The Van Dyck exchange experience

The Van Dyck family from Newcastle were interviewed by Midhurst Magazine in Canada about their exchange experience. Here is the article.

MM: So, you’ve now been in Canada for 10 months. How has the experience been overall?

Van Dyck Family: Well it’s been amazing and overwhelmingly positive experience in every way. The travel, the scenery, the culture, the local communities, the schools, the change from life-as-usual at home . . . it's all been fantastic

MM: Natalie, tell us about your teaching experience at Terry Fox?

Van Dycks: From day one the staff were so welcoming and supportive. They all have such a positive attitude to teaching and it’s easy to see how this creates a great environment for the kids to learn in. Thankfully, they also performed the role of translator and without their intervention, my kindergarten kids would be going home with Australian terms like jumper (sweater) and gumboots (rainboots) and would be pronouncing 'teacher' as 'teacha'. I’ve also been blessed working alongside the world’s hardest working DECE who tirelessly assisted me with all aspects of the job. This made the transition easier for everyone and provided continuity and stability for the kids.

It’s been an interesting experience to compare and contrast the education systems in Australia and Canada. I really love the efficient use of time here which gives kids more time in their class. Having K – 8 in one school is a wide spread of ages and Terry Fox provides opportunities to integrate the older and younger grades which nurtures leadership in the older children and creates positive experiences for the younger children.

MM: And how did Scarlett enjoy going to school at Forest Hill

Van Dycks: Scarlett started school partway through Year 4 in January this year. So it was a bit of a learning curve for her, but she has managed to fit in pretty well. The school was extremely accommodating and made the transition easy for her. She really enjoyed not having to wear a school uniform for the year! She started Year 5 in September and will commence Year 5 again at home in January 2020 which is when our school year starts in Australia.

Scarlett missed her friends at home and looks forward to reuniting with them in Australia, but she’s already talking about a return visit to Midhurst next year to reunite with her new friends here.

MM: So Scarlett, what been the highlights of your year?

Van Dycks: I really loved Canada’s Wonderland and Times Square in New York City where we saw Aladdin on Broadway. I’ve made lots of great new friends here that I’ll miss when I go home. I really love how the kids in Midhurst all play in the streets and parks after school.

MM: So Adam, what did you do to occupy your time here in Midhurst

Van Dycks: At home I was involved in managing engineering consulting groups, so this year was a chance for me to depart from business-as-usual and do something a bit left field. Within a couple of weeks of landing here, I was working at Snow Valley as an assistant snowboard instructor. This was an amazing experience and I couldn’t believe I was being paid to snowboard – something we usually spend a lot of money to do. Natalie and Scarlett both enjoyed skiing with me after work and on weekends and we made a lot of great friends there that we still catch up with now. Scarlett even spent a couple of her “snow-days” patrolling with me on the hill – a true novelty for a kid from Australia.

In the summer and fall, I then worked as the starter at Barrie Country Club. Golf is also something that I enjoy, so this was a great way to keep busy, whilst meeting all the members (many of which live in Midhurst) and making new friends. Not to mention being able to play the course in my spare time. Again, this has been a great experience and both of these jobs have been a fantastic way to get involved in the community and meet new people. It’s given me great insight into the important role that both Snow Valley and BCC play in the local community. Almost everyone I talk to about Snow Valley has their own story of how they learned to ski there or their kids worked there too.

MM: So what advice would you have for anyone else considering leaving home for an adventure like this

Van Dyck’s: Well – just do it if you can. Life is too short to live in one place and getting out of your comfort zone like this isn’t always easy, but the upsides far outweigh the downsides. I think that we will go home with new friends, broader horizons, open minds and itchy feet – ready for the next overseas experience.

MM: Any final comments?

Van Dycks: We’d like to thank The Canadian League for Educational Exchange and the Independent Education Union for making the whole adventure possible and simplifying the process of moving overseas. We would also like to thank Newcastle Grammar School and Terry Fox Elementary for accommodating this adventure. Finally, a huge thanks to all those wonderful people in Midhurst and beyond who have been incredibly hospitable in sharing their homes, cottages and community with us. It’s these interactions that have made the experience special and so much more than you can get from a typical holiday overseas.

Natalie Van Dyck On exchange from Newcastle Grammar School to Barrie Ontario.

After reading these exchange stories and if you are keen to apply for an exchange in 2021, email with an expression of interest or call Helen on 8202 8931 or 1800 467 943. If you did apply for an exchange for 2020 and were unsuccessful in finding a suitable match and wish to have your application reactivated, please also email or call Helen Gregory.