people and unique characters whom we’d met in Naujaat. 


“Thank you to Experiences Canada for giving us this amazing opportunity to not only visit Naujaat, but also to learn about and experience Inuit culture. Hopefully someday, Glebe and Tuugaalik students will be walking down the snowy tundra of Nunavut or walking down a sidewalk in Ottawa and stop to remember all the fun times we had in both communities. This experience has built more than just cultural bridges, but connections between youth that won’t be forgotten”. 


Noah Parsons & Sofia Hayley

From Glebe Collegiate Institute | Experiences Canada Youth Ambassadors



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