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Aix Marseilles student exchange brings cultures together

The 2018-2019 academic year saw the realization of extensive discussions and planning by OCENET following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with L'académie d'Aix-Marseille, Région académique Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (France) to arrange for an international exchange of OCDSB students.

In its inaugural year the program had 30 students (15 OCDSB students and 15 French students) in the student exchange. In the Fall of 2018, the French students came to the Ottawa area for a 6 week visit to live with their Canadian host families. The French students attended OCDSB schools with their Canadian counterparts, and then, in turn, in the spring of 2019 the Canadian students travelled to France for 6 weeks to billet with their French host families. Most of the students are in Grade10 when they participate in the reciprocal exchange. Students from 7 OCDSB schools were part of the first year of the exchange.

Now in its second full year, there are 60 students participating this school year, with 30 students from the OCDSB, and it is evident that the students are not only enhancing their French language skills but also experiencing another culture firsthand and making enduring friendships.

   
 

 Student exchange students show their enthusiasm at Lycée St. Charles in Marseilles

 

 South Carleton students Mia (centre left) and Maya (centre right) enjoy a visit to a pumpkin patch with their Aix Marseilles exchange partners

"The exchange was definitely a great experience. I knew that I would enjoy and benefit from the program, but not to that extent. What we did for six weeks in France was awesome."
-Mia, Grade 11, South Carleton HS

South Carleton HS

Now in Grade 11, South Carleton students Maya and Mia participated in the initial exchange last school year. Maya was encouraged to particpate by her family, and in spite of some inital feelings of nervousness about the prospect of having another student from France live with her and her family for six weeks and then later going to live with a French family, Maya feels that it all worked out successfully and she became very close with her large host family. On the other hand, Mia has been to France before and wanted to experience a different area by going to Marseilles. Mia noted many differences in the French schools such as the longer school day with more subjects and fewer extra-curricular activities or team sports. The French students particpated in many activities while they were at South Carleton including Leadership Camp, a Foods field trip and a Bandathon event. Both Maya and Mia would highly recommend the exchange and both will be using the experince towards the International Certificate Program (ICP).

South Carleton teacher and an ICP Staff Advisor, Jen Pattison was actively involved from the very beginning in assiting the Canadian students (and their parents!) enroll and prepare for the exchange. In her view: “What I love the most is the strong and meaningful connections that the students make.

   
 

 Salome, Kassandra, Raphael, Sarah, Nico, Margot (l-r) model their new Canada/France exchange hoodies in the front office area at Sir Wilfrid Laurier SS

 

 Maia (right) from Earl of March and her exchange partner Maud (left) at Major’s Hill Park with Parliament Hill in the background

"As a tourist you don't really experience truly what life is like in another country. On an exchange by living in a French house with a French family and going to a French school, we have the chance to 'live' the culture."
-Sarah, Grade 12, Sir Wilfrid Laurier SS student

Sir Wilfrid Laurier SS

For 6 weeks, three students from Marseilles have attended Sir Wilfrid Laurier SS and not only experienced learning in a totally different school environment, but also living with a Canadian host family.

French exchange students Salome, Margot and Raphael offered many observations about their time in Ottawa. Each of the French students were eager to visit Canada as none of them had been here before. They find Ottawa to be welcoming and a very nice city. Each of the students from Marseilles commented that their school days are longer in France but they do not have team sports or after school activities such as drama at their schools. Several of the students commented that they liked not having to make a long commute to get to Sir Wil. What the French students missed the most was food from home, and Rapael, in particular, has not warmed up to Ottawa’s cooler weather. The French students have really enjoyed being welcomed as a member of their Canadian host families and look forward to reciprocating by hosting their exchange partners when they travel to France for 6 weeks in March of 2020. All of the French students agreed that a 6 week exchange period was just about the right amount of time to be on an exchange of this type. The Sir Wil exchange partners are eagerly anticpating the opportunity to reunite with their new friends in a few months and to live with their exchange partner’s family. The transition to living in France for several weeks will be easier as the Canadian students have already formed close friendships with their French counterparts.

A key motivation for the Sir Wil students is improving their French language skills. Also, with the help of their Guidance counsellors, all of the Sir Wil students have adapted their timetables for next semester to facilitate the exchange, such as taking online courses, where possible.

One of the Sir Wil students noted that her friends have also become friends with the exchange students, and it is most likely the same sharing of friendships, culture and ideas will occur in France.


"My host family has been truly amazing, and we do lots of activities and visit other places together. It has not been difficult to adjust to life in Ottawa."
-Maud, Grade 11, Aix Marseilles exchage student

Earl of March SS

Exchange partners Maia from Earl of March and her exchange partner, Maud, have become close friends because of the exchange program. Maia feels she has discovered “a second sister who lives all the way in France” and Maud condsiders her Canadian host family her second family.

Maud applied for the exchange with encouragement from her parents and because she wants to improve her spoken and written English. She is keeping up with her schoolwork from France as well as completing classwork for her courses at Earl of March. She noted how teaching styles are very different than teaching at home. Maud does not think that teenage life is significantly different in Ottawa and thinks “teenagers are teenagers” everywhere. Because it is a novelty for her, she really likes the snow and is now getting accustomed to Ottawa’s cooler temperatures.

Maia is looking forward to March when she will live with Maud’s family for 6 weeks as part of the exchange. She has always appreciated opportunities to learn about other cultures and has wanted to go to France for a long time. Maia is enrolled in the ICP and part of the exchange experience will contribute towards her ICP certificate.

Exchange inquiries?

If you are a student or parent interested in finding out more about the process for applying for the Aix Marseilles student exchange in the future, contact Sean Oussoren, International Education Coordinator.

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