The next week will be a turmoil of emotions for three exchange students who are leaving Elmira to return home to Spain and France.
Alix Rolland, Laura Jornet and Saphia Sanna are excited about seeing friends and family again, but they’re also going to miss their exchange partners and their “Canadian families” who’ve been hosting them for the past three months.
“I want to go home to see my friends and family, but I want to stay here,” Jornet said.
“Being away for three months – it’s a really long time,” Rolland said. “Now I feel closer with my family and my friends because I didn’t know how much I will miss (them).”
Rolland also didn’t realize that she would be missing “real” bread and cheese.
“It’s not real bread,” she said of the loaves on Canadian grocery store shelves.
Rolland will be leaving for France Nov. 3, and the Jornet and Sanna will follow on Nov. 9. In early February, their exchange partners – Veronica Connors, Bailey DeRose and Camellia Bustard – will be flying from Canada to Europe to spend three months with them.
They have another three months, but it’s already been a long wait up to this point. The students handed in their applications a year ago, and all three did summer school to prepare for the trip. They will miss most of second semester, so they will have to formally drop their courses and sign a contract with their teachers pledging to complete their work before they leave or when they return.
The three foreign students agreed that school in Canada isn’t as tough as back home.
In France, they start at 8 a.m. and finish between 5 and 7 p.m., with an hour for lunch, Rolland explained.
“Here it’s kind of like holidays and we’re going back to the hard thing,” she said.
They found the school day blissfully short, but other changes were tougher to adapt to. For Jornet, who hails from Spain, meal times were odd: eating dinner when they got home from school, instead of at 9 p.m. It was also tough to go to classes and not know anybody.
“The people are really nice but sometimes the language is a barrier because it’s hard to follow a conversation,” Sanna said.
While in Canada, they visited Niagara Falls, Ottawa, the CN Tower, Cedar Point, Canada’s Wonderland and Timmins. The one Canadian sight they’re happy to miss is winter.
“I would like to see snow, but I’m happy seeing snow the day before leaving,” Jornet said.
For their part, the Canadian students are delighted they’ll be flying out in February and leaving the white stuff behind.
Connors is most excited about living in the city; her exchange partner, Rolland, lives in Nantes and has a sister living in Paris. Bustard was enthralled by photos of Versailles, and is excited about seeing the real thing.
On top of learning about the culture and language, the students expect to come home with a deeper understanding of themselves.
“You realize your family and friends are the best thing you have,” Jornet said.