Ex­change stu­dent from France will miss Es­panola

The Mid-North Monitor - - Community - PA­TRI­CIA DROHAN

Nine weeks ago, 15-year-old Domi­t­ille Robert, from Avrille, in north­west France, got off a plane in Toronto and met her Es­panola ex­change-stu­dent fam­ily for the first time. Jeff and Tammy Shep­pard and their two chil­dren, Kate and Quinn, were in Toronto to pick up Domi­t­ille on Aug. 26, and to wel­come the young girl to Canada and to their home in Es­panola.

Be­ing a host fam­ily for an ex­change stu­dent from France was re­ally a last-minute plan for the Shep­pard fam­ily. Domi­t­ille had first ap­plied in Novem­ber of 2016 to the or­ga­ni­za­tion, ‘En Im­mer­sion’ to come to On­tario as an ex­change stu­dent with no spe­cific city or town, just some­where in On­tario. She was told that she would find out the fam­ily’s name in May of 2017.

In Es­panola, 15-year-old Kate Shep­pard, also wanted to be an ex­change-stu­dent, hop­ing to be able to go to Switzer­land or France and had ap­plied to ‘In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent Ex­change’ in On­tario, an all-vol­un­teer group. Kate was ac­cepted by a fam­ily in Switzer­land. How­ever, in May of this year, the Swiss fam­ily can­celled. In June, the or­ga­ni­za­tion found two fam­i­lies in France will­ing to take Kate as an ex­change stu­dent, but that didn’t work out ei­ther be­cause the se­condary schools for th­ese fam­i­lies did not take in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

So, by June of this year, Kate was turned down by the Swiss fam­ily, as well as two French fam­i­lies and sud­denly, it looked like Kate was not trav­el­ling to Europe. Then, within five days of the can­cel­la­tions for Kate, the Shep­pard’s ac­cepted Domi­t­ille to come to their home in­stead, through the ex­change-stu­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion, ‘En Im­mer­sion.’

From the air­port in Toronto, the Shep­pard’s, with a very tired Domi­t­ille, headed straight up north to Es­panola. They ar­rived after mid­night, and all headed to bed. The next day, they took Domi­t­ille to the Massey Fair, and she saw her first smash-up derby, mud bogs and dog­train­ing show. Although tired from her trip she said she en­joyed the fair.

Three days later, Kate, Domi­t­ille and Tammy were at Es­panola High School for the Grade 9 ori­en­ta­tion day. Tammy is a teacher at EHS and Kate and Domi­t­ille, both en­ter­ing Grade 10, were there to help greet the Grade 9 stu­dents.

Labour Day week­end Domi­t­ille was at camp with the Shep­pard’s and ven­tured to Ka­ga­wong, Bri­dle Veil Falls, Prov­i­dence Bay, en­joyed a star gaz­ing event at Gor­don’s Park, as well as tak­ing in a pow­wow at M’Chigeeng First Na­tion.

On Sept. 6, Domi­t­ille started school with Kate. They had only two classes to­gether, the rest Domi­t­ille was on her own. She took mu­sic, English, Cana­dian his­tory (where she dis­cov­ered Canada was in the First World War in France) and a drama class.

Domi­t­ille be­gan train­ing with the Spar­tan cross­coun­try team, her first time ever run­ning with a team. Kate, who is on the Ju­nior bas­ket­ball team at EHS, in­cluded Domi­t­ille, who be­came “as­sis­tant coach,” thanks to coach Tony Yachuk.

In France, Domi­t­ille ex­plained there are no sports teams at her school. She stud­ied vi­o­lin, con­tem­po­rary dance, the­atre, and was a Girl Scout.

After the first week of school, they all went back to Gor­don’s Park and this time, slept in a teepee. It was a rainy week­end, and Tammy said they couldn’t get a fire started, even with matches. Domi­t­ille used her scout­ing skills and she man­aged to build a nice fire.

The week­end of Sept. 29, they all headed to Toronto again where they stayed over night with fam­ily, and then headed to Ni­a­gara Falls. Domi­t­ille said it was in­cred­i­ble to see the falls and be on the ‘Horn Blower’ boat in the Ni­a­gara River.

Thanks­giv­ing week­end was just as busy for the fam­ily. Satur­day morn­ing, they were on the early ChiCheemaun ferry to visit Jeff’s fam­ily in Wiar­ton. They also took in the Bruce Trail Caves, then headed to Toronto ar­riv­ing later the same evening. Sun­day morn­ing was a visit to the CN Tower for Domi­t­ille. Shop­ping at the Ea­ton’s Cen­tre was next where Domi­t­ille lost her wal­let, but thank­fully, a woman found and re­turned it.

While Kate was at a bas­ket­ball tour­na­ment out of town, Tammy took Domi­t­ille to see the Sud­bury Sym­phony Orches­tra on Satur­day, Oct. 14, fol­low­ing an af­ter­noon vol­un­teer­ing at the Webb­wood Ea­gles spaghetti sup­per. Domi­t­ille was the ice cream scooper. From scoop­ing to the sym­phony, this young vis­i­tor was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing North­ern On­tario cul­ture.

The fol­low­ing Fri­day, Domi­t­ille trav­elled to Gore Bay with the EHS Spar­tan team to par­tic­i­pate in the NSSSA Cross-Coun­try Cham­pi­onships. On Wed­nes­day, Oct. 25, she ac­com­pa­nied the Spar­tans to Mat­tawa for the NOSSA cham­pi­onships, com­pet­ing in the five-kilo­me­tre cross-coun­try races at both meets.

Hal­loween was fun for the French vis­i­tor be­cause there is no such hol­i­day in France. She got to carve her first pump­kin, and en­joyed two par­ties at school. Domi­t­ille and Kate were Scooby Doo char­ac­ters.

Fi­nally, it was time to re­turn home on Nov. 1. Domi­t­ille flew from Sud­bury to Toronto and got on a plane to Paris, with the help of the ‘En Im­mer­sion’ vol­un­teers. After the seven-hour flight to Paris, she was met by her mother and they boarded a train that would take them home to Arville.

“I have no re­grets, it was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, a great thing to do,” said Domi­t­ille. “I started learn­ing English when I was eight years old, but didn’t think I could speak it very well. I am un­der­stand­ing English much more now that I have been here in On­tario. In EHS I had to read, write and speak English.”

In Fe­bru­ary of 2018, Kate will fly to Paris and be met by the Robert fam­ily as an ex­change stu­dent and will stay with Domi­t­ille’s fam­ily for just over two months.

A last­ing bond has been cre­ated be­tween th­ese two fam­i­lies, and two teenage girls will have had the ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing in dif­fer­ent coun­tries.


The week­end of Sept. 29, the Shep­pard fam­ily took Domi­t­ille to Toronto, then to Ni­a­gara Falls where the young vis­i­tor from France rode the Horn Blower in the Ni­a­gara River, for an up­close look at the falls.

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