Teacher swaps sun for snow on exchange
After completing an exchange to Canada three years ago, I thought it couldn’t be possible to be so blessed with another amazing exchange, writes Angela Sampson.
Leaving the Gold Coast behind for twelve months meant leaving the sun, sand and surf. It also meant that my new life would entail mountains, snow and cooler weather. A little adjusting was needed, but the below minus tempeatures were easier to handle the second time around.
Colorado Springs, USA is in the east central portion of the state and 97 miles south of the Colorado State Capital, Denver. It is the second most populous city with over 465,000 people living within the municipality of El Paso County.
Lying in the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains, it has an elevation of 6,035 feet. Thus, making altitude acclimation strange to get used to especially since my home is at sea level.
There are many breathtaking natural landmarks that I never grow tired of admiring. The glacier carved mountain, Pikes Peak, towers over the city at 14,114 feet – bit of a challenge for the lungs on the uphill climb!
Arriving mid-December gave me the opportunity to visit my school and spend time with my exchange partner — something I fully recommend, as it eases your mind about the person who will be living in your home and allows both of you to ask questions, pass on any information about your home town and school, and just give advice that may make the transition into someone elses life a little more smoother.
It is extremely important to keep those lines of communication open and remember that your way of thinking may not be the same for your exchange partners. Stepping into another person’s shoes does have its pros and cons.
The excitement of moving across the world and the thought of exploring a new country gets put on hold for a while when the reality of becoming a legal member of the community presents itself with a few hurdles. Buying a car - registration and insurance, opening bank accounts and finding a phone service provider can be a little frustrating as there are many hoops to jump through.
This rings true when processing your accreditation with the School District and State Education Department – each different agency wants the same information and a processing fee.
Now I say this in all honesty…yes, it is expensive and exasperating at times. Don’t despair, because when you finally have all your T’s crossed and I’s dotted you immediately feel like you’ve been part of the community forever and your adventures can begin.
So far, I have managed to visit five states and have seen more of the countryside and wildlife than can be seen on a Natural Geographic episode. I have visited National Monuments, Museums, Galleries and National Parks that have taken my breath away. Talking to locals about places to visit is a bonus and having a tour guide to show you around is never hard to find! Coloradans are very proud of their state and love to share it with visitors.
Taking part in winter activities never gets tiring – except when you’ve been swishing down the ski slopes all day! There is no other way to describe those snow days but as magical. When you get to snuggle under a blanket by the fireplace and watch the snowflakes gently fall outside, you must pinch yourself.
My welcome into the Grant Elementary Community was more than I could have expected. My grade level teammates were there when it all became a little overwhelming and translated the curriculum for me. My Principal was extremely supportive during my transition and made me feel part of the Grant Team. Everywhere I turned, a staff member would offer their time to help with planning or just check to see if I was ok. There have been countless meal invitations, sight-seeing experiences and I’ve been shown many Colorado adventures – not just from staff, but people from the wider community. Such support and friendliness was very much appreciated.
My first class adapted well to their new teacher with an accent. They loved when I would teach them about Australia and say Aussie words repeatedly.
As with any new work surroundings, there are always positives and negatives. Taking over another teacher’s routines and expectations can be hard. It is important to go with the flow and take each day as it comes, set small goals and remember that you can’t change everything all at once. Never feel worried about asking questions or admitting you don’t know what to do – just as we would encourage our students to do!
My motto this year is, ‘Make every day an adventure’. Say yes to every offer and never hesitate to go somewhere or try something out of your comfort zone. I am already thinking about where my next Exchange will be!
If you are thinking about taking on an exchange, then don’t think any more - You will not regret it! Feel free to email me if you wish to chat about the exchange process.