For the past 44 years, Quesnel Rotary Club has welcomed inbound International exchange students and waved goodbye to outbound local exchange students. In total 31 have come to Quesnel and 31 have left Quesnel for various countries around the world.
This year, Grace Gunnarson is flying (for the first time) to France where she will begin her year-long exchange in Megeve. Built in the early 1900s, Megeve has always been primarily a fashionable ski resort in the French Alps. With a population of around 4,000, Megeve is smaller than Quesnel.
Grace only speaks a little French and finds the prospect of beginning the Grade 12 school year in France with instruction primarily in French a little scary.
“I’m expecting a little help from my host family but I want to do most on my own,” she said.
“I’ve been using a translation app and practicing with basic greetings and what words I’ll need to get by initially.”
Her host family consists of parents, a couple of sisters, a brother and another brother who has just left for his year-long Rotary exchange in Vancouver.
Grace expects to experience homesickness as she’s very close to her family and friends in Quesnel.
“I know it will be different but I’m also looking forward to experiencing the French culture,” she said.
“I’m open and eager to make friends and am hoping to expand my circle.”
She also said its a bonus to be so close to a large ski hill as her skiing experience has been limited to school trips to Troll Resort in Quesnel.
Along with packing her bags full of pins for trading and giving away she is bringing engraved gold pans for her host families (she will have three host families all together over the next year), Grace expects to promote Canada and of course her home town of Quesnel. She looks forward to spreading the word about her country and her region.
“I will also be presenting to the local Rotary clubs about our Rotary club, our community and how wonderful it all is in Quesnel,” she said.
Becoming a Rotary exchange student wasn’t a sudden decision for Grace. Her family hosted an exchange student when Grace was in Grade 7 and she never forgot what a wonder experience that was.
“I was determined to become an exchange student just like Eva,” she said.
Grace’s parents thought the idea might fade over time but soon realized their daughter was dedicated to the goal
and they came on board to help her in any way they could.
“I did everything I could along the way to ensure I was successful,” she said.
“My mom was my secretary and helped with all the forms and such.”
While on exchange each student is bound by the four Ds: no drinking, dating, driving or drugs.
“Any one of these activities would instantly send you home,” she said.
“I don’t think any Quesnel exchange students have been sent home. It would seem Quesnel students followed the rules.”
One activity Grace is very much looking forward to is shopping with her new sisters.
“I’ve been studying the French fashions and I like them,” she said.
“I’ll pack enough clothes for about two weeks but I’m hopefully going to go shopping.”
Also in a corner of her suitcase will be personally designed pins which Grace plans to be very selective in who receives them.
“I don’t have a lot so they will go to very special people,” she said.
As she starts school almost right away, Grace has already chosen her course package, economics and sociology. Her language choice was Spanish.
“They don’t offer English, unfortunately,” she said with a smile.
Grace is also up-to-date with her immunizations (can’t even enter the school building if you don’t have all your shots up-to-date) a tetanus shot, as well as a dental and medical screening. All that before you ever enter the country.
She knows there will be ups and downs in the months ahead but she also knows she needs to make the best of it and be flexible, accommodating and open to ensure the maximum experience possible.
“I’m excited and very thankful to Rotary for giving me this opportunity.”
The Rotary Club of Quesnel funds the yearlong international exchange every second year.
They are currently accepting applications for September 2018-2019 for students in Grades 10 – 12.
They also have a short term exchange next year and are accepting applications.
For details visit their
website www.quesnelrotary.com or like their Facebook page Quesnel Rotary.