Exchange students return home from France, Spain

Aimee Pelletier, 17, and Melanie Halvorsen, 17, had the chance of a lifetime when they were accepted into the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation program.
The three-month exchange landed Pelletier in Spain and Halvorsen in France.
“I didn’t know any Spanish beforehand,” said Pelletier. “[But] I spent eight one-hour sessions with Josette Vargas, who taught me how to say hello, to ask where the bathroom is, and stuff like that.”
“At first I didn’t quite understand everything,” Halvorsen admitted. “But I’ve been in French immersion since I was [little] so it didn’t take long for me to catch on.”
Pelletier, who learned of the program when her older sister went on an exchange to Italy, said she chose Spain because she really wanted to learn Spanish.
“I want to work in South America in the future so this will really help me,” she explained.
Halvorsen, who learned of the program through Pelletier, chose France to improve her French-speaking skills. “I wanted to speak like a French person, with the real accent and everything,” she noted.
Pelletier was matched with Jorge Garcia and Halvorsen with Clement Panard. They had stayed with the girls’ families here when they attended Fort High for the first three months of the first semester.
“Jorge liked Canada so much he’s coming back for a month this summer,” said Pelletier.
Both stressed the kindness and hospitality of Europeans.
“[The Panards] are a wonderful family,” enthused Halvorsen. “The mother was very motherly [and] I felt very much at home.”
“They were extremely patient and knowledgeable about their history,” Pelletier noted, adding it was interesting being in a culture that has a thousand years of history.
“We both learned so much about their culture and history,” echoed Halvorsen.
Both girls also commented on the tradition of greeting a stranger by kissing both cheeks. “In Europe, it’s considered very rude if you don’t kiss a person when you meet them,” explained Pelletier.
“I kissed more people there than in my whole life,” Halvorsen chuckled.
Pelletier said her experience in Spain reminded her of a quote from a bookmark–“A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains it’s original dimension.”
“It’s a life-altering experience,” agreed Halvorsen. “[And] it definitely broadens your horizons.”