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EPC set to welcome 21 exchange students

Week-long trip an opportunity for students to show off their hometown after getting to travel to Quebec in February
Twenty-one students from EPC got the chance to travel to Quebec during an exchange trip in late February this year. Seen here posing in front of the Château Frontenac in Quebec City Feb. 23, the students said that the trip exposed them to new experiences and helped them improve their French-language skills.

ATHABASCA – Twenty-one students from Edwin Parr Composite School (EPC) will be hosting exchange students from Quebec May 23-30, as part of a program through Experiences Canada.

The Grade 8 and 9 students, who are all in the French Immersion stream at EPC, got their own opportunity to experience a different culture in February for seven days, when they travelled to Thetford Mines, QB, a city of just over 26,000 people, located 228 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Kayla McGuigan, who teaches French at the school, travelled with the students to Quebec for the first time since COVID-19 and said that the school had participated once before the pandemic, and were hoping to make it yearly moving forwards.

“The Experiences Canada French Exchange was exactly that, an experience,” said Maia Erdely, a Grade 9 student at EPC who has been in the French Immersion since Kindergarten. “The trip was an interactive encounter that could never be replicated, nor would I want to. It meant so much to my classmates and I, and it was truly an eye-opening experience and a wonderful time. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”

Experiences Canada helps make the trip possible, with the organization paying for the flights, and helping to pair communities looking to participate in the exchange. Once the students arrive in the community, the hosts are expected to cover the costs of excursions for their end of the trip.

A major benefit of the trip is the chance for students to improve their language skills; McGuigan said that the school specifically requested a French First Language community, to give the students the most opportunity to learn. The 21 students have all been French Immersion since Kindergarten, and while the four students the Advocate spoke to all said that they were conversant if not fluent in French, the extra practice never hurts.

“The trip was good, my French improved a lot while I was over there,” said Jake Safar, also in Grade 9. “I got the chance to have a lot of conversations, it was a really good experience.” Safar’s experiences were echoed by classmate Benneit Hall, who said “I learned a lot more fluent, conversational French. Some of the words that they use, we aren’t necessarily taught in class.”

While the exact activities that the students got to do varied depending on their host family — Hall spoke about a trip to a syrup factory, as an example — they were all struck by the differences between the two communities.

“There’s a lot more hills there,” said Hall, eliciting a laugh from his classmates. “There’s so many hills, it’s all up and down with valleys, and wind turbines everywhere.” Erdely jumped in, adding that everything was much older. “There’s a lot of historical buildings, like a lot more then we have here.”

When the Quebec students are in Athabasca, McGuigan is planning on showing them the community, including the Athabasca Archives. There will also be a First Nations, Métis, Inuit (FNMI) feast, and an introduction to Ukrainian Dance, among other events. Besides the planned events, the students are looking to show off some of the things that make their community unique, including the Muskeg Creek Trail system, the Athabasca River and the area’s many lakes.

“We just want to show them the day-to-day activities in our town, since I think it differs so much from theirs,” said Erdely.

Cole Brennan,

Cole Brennan

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