After a 12-hour flight, I looked down from the airplane window, and saw a deep, blue ocean, hundreds of islands in different sizes, and speedboats and ferries were sailing everywhere. The fascinating view took my breath away.
I was excited. A place from my home in China, that seemed unfamiliar, would be a new destination in my life.
Victoria, one of the oldest cities on the Pacific coast, is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Beautiful sceneries, rich cultural heritage and mild weather attract a lot of tourists every year; it also appeals to students from around the world to study and experience different culture here.
Sooke Schools International Program prepares many events and trips for exchange students every year, on or off the Island. Trips include watching hockey games, visiting Butchart Gardens, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver Aquarium, Playland, Seattle, and skiing at Mount Washington and Whistler. Being an international student means trying different things, and being exposed to different activities.
Ski trips are the most exciting for me because I’ve never skied before. When I was still on the bus, I saw snow appear and couldn’t sit still. The mountains were covered with snow, snowflakes were floating all around; skiers and snowboarders were speeding down the hills. The view was completely new and amazing. Then I started to ski; it was challenging, but I found it fun soon after I learned how to do it.
Ms. Boyte, the International Student Support Teacher at Belmont secondary school, said the best part of her job is “meeting students from all different cultures, and watching them grow and develop as individuals.” International students have received a lot of support from teachers, students and ambassadors since the first day of school.
All the ambassadors are volunteers from our school, and many of them are in Ms. Boyte’s class. One day at the second week of school, we went to Fort Rod Hill with ambassadors. We were divided in groups playing a game of finding places and taking photos in Fort Rod Hill, which helped us know and make friends with more people.
Moreover, there are many courses in the school that we don’t have at home, such as drama, film and television, cosmetology, food study, dance and soccer. Acting is one of my favorite classes this semester. We have learned staging, improv, the use of our senses while acting and different acting categories. I have found acting is a good way to build confidence on stage and present myself, which I would never have a chance to learn in China because we are heavily loaded with academic courses.
Amelie, from Germany, said: “I really like dance. I’ve never really learned how to dance before, because we didn’t have dance class at school. This is something that I like about studying here. There are classes that aren’t in my home country.”
The exchange program changed my life. If I didn’t come to Victoria, I would have missed a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have a chance to do at home. If you are a student who wants to go on an exchange but are unsure, I recommend that you go. An exchange can expand your horizon, deepen your knowledge and most importantly, provide different experiences.
Angela Zhou is an exchange student attending Belmont secondary school.