By Sara De Benetti
Since school has started, everyone has been talking about the new Grade 9s. Staff and students at Canterbury High School are noticing new faces everyday, remembering their own first years in high school and maybe having a little bit of fun watching these young students getting lost in the hallways or at lunch time.
However, have you noticed the “other” new students? No, I’m not talking about the students who switched to Canterbury from another school. I’m talking about students who are jet-lagged on the first day of school, those who on the first day probably can’t even pronounce “Canterbury” correctly. I’m talking about the many exchange students that are attending Canterbury this year.
I am one of them, and I’m going to tell you what our experience is like, whether you are thinking about studying abroad in the future or if you just want to know about the different perspectives CHS gives and its environment to those around it.
If you think about it, exchange students are basically grade 9s but with some differences. Beyond being nervous on the first day and knowing nothing about the new school, or where to go, or who to talk to, we are in a country which is thousands of miles away from home, all alone without friends or family, spending our days with people we have never seen before, talking in a language that we don’t usually speak.
I’m not talking about how brave we are for choosing to go abroad on our own, but how good Canterbury and the people here are to make us feel good in an understandably tense situation. Since I got here from Italy, I haven’t met anybody rude, and the fellow exchange students that I have talked to feel the same way: Canterbury is amazing.
Obviously nobody was able to understand what I said, so suddenly an awkward silence was dominating the classroom."
That said, there are a few things that still make an exchange student feel uncomfortable sometimes, and even the nicest people can’t help that.
“The first time I had English class, the teacher asked me a question about what we read right before," recalled Sara Pradas, an exchange student from Spain. "The word I wanted to say was “onomatopoeia,” but what came out of my mouth sounded pretty different. Obviously nobody was able to understand what I said, so suddenly an awkward silence was dominating the classroom and the teacher looked embarrassed as much as I was. I can’t remember what happened next because I was too embarrassed and nervous, I just know that it felt like the longest silence of the world to me. When I got home I (pronounced) loudly the word “onomatopoeia” for a thousand times and now I can say it perfectly. That was a trauma."
The only thing I could think about when she told me her story, was how much I could relate to what happened and how happy I was that somebody could understand my embarrassing moments.
Apart from that, Canterbury students are doing their best to make exchange students’ experiences the best they can, just by treating them as they were normal Canadian students.
Enjoy people from all around the world with different cultures and teach them about your traditions. You will be surprised to know how diverse the world is or how similar a habit can be in a place thousands of miles from Ottawa!
In spite of the embarrassing moments, the anxiety and the homesickness, exchange programs are an incredible experience that make you grow from every possible point of view, you learn to be on your own and to have an amazing time that you will never forget.
So if you have the chance to do an exchange program, what are you waiting for? Go abroad and discover the world! (and yourself).