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Last week two students from College Sainte-Anne in Laval, Quebec arrived on campus to begin a one-month exchange as part of the International Student Exchange Programme. Tania Pilon and Marie-Pier Lemarre Seguin are in Grade 9 and are here for the month of February to experience life at SMUS as well as West Coast culture.

“I like it here. So far everyone has been so nice and welcoming,” says Tania. The girls are being hosted by the families of Grade 10 students Samantha Green and Kelly Twa, who spent the month of January on exchange in Laval.

Both Tania and Marie-Pier can’t say enough good things about their host families. “I just love them, I absolutely do,” says Tania. “Me too,” agrees Marie-Pier. “The family is just so kind and they are taking us to so many places.”

Last weekend the girls went to the mainland for a Vancouver city tour. Next their hosts will take them on a whale-watching tour and for tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel, which are popular tourist attractions in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

It is both girls’ first time on Vancouver Island and so far they are enjoying the mild temperature. “At home we have to wear boots, big coats and mittens all the time, but not here because this is not winter,” laughs Marie-Pier.

Adjusting to life at a new school has been easy says the girls. “Here, I am relaxed, less stressed and more comfortable,” Marie-Pier explains. “There isn’t even a bell; the kids go to class on their own.”

“Teachers allow the students to be more independent here. Even though there are obviously rules at SMUS, at our school, rules, rules, rules are always the focus.”

“Exchanges are an enriching experience,” says Dawn Wilson, Director of Education Extension and International Programmes. “It’s a great opportunity for students to travel to another country or city, experience being away from home for an extended period of time, as well as to learn about the lifestyle, culture, and language of the host school and the host family.”

The programme is offered to Grade 10 students, and those who are interested in the programme must apply in their grade nine year, as there is a lot of planning involved. The selection is based on the quality of a student’s application, feedback from their grade advisor and individual subject teachers, as well as a commitment from their parents to reciprocate by hosting the exchange partner.

This is the first exchange with College Ste. Anne. So far, students have participated in exchanges with Australia, New Zealand and Japan, all of which have been reciprocal. During Spring Break, four students will leave on an exchange to Australia and New Zealand, and one will go to Japan in April.

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