Trading Places: Bridging School Culture Through An Exchange

December 19, 2023 3 min read

In today’s world, experiences that create an understanding of new cultures, foster empathy and connection, and give students long-lasting memories are invaluable. One such opportunity unfolded earlier this month for Grades 7-9 students at Calgary Academy, who flew to the other side of the country to New Brunswick to take part in CA’s first school exchange.

CA Senior School teacher, Grayson St-Laurent, originally began his teaching journey on the East Coast at the University of New Brunswick (UNB).

“When I was studying at UNB, I was teaching under Mark Paquette at Bliss Carman Middle School as part of my practicum. It was through that mentorship that the opportunity happened about a year ago when Marc reached out to me wondering if CA would be interested in an exchange.” – Mr. St-Laurent

Welcome to New Brunswick, CA!

The journey for 13 Calgary Academy students continued nearly five years after that practicum when they touched down in the historic city of Fredericton in the middle of the night. Their itinerary was packed with many activities, including team bonding exercises, basketball skills training, a spirited school dance, visiting with their billet families, meeting a Member of Parliament, and touring many important landmarks around the city. The biggest challenge and opportunity for students was “just stepping outside their comfort zone and trying new things,” says Mr. St-Laurent.

While exploring the sights and sounds of another city was memorable, their experiences in Calgary also provided them with a fresh perspective as they hosted the Bliss Carman Middle School students upon their return from New Brunswick.

Sharing the Spirit of the West

Students shared local activities with our visitors such as Stampede School, which highlighted Indigenous customs, cultural traditions, and the values of Western Canada, including the students being bestowed with the iconic Western honour of being ‘White-Hatted’! Their tour continued to Banff, where the incredible Rocky Mountains left the visitors amazed, including our students.

CA Junior School teacher, Sarah Galbraith, was another educator integral to the exchange. “There were too many memorable experiences, but some highlights were practicing with the UNB Reds women’s basketball team and a training session here with the University of Calgary Dinos.”

Ms. Galbraith emphasized the biggest lasting impact of this exchange was the many friendships formed over the two weeks. While the New Brunswick students have returned home, the students are still talking every day.

“My biggest takeaway was the invaluable time spent outside of the classroom engaging with our students. We also had the opportunity to connect with educators from across Canada and learn so much from them and their school culture. I hope that 20 years from now if the students are travelling to each other’s provinces, they will connect!” – Ms. Galbraith

For everyone involved, the exchange wasn’t just about switching locations—it was a learning journey. Familiarizing themselves with another school’s culture and traditions, experiencing two cities through a fresh lens, and sharing in local customs will be an experience students will never forget!