Here we are on our third exchange, and we still can’t believe our luck. Our first two were to England and this is our first to Canada. Don’t ask us to pick a favourite because they all have incredible highs and you have to look hard to find any lows.
Professionally, it provides an opportunity to work and experience teaching in another country using different systems, all of which provide many and varied learning experiences. All the schools have been very welcoming, accommodating and helpful in all areas and I am sure that many of those I have encountered will now consider the idea of an exchange themselves. They find the idea daunting but I love to point out the benefits of stepping outside your comfort zone to experience the fabulous opportunities that an exchange provides.
This year so far we have seen Niagara Falls in its most frozen state in over 40 years, done a horse drawn tour of a Mennonite farm, where time has stood still. Who could resist lining the streets of Stratford, with thousands of others to watch 20 swans waddle down the street from their winter quarters back to the lake for the summer. We have driven with a professional driver and race horse around the trotting track at Grand River Paceway, walked many beautiful trails through magnificent forests and countryside.
During the March break we visited Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal. In this first week of the nine week (yes nine week) summer holiday we have cruised around the 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay and canoed around Parry Sound while staying in a beautiful cottage on the waterfront of Mill Lake. We will head south from here, then east as far as New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. Then there is a week in Cuba and a visit to New York City to end the holiday.
As with all things in life, you get out of it, what you put into it, so throw yourself into whatever comes your way and you are sure to have a fun and exciting year. The first two exchanges we had children with us and I am sure that the experience shaped the people they have become today, in spite of their parents!
The best part of the exchange is living in, and becoming part of the local community. It is also how you get to see some of the best parts of the country because they advise you to do many things that the tourist operators don’t even know about. As you travel around there are always interesting people to meet who will also share their experiences with you and add another layer to the whole experience.
The wildlife we find fascinating here in Canada. So far we have had rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, racoons and a ground hog in our backyard in downtown Brampton, most of them eating out of our hand. Then there are the numerous beautiful birds that visit the bird feeder every day. We have seen deer in the wild, but have yet to encounter a bear or a moose.
We cannot encourage everyone enough to think about doing an exchange, it will literally change your life, and having done one you might find it addictive. Credit must go to all the principals involved and to IEU Exchange Coordinator Helen Gregory and the IEU for making such opportunities possible.
Terry Kennedy Kildaire Catholic College in Wagga Wagga exchanged with
Andrew Conroy St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton Ontario