I let my twelve year old daughter fly across the country without me, and I would so totally do it again! Yes, it was terrifying to let her spread her wings and leave the nest for a week, but in the end the value of the experience is undeniable.
Experiences Canada is an amazing way for students to explore the country that we live in.
My oldest daughter is in French Immersion and had the opportunity to participate in an exchange program through Experiences Canada as part of her grade seven celebration. I am so beyond impressed with the quality of the program and highly recommend it if your child has the opportunity to participate.
The trip itself is seven days, which when I first heard the length I was a little worried that seven days was just too short to truly experience another culture. After our exchange student arrived I quickly realized that seven days was the perfect amount of time as by the evening of day six, she was getting pretty homesick. My analysis of the length of time was confirmed when my own daughter started to become homesick on the evening of day six and was anxious to come home.
Participating in the exchange program required a $100 contribution up front, and then the students (and parents!) worked their pahtooties off fundraising up a storm to help pay for their experience. They did an absolutely amazing job and in the end the only cost out of our pocket was the initial payment and spending money.
As a single parent the thought of coming up with additional money in my budget to pay for a trip across the country is not something that I could easily make happen on a whim.
What an amazing opportunity for kids to be able to experience Canada without having the financial situation of their parents play a key component in whether they can participate playing a role. Our school offered flexible payment options, and recognized that $100 might be hard for all families to come up with and so the option existed for parents to speak to the principal if the initial payment was going to be a burden to ensure that no child was left behind.
These programs allow kids from all socio-economic backgrounds to have the opportunity to take a trip that their parents might not be able to afford on their own, and to me that is a huge benefit of this particular program.
The exchange program gives the students the opportunity to make new friends, and acquire a new family as the exchange works both ways. It was an eye-opening experience for me to open my home to a student from Quebec, who turned out to be absolutely lovely. She was like the child that I never knew that I was missing, the perfect addition to our family of three.
My most head scratching moment was when I realized that our favourite treat, Yorkshire Pudding, wasn’t a universal delight! Our poor exchange student just pushed her yorkie around her plate not knowing what to do with it.
Traveling from Vancouver Island to Victoriaville, QC was an experience that my daughter will never forget. It forced her to be more responsible in the process, and learn how to navigate the world without having her Mom there to guide the way. Yes, they did have chaperones on the trip, but ultimately the kids were given a wide enough berth to learn things for themselves, and have the chaperones step in when needed.
Each class is responsible for planning the activities that will be done while their visitors are present, keeping in mind the budget of the activities.
The kids had a full schedule of exciting activities to do while in Quebec, visiting the Cascades paper factory, visiting a Cheese Factory where they had traditional poutine and learned about the history of the region. I’m a little (okay a whole lot) jealous about the poutine! Our kids planned out a fun-filled itinerary for their guests while they were here, and were able to visit local attractions that many of them had never been to as well.
While here our student was only allowed to speak English, and while in Quebec, Tala had to speak entirely in French aside from when she called home to speak to her family.
All in all this was an amazing experience that my ten year old is looking forward to experiences for herself in two years time.
Thank you experiences Canada!