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 Jamie Pettit
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From: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 3:19 PM -0400
Subject:Exchange Students at OSDSS
Every year, a number of Bluewater District School Board secondary students choose to participate in exchange programs to expand their learning, awareness and appreciation of other cultures and languages from around the world.  Reciprocal programs offered through the not-for-profit groups, Canadian Education Exchange Foundation (CEEF) and Rotary Youth Exchange, provide interested students with three-month and full year opportunities, respectively.  Of the approximately 12 CEEF three-month exchanges throughout the board this year, four were from Owen Sound District Secondary School.  This was in addition to a one-year Rotary exchange at the school.  Thanks to the efforts of Guidance Teacher Kelly Wilkins, another nine OSDSS students are expected to enrol in CEEF exchanges while two participate in Rotary exchanges to Brazil and Japan next year.  Throughout the board, 19 three-month exchanges are anticipated with one of them involving a student in Grade 8.  

Group photo image of (l-r): students Wesley Schlenker, Isabelle Drummond, Ellen Dunn & teacher Kelly WilkinsWesley Schlenker, Isabelle Drummond and Ellen Dunn were among this year’s group of students from OSDSS who participated in exchanges between February and April.  Recently, the three students were happy to reflect on their positive experiences as a result of being involved in the program.  

Wesley and Isabelle, who both shared France as their common destination, were thrilled by the opportunity for some in-depth learning about French culture while experiencing a school system that they found to be different in many ways from their own.  Both students expressed similar observations of a more formal and lecture oriented education structure where the school days are longer than in Canada’s system.  Not surprisingly, their French exchange partners were enviously in awe of the more relaxed atmosphere and less formal approach that they experienced while visiting OSDSS!  

The trip to France posed a unique challenge for Wesley, who was required to move up a grade level to match his older exchange partner.  Thankfully, Wesley’s strong French vocabulary developed through the OSDSS French Immersion program enabled him to rise to the occasion and deepen his learning and conversational skills with his newfound Francophone peers.  It was a different challenge for Isabelle, who is not a French Immersion student.  To break down any language barriers, she prepared herself well in advance of the trip through a lot of exposure to French television to expand her comprehension.  

Ellen embarked on a different journey altogether through being matched with an exchange partner from Berlin.  To be immersed in German culture was a truly interesting adventure.  Like her OSDSS peers, her biggest observation was the more formal educational approach.  Many of the classes she attended were in English, which helped her to adapt and integrate into the environment.

All three students agreed that a knowledge of different languages is strongly encouraged and valued in Europe.  Beyond their respective classroom experiences, each returned to Canada with a different story and positive memory to share.  For example, Wesley enjoyed track running, Isabelle loved the variety of cheeses, and Ellen was impressed by the learning culture.  It is through these types of enriched learning and cultural experiences that Bluewater District School Board exchange programs create a lasting positive impact on students.