Student Reflections From Our School Cultural Exchange Pt. 1

Our third day of this trip was most definitely one for the books. From attending assembly and classes, to eating lunch, and experiencing a homestay for dinner, it was an adventure I’ll never forget. Once we arrived at Gongzim Ugyen Dorji Higher Secondary School, we were immediately greeted and partnered up. Everyone at the school was extremely welcoming, and made each of us feel at home. My partner, Nima, was so sweet and I’m so appreciative of her generosity and willingness to show me around. I attended Biology class with her where the teacher decided it was best to do a Q&A between the Bhutanese and SMLS students instead of a lesson. It was really fun to have a chance to talk, and really take in all of the similarities and differences between our cultures. After class we headed to lunch where we had rice, lentil soup, and watermelon. It was delicious! The watermelon was so fresh, it was amazing. Later in the day, we headed to our partners’ homes for dinner. I went to two houses; my partner’s mom’s house, as well as her dad’s house. It was so incredible seeing traditional Bhutanese homes, and I felt so welcomed by their family. Nima’s friend Kiñ Lãy joined us, and she was kind enough to bring me a traditional Bhutanese food called aluparata. It was a crispy pastry with potato and spices inside. It was so yummy, I ate two! She even brought me more later because she knew how much I loved them. After, we stopped at Kiñ Lãy’s house, and we had dinner at Nina’s mom’s house. For dinner we had rice, chicken, soy beans, asparagus, and cheese. The chicken was definitely my favourite part. The spices were so tasty, and I can’t stop thinking about it! After the homestay I headed back to the hotel where I freshened up and got a good night’s rest! All in all, the day was incredible, and I know I will stay in touch with everyone I met from the school!

– Sarah D.

After visiting a Bhutanese school, I think it’s safe to say that I have never had a more unique experience. As we entered the school gates on Tuesday morning, we were greeted by a group of Bhutanese students who were eager to show us around their school. We began the day with a welcome ceremony equipped with butter tea and cookies. Even that early in the experience, both the similarities and stark differences between us had become apparent. Like us, the students were both nervous and eager to meet us, and learn about a new culture. The two classes we were able to attend in the morning were probably the strangest of my life. As we walked around the school, practically every head we passed turned our way and about 50 people came over to introduce themselves. I had a group of four girls lead me around the school for the day, and when the school day was over, I went back to their houses for a homestay dinner. Throughout this time together we became closer than I believed was possible, with so many cultural differences separating us. We talked about classes, hobbies, crushes, and everything else you would expect from a group of teenagers. After a while I could hardly see our differences; I was only focused on how much more I wanted to learn about each of them. While the differences between us were interesting to learn about, the highlight of the visit was by far finding out all things we had in common.

– Amelia S.

When arriving at the school for our cultural exchange, we were greeted with welcome scarves and paired off with a buddy for the day. My buddy was so excited to meet me, and had so many questions about life in Canada. As we went to her classes she wanted to introduce me to all her friends and would make sure that they spoke english to include me in the conversation. We stuck together for almost the whole day and it feels like we have known each other for years. Even though there was a bit of a language barrier, we were still able to communicate and work around curtain words. Throughout the whole trip to the school everyone was so thoughtful and made sure to make us feel at home. Our experience going through the school cultural exchange was definitely one that I will never forget.

– Tori M.

During my time at the school, I was able to experience a variety of different perspectives, meet new people, and learn more about Bhutanese culture. It is without saying that this was an irreplaceable experience. My buddy, Divya, was most welcoming as she took me to classes, introduced me to her friends, and even invited me to her home for dinner. Having conversations and asking questions about their day to day life was eye opening, realising that along with our various differences there were just as many similarities. Experiencing the food was also quite different. Compared to the flavours we taste in Canada, this food provided valuable insights into the country of Bhutan. Being of Indian descent, I was also able to notice similarities between food in Bhutan and India. Through a subtle taste of my own culture along with the new spices and flavours of Bhutan, I am so grateful to have been able to try new meals within the dining hall of the school we visited. At night, the hospitality I received was something I have never experienced before. Despite having never met the people I was rooming with, people gave up their own beds for me without a second thought. They carried my bags without me even asking, and didn’t let me carry them even after insisting that I should. Everyone was nicer than I could have imagined, and it is without a doubt that I will be keeping in touch with the people I met! Overall, trying new foods, meeting new people, staying in a dorm out of my comfort zone, and learning more about Bhutanese culture will always be memories I will never forget.

– Isha B.

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