Is Canada an exciting place to live

Student Exchange Canada - my exciting senior year

  • WORLD CITIZEN donors:worldly
  • Program: Student exchange
  • Country: Canada
  • Duration: 10 months
  • Surname: Mariam

I have been living in Canada for three months now and have seen so many new things that it is quite difficult for me to start with this report. I try to describe all my experiences from the beginning and as precisely as possible.

How it all started

The phone rang at my home in May. It was my exchange organization that found a host family for me! Everything was very exciting and it was only at that moment that I really realized what kind of adventure I was about to experience.

Debbie and Al, my host parents, have two sons who are 30 and 32 years old and 3 grandchildren who are 3, 4 and 10 years old. My host sister Elin is an exchange student from Sweden. As soon as I got the message, I contacted my Canadian family. We wrote each other emails and skyped them later.

On the one hand, in the weeks before departure, I was sad not to see my friends, family and Berlin for ten months. But on the other hand, I was so happy to finally arrive in Canada. On 8/18 then it was time. With my huge suitcase, my family and friends, I stood, sleepy and excited, at the airport in Tegel and waited for my plane. Saying goodbye was difficult, but it happened so quickly that I suddenly found myself on the plane on my way to a great adventure.

I met Elin before I arrived in Canada. Our exchange organization organized a five-day soft landing camp in New York. We met many other exchange students from different countries, had a day sightseeing program and were prepared for life in Canada.

My new home

The whole flight to my new home in Prince George was pretty exciting. All exchange students were very nervous because in Vancouver we had to show the correct papers to get our visa. But it was very easy and we didn't have any problems. Then when I stepped off the little fan gun in Prince George, I was so excited to finally meet my host family. We had to walk across the runway and a lot of people have been waiting in the airport building. At first I didn't see Al and Debbie, but then they stood there, we hugged and everything was fine.

Prince George is a city in northern British Columbia with a population of about 70,000. All around are many forests and lakes. Two rivers flow through Prince George, the Fraser and the Nechako River. When the weather is clear you can see the Rocky Mountains on the horizon. I live in a house with a small terrace and a garden. The first time I walked down our street, I immediately thought of these typical American series. There are large, white houses with garages, a garden and a few trucks or boats in front of each house. Overall, you can almost only see trucks on the streets here. Elin and I have our own rooms in the house and we share a bathroom. Our small family includes two dogs, Mira and Capone.

We arrived two weeks before school started, so we had enough time to find our way in this new life. At the beginning I was always very tired, probably because of the 9 hour time difference, the many new impressions and the different language. Almost every day we went for a walk with the dogs, got to know the area better and I saw a moose for the first time!

One night, Elin and I were woken up by Debbie and asked to put on thick socks and a warm sweater. Then we went in front of the house and looked at the sky: there wasn't a single cloud to be seen, just countless stars and these beautiful green lights that hung from the sky like thin, elongated clouds. These were the first northern lights that I saw in my life!

Elin and I bought a semester pass for the bus. The first bus trip was a real experience for me because the people are so friendly with each other. Everyone who gets off the bus thanks the bus driver and everyone on the bus says goodbye. My host parents were shocked to find out that I had never seen an ice hockey game. That changed pretty quickly. I now love ice hockey, it's such a fast game, so it's never boring and the atmosphere in the arena is always good.

You can find Tim Hurtons everywhere here in Canada. It's similar to Starbucks, only cheaper. Al meets up with friends at "Tim Hurtons" at least three times a day to have a coffee. Of course, I also had my first Canadian pancake breakfast with lots of maple syrup. My host mother, Elin and I like to cook and tried it out together right from the start.

School life

In these first weeks we organized everything important before school started. We got Canadian phone numbers and registered in the school system. Of course, this also includes the choice of subjects. As an exchange student you can take any subject and you have no compulsory subjects. We had to choose 8 subjects, 4 of which are in the same order every day in the first semester and the others in the second semester. I have chosen the following subjects:

In the first half of the year I got Spanish, Physical Education (Sport), Photography and Drama and after that I will do another Physical Education and Personal Fitness in English, Earth Science. Finally the time had come, the first day of school. Elin and I can walk to school in 20 minutes or take the bus in bad weather.

In the beginning it was difficult to find everything in school. Because everyone has their own schedule, you can't go to the next lesson together. I asked my questions and almost always made it to the right room on time. It's not that everyone speaks to you because you're an exchange student. You just have to dare to stand up to any group of people and they are really nice and friendly. Almost everyone my age can drive a car and it felt very strange to me at first when I drove with friends in the car. But here in Prince George everything is so far apart and you need a car for almost everything because the bus system is not that good. So all students who cannot drive are quite dependent on their parents.

For me it was new that a bell rings before and after each subject and that the teachers can make announcements over loudspeakers to all students. The times when the lessons start and end are pretty confusing, but after a while you get used to them!

I am totally satisfied with my choice of subjects. Spanish is very easy for me because for most of them it is the first or second year of Spanish and I had been taking Spanish classes in Berlin for four years. In PE I get to know many sports that I have never played before, such as golf, softball or curling. At the moment we have a first aid course. After PE, I have photography. Everyone got their own professional camera and we learn a lot about the various camera settings, what to look out for when taking photos and how to use the Photoshop image processing program. At the end I have drama and we play "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". I'm a dwarf and I'm having a lot of fun!

Every Wednesday after school I go to “spinning” in the small gym at our school. It's like riding a bike with loud music and of course without moving. I have basketball practice twice a week in the evening. The season doesn't start until December, but that's a “pre-training”. On Tuesdays during the break I always go to the “Me 2 We” meetings. A group of students get together and organize various things to help other people. For example, this week we baked and sold cakes and cookies. We donated the money to a girl in Prince George who has cancer. At school, it is easy to find different clubs or sports. Information slips are hanging everywhere, everything is announced over the loudspeakers and you can always ask other students and teachers.

About 40 exchange students live in Prince George, all of whom are spread across the 8 different schools. Every month our exchange organization organizes meetings and we do something together. That's why I now have friends from very different countries. We went hiking on a weekend in October. We hiked 7 km up a mountain and had a beautiful view of huge lakes and yellow-green forests. It was so cold and windy on the mountain top that water froze on my hat. To protect ourselves from bears, we had pepper spray with us and music on all the time.

A week later I was 2 meters away from a brown bear who was sitting comfortably in the garden of our neighbors and was digging through the garbage!

Excursions, Thanksgiving, and Halloween

For Thanksgiving, I went to Vernon with my host family, which is about 7 hours from Prince George in southern British Columbia (Canada is so big that distances are always measured in hours). We had a very delicious, typical turkey dinner and saw and experienced a lot in Vernon.

The second trip I took was to Vancouver and Victoria. Our exchange organization organized a program for 6 days and I liked it so much that I decided to definitely come back to these cities. It's just a dream to be in a big city that is right between the Pacific Ocean and huge mountains.

This year I had my first real Halloween! Weeks beforehand, everyone in school had been talking about what to dress up as. Here all the people come to school in costumes that are not necessarily scary, but can also be funny. I was disguised as an angel and friends of mine were the three kings, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the shooting star, a sheep and a shepherd. In the basement of our school, many students have organized a “hunted house”, it's like a haunted house.

Everything was dark and a lot of people were dressed up very, very scary and scared all the students who walked through the basement in small groups. At home, Elin and I carved funny faces in our pumpkins. In the evening we ran through the streets with friends and asked for sweets. In English one says “Trick or Treat” for “Trick or Treat”. Never in my life have I got so many sweets as this Halloween evening. It would be so great if everyone in Germany would dress up at school too!

In these first 3 months I experienced a lot and got used to life in Canada. I am so happy that it is possible for me to spend 10 months abroad and I can only recommend embarking on such an adventure!

Living in the Canadian Winter

In this report I want to write about what Canadian life is like in winter. I will explain different holidays, describe the school and try to describe my new impressions to you as precisely as possible.

November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada. As a symbol, everyone wears a “poppy”, which is a poppy flower that everyone attaches to their jacket over their hearts. Poppies were the first flowers to grow in devastated areas after wars. It is a memorial day for all soldiers who fought for Canada in wars. In our school as well as in the city there was a ceremony where different people gave speeches related to the topic.

Everyday school life in Canada

I noticed that here at school there are very often funny events organized for the students. There is even a class that is responsible for planning. This strengthens the school community and makes the school more of a place to look forward to.

For example, we had “Pajama Day” when everyone, even the teachers, came to school in their pajamas. To make it even more “Canadian”, we got pancakes for breakfast.
We also had a “Winter Formal Dance”. It was very fun to see all the students in fancy dresses and suits. The school booked a DJ and rented a photo booth where we could take as many photos as we wanted!

One of my subjects is "Drama" in which we rehearsed a play. Our class chose “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, but we built our own sense of humor into the script. My role was the dwarf "Dickory". We had a total of five performances and we had a lot of fun together!

Other subjects I'm taking this semester include sports and photography. I am very happy to have chosen sport because we try out a lot of sports that are new to me. For example, we went ice shooting / “curling”, cross-country skiing and climbing, played softball, learned archery and had a first aid course.

In my photography class, I really became aware of how to use a professional camera. I was taught an incredible number of techniques that you have to observe in order to work with the Photoshop image editing program:

In the last week before the Christmas break we had Spirit Week at school. In other words, a theme was set for each day to dress up for, such as Tourist, Ugly Sweater or Star Wars. On the last day we had a “Winter Carneval”, there were various games, karaoke, photos with Santa Claus and much more.

Prom preparations are underway

A very popular topic that is talked about in school is the "prom". This is the school ball, which traditionally marks the end of school time for the 12th grade. All girls wear long dresses and spend an incredible amount of money on the whole outfit, make-up and hairstyle! Elin, my Swedish host sister, and I went to different shops and tried on clothes, most of which were unfortunately overpriced. But I was very lucky and found a suitable dress pretty quickly. I decided to wear a short instead of a long ball gown because I can wear it a lot later. If you take a closer look at the clothes in the shops, you will find a sign on almost every dress that says “do not sell to ... school”. There is a rule that two girls are not allowed to wear the same dress. That's why you have to find a suitable dress as early as possible so that no other girl at school buys the dress. I'm pretty excited to see how it will all turn out, but there is still time until May!

"Graduation photos" were taken at the school. The photographer took many pictures in different poses and with different backgrounds and props. With the cloak I felt like I was in a Harry Potter film!

My host parents have two grandchildren who live about 9 hours from Prince George. When Avah and Declan came to visit for a week, we picked them up halfway. We drove 4 hours to Jasper, a small town in the Rocky Mountains, and saw moose and the largest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, "Mount Robson" on the way. We were very lucky to be able to see the 3954 meter high peak. It was nice to live with the two 3 and 4 year old children, we did a lot together and laughed!

Christmas and New Years Eve

In December, when there was now a lot of snow on the streets, I had a very Christmassy feeling. All the houses were decorated with lots of colored lights and my host mother baked an incredible number of cookies. Incidentally, there is no Santa Claus in Canada. But I had explained the tradition to my host parents, whereupon my host mother gave me chocolate in a shoe on December 6th. surprised. The customs at Christmas are quite different in Canada compared to Germany. It won't be until December 25th. celebrated, which is why the 24.12. is not such a special day at all. But then the next morning is Christmas. Everyone in the family, even the dogs, has a pair of stockings. These are the big socks that usually hang over the fireplace and are filled with small gifts. When we woke up in the morning there were presents under the Christmas tree and our socks were full. We all unpacked presents together. Later we went for a long walk with the dogs to get really hungry for our turkey dinner. We had a really typical Christmas dinner: turkey, sweet potatoes with marshmallos, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, homemade bread and vegetables.

December 26th is "Boxing Day" in Canada. That said, all stores have discounts and a lot of people shop cheaply after Christmas.

On New Year's Eve, Elin, my Swedish host sister, and I invited friends over to our home. Unlike in Berlin, there were no fireworks to admire here. But we were very lucky and saw green northern lights in the sky instead!

Here I can enjoy winter to the fullest! On a few days we had temperatures as low as -26 ° C, and when you pour out hot water, snow falls to the ground. There is about 50 cm of snow on the streets. That means a work-out for all Canadians, because the entrance to the garage must always be shoveled freely. The funny thing is that you meet a lot of people here shoveling snow in shorts! I think Canadians have a different perception of cold, but I'm starting to adapt to it.

In most parts of Canada it is impossible to live without a car because everything is so far apart. At the age of 16 you can get your own car, which means “freedom” for many, ie independence from parents. Nevertheless, I think that people here resort to the car too quickly and even drive the shortest distances.

I've been skating a lot lately. There is a tennis court near our house, on which water is poured in winter. The water is now frozen and forms a perfect ice surface for ice skating and ice hockey games.

I went to a special ice hockey game with my host family, the "Teddy Bear Toss Game". All fans have brought teddy bears, cuddly toys, socks or gloves. The national anthem "Oh Canada", which I now know, is sung before each game. When the Cougars, the team from Prince George, scored the first goal, everyone threw the stuffed animals onto the ice. The atmosphere in the stadium was so great, we had a lot of Laola waves that just didn't come to an end, but continued. The ice surface could no longer be seen and people came with shovels to pick up all the cuddly toys. These were then donated to children as Christmas gifts. In the end, the Cougars won 8-2, it was the best ice hockey game I've seen so far and it also served a good cause!

Canada is a good place to get to know and try out a wide variety of winter sports. In physical education alone, we went cross-country skiing in the forest next to the school. Among other things, we tried biathlon, which means skiing and shooting.

About a 15-minute walk from our house there is a small ski hill with two lifts. It's fun to spend the evening on the slopes from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

My exchange organization does an activity every month to bring the Prince George exchange students together. In January we went horse-drawn sleigh rides, very Canadian. We had a campfire and ate typical "smoars". To do this, roast marshmallos over the fire, place the chocolate and the marshmallo on two pieces of crackers and press them together, which melts the chocolate. It's delicious!

With the second semester, which starts in February, all students will take new subjects. I will have cafeteria, english, sports and math. In the cafeteria we will cook lunch for the students and learn to run our own business. Physical education will be one grade higher so that I will be taught new sports.

The next six months will be pretty exciting for me. I am very happy that I have the chance to experience a whole school year in Canada. It gives me so many new impressions of different lifestyles that I will never forget!

I am happy to be here and curious about what is to come.

School life in the senior class

I left Canada two weeks ago and have now returned to Berlin. Before I describe what it feels like to be home again, I would like to share what I have experienced in Canada over the past few months.

Since I was in the 12th grade at school, among other things, I was allowed to take part in all the ceremonies that the last year of high school entails as an exchange student. The last year of school in Canada is always a lot of fun, as there are an incredible number of events for the students. In February we students organized a fashion show. Anyone who felt like it could take part. We were assigned two shops in Prince George that put together suitable outfits for us. We had a wide variety of clothing available: ball gowns, suits, sports, hunting, summer, motorcycle, hiking and everyday clothes.

I once wore workout clothes and then a long blue ball gown. With our partners, we had to be creative on the catwalk and pose for the photographer. The whole show was prepared very professionally. Stylists were booked for all girls who were responsible for beautiful hairstyles and our make-up. We were all pretty excited because we had 500 spectators. Everything went well and it was a once in a lifetime experience for me. In the end, all the students ran onto the catwalk and we happily danced in our pajamas.

Prom: Prom with Northern Lights

Then in May we had “Prom,” the high school prom that you know from so many movies. It's not just the ball in the evening that is exciting, it is the whole daily routine. Months before this day was a very frequent topic of conversation between the students. It's really crazy how much money is being spent on this day. Lots of girls buy a $ 800 dress that they really only wear for one day. I was borrowed a dress from a friend because she had her prom the previous year. Photos were then taken at Prince George University for two hours and everyone admired each other.

Then I drove through Prince George in a limousine with friends. We stopped at many places like the mall and a frozen yogurt shop and took photos by the river. The limo took us to the prom which started at 7pm. Everything was elegantly decorated and there was a huge buffet with everything delicious you can imagine, such as a chocolate fountain, sushi or an ice cream bar.

The prom ended at midnight, but the night wasn't over yet. I've stayed with friends and we sat around a campfire. Everything was like in a Canadian dream, because we were very lucky to be able to marvel at huge green and pink, dancing northern lights in the sky.

Graduation: diplomas, flying hats and inflatables

The final school leaving certificate is then traditionally celebrated with the "graduation". It is a ceremony where many speeches are made and the students receive awards and scholarships. Families and teachers appear, all of whom are very elegantly dressed. We students looked like we were in a Harry Potter movie, with the black cloak and cap worn that day. Of course, this also includes throwing your cap in the air at the end of the two-hour ceremony.

In the evening we had “Dry Grad”. For this purpose, parents and students have prepared a lot in recent months and collected money, for example with the income from the fashion show. Instead of a big party, Dry Grad is the night after the ceremony, where you can have a lot of fun without drinking alcohol. It started at 11 p.m. and we could be picked up at 5 a.m. We students could really let off steam in the university's sports center. There were bouncy castles, rodeo rides, photo booths and many other things.

The highlight of the night was a hypnotist who came for two hours. Volunteers could register and come on stage. I made myself available and was hypnotized. It's hard to describe how it felt. All students who were hypnotized followed the hypnotist's instructions and did what he was told. When I "woke up" again, I was a little confused and tired. Later I saw a video and had to laugh a lot about what we hypnotized on stage. The other students really enjoyed looking at all of our embarrassing things. It was a special and fun experience, but I really don't understand how hypnosis works!

Diverse choice of subjects: cafeteria, badminton and outdoor education

Teaching at my Canadian school was easy for me. The students often don't take school very seriously. But I noticed that the relationship between students and teachers is better and more personal than I am used to in Germany. There was a great school community in my school, everyone knew everyone. The sports teams were always very much supported and games were followed. At school, you were never judged by your looks or clothes. It didn't matter what you wore to school, whether it was sweatpants or pajamas, what counted was the very different personalities of each individual! In Canada, school was a fun place for me. In the second semester, I chose cafeteria, English, sports and math as courses. I improved my cooking skills in the cafeteria because we cooked lunch for the students.

It was a very good decision that I chose sport, because this subject allowed me to try out many different sports. We went climbing, learned judo and went diving. The highlight was a four day hike on Mount Robson, the largest mountain in the Rocky Mountains. We have been preparing for this hike in physical education for months. We have practiced pitching our tents, preparing meals, and learning what to do when encountering a bear. In groups of four we planned everything, packed and divided the weight among ourselves. My backpack weighed 16 kg.

Whenever we were thirsty, we simply refilled our bottles in the river water. It was strictly forbidden to take food into the tents. We locked our food in bear-proof containers overnight. The nature was breathtaking like I've never seen it before! We touched a glacier and crawled into a cave. We had a clear view of Mount Robson and the deep blue glacial lake in front of it.

In one day we crossed the border from British Columbia to Alberta. We explored huge waterfalls and even went swimming in the glacier water. In the nights it was very cold, down to -10 ° C. In the four days we ran a total of 68 km. This trip was like a Canadian dream, only that I could really experience nature up close!

I started playing on the school's badminton team in March. The sport was new to me, but I had fun from the start and learned a lot. We drove with our team to a tournament in Kelowna, a city in southern British Columbia, and got to know each other very well. We then became masters in Prince George.

Host family: My father is a mountie

I was very lucky with my host family! My Swedish host sister and I became very friends and were always there for each other. She brought me closer to Swedish culture and I explained my traditions to her. Our host parents welcomed us well into their families and took a lot of time to go on excursions with us. My host father works as a police officer and is also a member of the Royal Canadian Mountain Police. The RCMP can be seen as the National Police of Canada. He received an award for having worked for the RCMP for 25 years. These cops' outfit is a Canadian landmark that includes a red jacket, gloves, boots with spurs, and a waist belt.

Canada: An Unforgettable Adventure

In the last 10 months I had the opportunity to build a new life in an unfamiliar environment. It was a challenge that I mastered and that changed me as a person in a positive way. I think that I have grown up and my horizons have broadened in many areas. This year I realized once again how happy it makes you to have family and friends. In Canada I got to know many people with very different personalities, all of whom have become so important to me. No matter where in the world you are, you can always make friends.

Saying goodbye to the home, school, host family, friends, and life in Prince George in general has been very difficult for me. Saying goodbye when I made my way from Berlin to Canada was of course not easy for me either, but I knew that I would return in 10 months. This time I had to leave my life behind in Prince George and separate myself from that wonderful time there forever. But now I have friends in all corners of the world and an unforgettable time behind me.

In Berlin at the airport I was greeted by my family and friends very loudly and excitedly. It was weird to hug them all again after we hadn't seen each other in so long. I found it particularly difficult to speak German. While on the plane, I had automatically spoken to a German stewardess in English.

But after a few days I got used to it again. At home in my apartment nothing really has changed. Suddenly everything felt like I had never been away and my year abroad was just a dream. I did not want. I had changed in the 10 months and wished that I would be seen at home and that I would not be seen as exactly the same person that I had "left behind".

But then I took control of my life in Berlin and enjoyed the atmosphere of city life. In addition, it was so good for me to be able to reach everything easily by bike or public transport. I have a lot of contact with my Canadian friends and host family. My Swedish host sister and I are already planning when we can visit each other. This adventure in Canada actually only brings more adventure with it, because my wanderlust is awakened!

Now a new phase of life begins for me. Since my year abroad is not credited, I will start the 11th grade next school year and get to know new people. I've decided to start a new sport and rearrange my room. I am now very happy to be back at home and to be able to share my stories with other people. Going abroad for a year is a very good decision that I can really recommend to everyone, because it shapes you for life.

Many thanks for the financial support to weltweiser, who made it possible for me to realize my dream with the scholarship!