Participated in Youth exchange to Hay River, NWT, YAC member
Being a part of our Experiences Canada First Nations exchange was without a doubt one of the best things that ever happened to me. As with many other children of immigrant families, I have always been expected to take advantage of the numerous opportunities presented to me, and to do well academically. Prior to finding out about this opportunity, my focus in high school was primarily academic and bound between the walls of my high school. In hindsight, I did not have the bigger picture in my mind.
When I saw the opportunity to go to the Northwest Territories as part of an exchange, I instinctively knew I should take it. However,we have had national and international trips before at our school, but they’ve cost thousands of dollars. Upon hearing of the exchange, my parents and I were concerned about how much this opportunity would cost, but since all accommodation and flights were taken care of, it made it more manageable. I still remember how excited I was to go and meet the Dene youth up north. Being a part of this exchange opened my eyes to a whole other side of Canada and its people, as it taught me about new cultures and traditions, while removing some of the stigmas and assumptions that I had from my youth.
My experience in a small First Nations reserve was an experience like no other. It was an extreme contrast from the large and multicultural communities that I had been previously exposed to growing up in Brampton, Ontario. We partook in many activities, such as dog-sledding, tobogganing, ice fishing, going to trapping camps, and even driving snowmobiles!
This cultural exchange benefited my peers and I as well as the Dene first nation youth who hosted us with open arms and extreme hospitality. I got to repay the hospitality by being one of the hosts for the Dene First Nation youth when they travelled to our homes in Brampton. I’m sure they mirrored my feelings of awe, wonderment and excitement as they saw glimpses of other potential future paths.
Not only did the exchange make me a better, more empathetic person, but it opened me up to a world of opportunity. I have been with the Experiences Canada Youth Advisory Committee for one year now, and it has helped me see what g
oes on behind the scenes for these exchanges. Experiences Canada has also defined my career path, as I am clear on how much I value face-to-face communication. This wonderful organization bridges Canada’s vast geographical distances and helps bring the next Canadian generation closer together. They provide an opportunity for Canadian youth to truly appreciate the beauty of this country which lies with its people. In short, there is something for everyone in this program regardless of what you think your future holds.