Sometimes we need to calm down and have a look around ourselves. Appreciate where we are, what we have, and the opportunities that we get. Sitting on the Panorama mountain a few hours from Calgary, Canada, I took a moment to calm down. I thought about my experience during my exchange at Calgary French & International School (CFIS). It was my second weekend in Canada, and I was thoroughly enjoying it so far. I snowboarded down to a calm spot with a fantastic view of the mountain range, and I thought about the first week I had spent in Canada.
From meeting many new people to experiencing a new culture or practicing my French, my first week had been busy but very fun. I made many new friends at CFIS, and one of the most interesting but difficult aspects of the time in Calgary was speaking French. Canada is a multilingual country where both English and French is spoken widely, however French is mainly spoken in the Quèbec province and not in Calgary where I spent my four weeks. Therefore, everyone spoke good English, which was by far the most used language in the city. However, CFIS is, as the name implies, a French immersion school, and the majority of subjects are taught in French. Fortunately for me, the teachers were very accomodating to me as my intermediate French skills were not on par with the other students who were fluent. They frequently helped me, and either the teachers or my peers would translate things that I did not understand, although I tried my best to listen, understand, write, and speak French. My friends spoke English outside of class, so that was not a problem.
Although the school was not as diverse as UWCSEA, several of my peers were from foreign countries, such as Venezuela, Algeria, China, Colombia, India, England, France, and more. This shows how I not only made friends in Canada, but from all around the world. I became familiarised with Canadian culture and places. I tried Tim Hortons coffee, which is very famous and common in Canada, as well as Wendy’s, A&W (which has now opened in Singapore, very tasty), and Walmart, although I was disappointed to find there was no greeter waiting by the entrance (a very funny but useless job in my opinion). On my second day in Canada, we visited Lake Louise, an incredibly beautiful lake around an hour from Calgary. I even got to skate on the frozen lake!
I got to spend time with my host family on the weekends. The first weekend we visited the previously-mentioned Lake Louise, and on the second and third weekends we drove to my host family’s ski cabin at the Panorama ski mountain, a three-hour drive away from Calgary.
All the time spent there was amazing; even the drive there was beautiful with fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains range, big mountains, green forests, nice lakes, and the entire landscape covered in snow! I am from Sweden and I am used to snow and cold, but after spending three years in warm Singapore, I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful snow.
My host family was full of avid skiers- my host student and his sister are competitive skiers and the mum spends a lot of the weekends in Pano in skiing, and so they go there every weekend and spend their winter-time breaks there!
I spent the weekends snowboarding which was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had. Gliding across the snow, the beautiful view, mountains, and forests all around, and the excitement and speed of snowboarding made the time special. I also got to meet some of Owen’s (my host student) ski club friends and we went to the Radium Hot Springs, geothermally heated pools in the middle of the mountain range.
Another great part of my exchange was the weekend I spent in Toronto, a few hours by plane from Calgary. I have relatives in Toronto who I had not seen for about 8 years, and so I really enjoyed seeing them again (and some relatives who weren’t born last time I went!). One of my favourite parts of Toronto was the diversity of the city- I remember walking through a food court one day and seeing a whole lot of different races and nationalities, where I would not have been able to tell which country I was in!
Leaving Canada was bitter-sweet, after a fantastic month of fun, and I really look forward to going back in the future. On my trip I gained independence, I travelled on my own for the first time, and think I continued my development as an international student, building bonds with people across the world, and broadening my horizons.
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