SMUS Students Experience Exchanges

by Erin Anderson, editor

Every year, SMUS students have the opportunity to experience education in other provinces and countries, including Australia, Japan and India. Students in Grades 9 and 10 who might want to go on exchange next year should start thinking about which trip they’d like to go on, and making arrangements. Parents can find out more at the information meeting on Monday, April 26th, from 7:00-8:30 pm in the Copeland Lecture Theatre.

Below, two of our students talk about their recent exchange experiences.

Ian Kapron King, Grade 11, India, 6 weeks
Sophia Ducharme, Grade 9, Québec, 3.5 weeks

What surprised you the most about your host school and province/country?
IK: The people there were more affluent than I expected and more westernized.
SD: I thought it would be more like SMUS. I was used to the SMUS environment. It was more strict and most of the students were bilingual, but some only spoke a little bit of English. There were special programmes at the school, for example Défi Sports (got more PE classes), a dance academy, and others that were more suited to one’s interests. I didn’t know the school had that. It was also far away from where I was staying. I had a two-hour commute on the bus every day. It was colder than here.

What new classes did you take? Which was your favourite?
IK: Indian Music and Indian History. I enjoyed Indian Music because I had the opportunity to learn how to play sitar.
SD: It was hard because all of them were in French. English was interesting because I could understand it! At the beginning it was really overwhelming because I didn’t really understand anything. They assumed I would be almost fluent. When they asked me if I spoke French, I would answer, “un peu” [a little] and they assumed I was almost bilingual. If I said, “I don’t speak much French,” they would switch to English, so then I had to ask them to speak French to me. In the end I understood what they were saying and could understand much more than I could when I got there.

Have you learned any new words in the local dialect?
IK: No, although the accent and mannerisms are strikingly different.
SD: I learned a lot of French, but their English in Quebec is a bit unique too. For example, phrases like ‘reach this’ means ‘go there.’

What did you miss the most about SMUS?
IK: The teaching and longer lunch period.
SD: My friends. There weren’t a lot of personal relationships between students and teachers because they have bigger classes. The teachers were a lot more strict and less friendly so I missed being able to have an open communication between the student and the teacher because they don’t have it so much there.

What was the biggest challenge so far during your exchange?
IK: Adjusting to the driving in India, which is quite haphazard.
SD: Being away from home for that long. It got a lot easier. At the end I didn’t want to leave, but at the beginning I just wanted to go home. It was really hard the first couple of days. Especially since they thought my French was better than it really was. They were all very friendly and welcoming, but it was hard at first.

What did you look forward to doing when you came home?
IK: Eating beef and walking on a sidewalk without risk of being run over by an auto-rickshaw.
SD: Sleeping in my bed, seeing my friends again, and I was excited to have Freddy (my exchange partner) come back so I could introduce her to everyone here.

What have you gained from going on exchange? Do you feel the trip changed you?
IK: I have a different perspective on humanity’s global connection. I made many new friends and have many memories of India.
SD: Yes, definitely. I think my French has improved, but that just seems like a side part now. Improving my French was originally one of the main reasons I wanted to go on the exchange. Now I know I can be away from home for that long. It was the first time that I was alone for the first time. It was good for me to be thrown into a new situation. I am an only child and Freddy was like my sister. I had to learn to be in a new home, be part of a new family. I feel like I am much more adaptable now.

What was the most fun experience you had and/or the coolest place you visited?
IK: Going to the bazaar on weekends was my favourite activity, and both the Taj Mahal in Agra and New Delhi were cool places to see.
SD: The school arranged a special activity for the exchange students once a week such as snowtubing and a tour of old Montreal, but my favourite experience was going to downtown Montreal with Freddy one day. It was like a mini-New York, so it was fun to walk down the street and hang out with Freddy. The kids in Montreal bus everywhere so bussing from mall to mall and place to place and talking with everyone was fun.

Would you recommend this exchange to another student? Why or why not?
IK: Definitely! This is an awesome opportunity to meet new people and experience new and, at times, exotic things.
SD: Yes, I would. A piece of advice I would give is to start preparing early and give yourself lots of lead time before you leave to make arrangements with teachers for homework and assignments. In my case, there wasn’t much lead time so it is good to be prepared with work from teachers ahead of time. Being a shy person I was a bit unsure that I really wanted to do it, but I am really glad I did.

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