Grade tens in the Talons program when we began our blogging experiment, Saskia and Ariana would be seniors at our school this year. Would be, of course, had they not each accepted scholarships and student-exchange opportunities in Belgium, and on Vancouver Island.
Luckily for those of us living and working back in the local Talons’ neighbourhood, they have continued to share their learning on a blog they began before either of them set sail this summer. And with the recent passing of Canadian Thanksgiving, each published reflections on their new lives and learning away from home.
Ariana, making a home on Vancouver Island, was able to make it back to the mainland for the holiday, and wrote about returning to her place in her home, as well as with her younger sister (current Talon, Bronwyn), and mother:
Today, while my three guests from Pearson explored Vancouver, I had a tea party with friends, picked beans with my mother, and chatted with my little sister. I discovered that, despite the shifted arrangement of my room, the deeper structures of my home – the connections between me and my friends and family – have stayed the same. I can still argue and laugh with my mother, be goofy with my friends, and laze on the couch with my little sister (after she scored two goals during her soccer game). Before, I worried that as I began to belong at Pearson, Port Moody would feel less like home. I was wrong. It is comforting for me to know that, no matter, what, there is one place in the world that is mine. There is a room in a bright green house in the suburbs of Vancouver that I can count on to welcome me home.
While Saskia, across the Atlantic:
…spent my first Thanksgiving away from home last week. While my family rolled out pumpkin pie dough and brought cranberry sauce to a simmer, I floated down the sluggish Meuse on a Rotary boat trip. Compared to rivers in British Columbia, the opaque brown water didn’t provide much scenic value. The three hours offered me plenty of time to chat with other exchanges students, however. My mind on Thanksgiving and home, we discussed clashing attitudes and ways of life.
Because this is what the idea of exchange is about, is it not? To immerse oneself in a new culture, and find what it might have to teach us about ourselves.
But there is an added opportunity in an exchange that separates twins, I think (not being one, I can’t confirm), in that individuals who have shared nearly everything in their young lives set out on their own to discover not only a new place, but a new relationship with themselves, and a voice and perspective that isn’t as much shared as it is theirs alone:
The most challenging aspect of being an exchange student for me is not necessarily adjusting to the different attitudes and traditions themselves. What’s harder is the fact that people here can’t understand or appreciate where I come from. I have to be the one to justify my mismatched actions or ideas by underlining the disparities when I discover them. Otherwise, I quietly realize, accept and move on. When I wrote my Rotary application, I explained that I wanted a new view on home, to take another look at some of the realities I took for granted. It’s happening.