FSS's International Flare

The date is September 2, and I am sitting in the Cranbrook airport nervously awaiting a sister I’ve never before met. Little do I know what an amazing impact she and others like her will have on my school, my community and myself. But in the back of my mind maybe I do know. Every six months people disappear and return home, leaving a home behind. They leave a space, sometimes never to be filled. Do we regret that?

Never.

I think that it is natural to be afraid or skeptical of things we don’t know, at least until something proves us wrong. What better way to break down international barriers than to build international relationships? The International Student program allows us to build relationships with a versatile group of individuals without leaving the comfort of our own town.

The first international students came to Fernie Secondary School in the Fall of 2004. There were just three students. One of them is currently attending the University of British Columbia. The program has grown to accommodate about fifteen students a year in our high school. They come from all over the world, Germany to Brazil, Mexico to Japan and from Spain to Hong Kong. Many former students often return to Fernie. One former exchange student, a German boy, was here for six weeks last summer, and another’s parents have promised him a flight to visit every year for the next ten!

Canada is such a unique culture that we can sometimes take it for granted. Talking to these people from other places really makes us appreciate where we live. If you leave Germany and drive three hours you could be in four different countries! There are not many places apart from Canada where you can drive for hours and not go through one single city. This seems very different to foreigners.

Traveling is a valuable thing to me. I find the educational experience incomparable to anything I can learn from a book. For me, seeing other cultures puts ours in perspective. Although we may behave in different ways our basic instincts are similar.

When talking to the students, they often open my eyes to the parts of my life that seem so normal, yet to them are so different. The idea that we recognize people by their cars is fascinating to some. Others came to our school expecting the typical American senior high, complete with jock football stars, cheerleaders in short skirts and the stereotypical head cheerleader dating the handsome quarterback. Our sports program does not even include a football team or a cheerleading squad (we do, however have a belly dance club!).

I believe that by being involved in these people’s Canadian experience, we can build lasting relationships with a myriad of wonderful people. International exposure expands our love of this world that we call our home.

We could be the generation that lays out the beautiful picture of friendship networks, breaking social tension between countries. Let us promote peace with our relationships, promote understanding by embracing differences, and learn the value of versatility one friendship at a time.

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