A local teen is about to embark on what she calls a life-changing French adventure.
Katelynn Schettler, 17, will leave her Island Lakes home on Aug. 22 for the Pays de la Loire region of France, where she will study the equivalent of her Grade 12 year, courtesy of a program offered by the Rotary Club of St. Boniface St. Vital.
The club offers the exchange program annually to a student, and with Schettler’s departure imminent, an inbound student from Belgium arrived in Winnipeg on Aug. 20 to study at Glenlawn Collegiate for the upcoming academic year.
Schettler, who recently graduated from J.H. Bruns Collegiate, said it’s been her dream to be an exchange student since she was nine and is relishing the prospect of becoming immersed in the French language and culture. During her time in France, she will stay with four different host families.
To help prepare her for her excursion, the teen recently returned from a five-week trip to Quebec with the Explore program, a federally-funded language program.
"It was an amazing experience. It’s an intense French program and I was in class for six hours a day. If you spoke English, they’d send you home," Schettler laughed, noting her French teacher in high school had an impact on her love of languages, as well as her parents.
"Languages come naturally to me. And I’ve always been interested in other cultures. I can speak a bit of Chinese, Korean and Spanish. My parents really encourage me to be open-minded and globally-minded and I embrace that," she said. "Being globally-minded is very important to me, as you should accept other cultures and be willing to share your culture with others, too."
Despite her upcoming year abroad, Schettler doesn’t have to look far to embrace other cultures, as three of her eight siblings — three boys aged 12, 10 and 6 — were adopted from China. And her appetite for learning about other cultures shines through.
"I believe learning a different language and living with the local people is the best way to know yourself and the world. The aim of the trip is to come back bilingual. That’s my dream," Schettler said, noting she would like to eventually become a bilingual speech pathologist.
"But I also hope to learn about myself and who I want to be and grow and learn as a person. I know I’m a very privileged person, and my family has given me a lot, so I hope to come back and teach others around me," she added, noting her gratitude to the rotary club for the opportunity. "Thanks for believing in me."
On a strategic level, how does a 17-year-old cram all her worldly possessions into a couple of suitcases?
"That’s a good question. I still haven’t really started packing and I honestly don’t know where to start. You can’t fit in everything you own, such as clothes and makeup. I’m going to have to choose clothes I can mix and match and also practical clothes, as I will be living in the countryside."
Rotarian Joanne Gordon, the club’s youth exchange councillor, said the program is a "wonderful thing, as it helps students learn about themselves and another part of the world. It’s my favourite part of rotary. The trip is not a year in their life; it’s a life in their year."
For more, visit thediaryofanexchangestudentinfrance.blogspot.ca