Year 12 Student, Alexandra Legassick shares her challenging personal journey, while on exchange to Canada, from culture shock to a liberating sense of independence.
At the beginning of November 2017, I embarked on a life changing journey, having decided to act on my childhood dream of going on a student exchange for three months to Canada.
I knew that it was a huge decision, and – in all honesty – it was the hardest thing I have ever done. But, it was also the best thing I’ve ever done (so far). I know it might sound cheesy, but, I have grown so much and have been inspired to do things that I wouldn’t have done, if I hadn’t done the exchange.
Before I left, I was advised not to set broad goals for myself. Goals, such as ‘I aim to make lots of friends’ or ‘I aim for a successful exchange’, would be unreasonable and harder to achieve than you might think. It is better to make specific goals, ones that would be reasonable to achieve each week, for example. It is when those specific goals are achieved that the exchange is a success. I came to realise this advice was extremely valuable.
I experienced Culture Shock – a very common occurrence for people on an exchange – and felt overwhelmed and disoriented in a different environment.
Leaving my home, my family and my friends for the longest time I had ever been away, and moving into a foreign environment with people I had never met, was hard. But, sure enough, it started to get a lot easier after I adjusted to the differences, settled into my family life, and made some friends. The feeling I had when I knew that I was settled was truly amazing. I felt so independent and proud of myself for doing something like this. I thought, ‘I am in Canada, by myself. I can do anything!’
The small town, where I was placed, was the complete opposite to what I was used to. The closest shopping centre was an hour away by car, and you would have to walk for a minute to reach my neighbours on either side. I was in the middle of nowhere. It was beautiful and calm, and the rows of pine trees on the sides of the roads were eventually covered in snow, and it looked like a postcard.
I went to a public school, made up largely of farming families. It appeared to me to have no rules, apart from ‘no hats inside’. During class, students called restaurants to deliver lunch to school! It took a lot of getting used to, but I soon started to laugh at the things that surprised me at first, and I really embraced an environment so different to A.B. Paterson College.
I kept a journal, and it is so interesting to go back and read it, and to see how much I changed over the course of the exchange. The time seemed to fly by, and I soon had to say goodbye to family and friends, some of whom I may never see again. The departure was bittersweet, because I was excited to see my friends and family in Australia, but sad to leave my life in Canada.
I am so thankful for this experience, because now I know I can do things that I didn’t think I could. I now have a home away from home.
Year 12 Student