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An exchange of cultures proves an illuminating experience

Maryhill’s Avery Sauve (left) and Maud Paillet of France formed a fast friendship through the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation. [Submitted]

The new exchange student in Woolwich Township has been enjoying the small-town life so far.

Since mid-August, Maud Paillet is staying with the Sauve family in Maryhill. She hails from Orléans in the northern central part of France, a city with a population of more than 114,000.

Transitioning from a bigger city to the comparatively quiet rural community has been quite an adjustment for the 15-year-old.

“It’s really different from my home, but I really like it,” said Paillet.

The most significant transition for her has been school life; she attends St. David Catholic Secondary School in Waterloo, while back in France, she attended Lycée Jean Za.

“We have way longer days in France,” said Paillet. “We can finish … it’s not always the same hour; we can finish school at 5 or 6 p.m. sometimes.”

Paillet’s family encouraged her to participate in the exchange program – after her father thought of the idea, her mother researched the program and helped her to apply.

Fellow exchange student and newfound friend Avery Sauve has been showing Paillet the ropes, including the integration of a school uniform that is required at St. David’s.

“Maud was actually really excited to try wearing the uniforms because there aren’t really uniforms in France, it’s not very popular,” said Avery with a laugh.

Both are in the 10th grade and attend the same math and gym classes. Maud has two independent classes – photography and history. Avery’s other classes are science and French, to prepare for her upcoming exchange.

In fact, the idea of participating in the exchange program stemmed from Avery’s French class.

“Somebody from the organization that I’m doing the exchange through came to my school,” explained Avery, on her inspiration for trying out the program. “They did a presentation about the exchange and I just wanted to do it so I got an application.”

Both use the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation, a not-for-profit group that organizes educational exchange programs for elementary and secondary school students through partnerships with government and private agencies in many countries.

The organization and management of these exchange programs in Canada is carried out by staff with the assistance of many volunteers, including school principals, teachers, former participants, parents, and retired teachers.

When the organization came to Avery’s classroom, interested students were given the option of France, Germany, Italy or Spain. Avery chose France because of her interest in learning the language – not only does she take the class beyond the mandatory 9th grade, but she attended French classes outside of school.

The Sauve family then went online, filled out an application, and a detailed questionnaire. The students were matched together based on their interests.

“We are both on a cross-country team at school; Maud does tennis lessons, and we volunteer at [Twin Oaks Nursing] home,” said Avery of their shared interests.

In addition to local sights, the Sauve family has been showing Maud other exciting places across the province, including Toronto and Niagara Falls. They will head to Collingwood this coming weekend.

Maud will stay in Maryhill until November, but they won’t be apart for long. Avery will also get the chance to immerse herself in the French culture when Maud’s family hosts her in early February through late May.

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