Wayne Foster and Timothy Hodges, both prospective exchange teachers on opposite sides of the planet, were despairing of finding a suitable match when a fateful moment changed their lives.
In Broulee on the south coast, Wayne had been hoping to go on exchange for a while, mainly looking at Canada.
‘We’d got to the stage when we thought it wasn’t going to happen. I actually went on the IEU website to cancel our exchange application. That’s when I saw the ad for Tim’s exchange. The more I looked at it, the more it seemed like fate had matched us up.
“Tim has a son called Jack and a daughter called Ella. I have a son called Jack and a daughter called Eleanor.”
Tim, in the coastal regional town of Looe, Cornwall, UK, had been looking at possible exchanges in Canada and had also more or less given up on the idea of finding a match.
“When the call came about Wayne’s exchange, it was a ‘no brainer’. My wife Karen and I had backpacked around Australia and loved it. I’m a lifelong surfer so being on the south coast was paradise to me.’’
Tim said he’d been at Looe School for 23 years and needed a change.
“Exchange is pretty rare in the UK. My principal basically said she’d let me go because I’d leave otherwise. And she wanted me to come back.”
Tim was a science coordinator and Wayne a science teacher, so the two found the lifestyle and career swap was both to their liking.
Wayne had some great trips around Europe during the breaks, and his son Jack landed the lead role in Liskeard School’s production of Macbeth.
During his time at Carroll College, Broulee, Tim impressed enough to be offered a permanent job.
“At that time, we didn’t have the right visas to stay. My son said if we couldn’t stay he was coming back when he turned 18.
“I don’t think we realised what a profound effect exchange would have on our children. You can see their eyes open up to the world while they are on exchange. They become citizens of the world.”
The family returned to Cornwall and Tim discovered that at 48, he was over the age limit to migrate to Australia. “It was a bitter pill to swallow”.
Life returned to normal – until Tim’s sister contacted him and told him, reluctantly, that the age limit had been raised to 50 and he could apply.
After a lengthy process, the family returned to Broulee and Tim was lucky enough to be offered another position as a science teacher at Carroll College.
Wayne had been promoted to science coordinator, so he became his exchange partner’s boss.
“We work very well together, and Wayne’s in-laws have become surrogate grandparents to our children,” Tim said.
Ironically, Wayne’s son Jack is considering a career in drama following his Macbeth experience, and may return to England to pursue that field.
“It’s been a real life changing experience for all of us,” Tim said.
Check out a blog about the pair’s exchange: