Teacher exchange brings challenge and adventure for Gold Coast teacher
"Going on exchange to Canada has always been on the cards for my family and me.
At the age of 18, I was part of a student exchange program to Stratford, Ontario which was an experience I couldn't wait to share with my family.
Twenty years on and we are nearing the end of a 12-month exchange to Westlock, Alberta.
Travelling with my husband and four children took a lot of planning but has been a once in a lifetime experience that has changed us for the better.
Our only request was 'snow'
We left our suburban home on the Gold Coast for rural acreage in Northern Alberta, where we experienced their coldest winter in 40 years.
Temperatures reached -42 degrees and boiling water froze midair.
We embraced the white blanket and reminded many how much fun winter could be.
We have checked off the big items such as skiing the Rocky Mountains, attending the Calgary Stampede and visiting Drumheller, the home of Dinosaurs.
We even stretched out by visiting Ontario, New York and Pennsylvania and we'll head home via Las Vegas and Disneyland.
An exchange is far more than simply travelling
Our exchange experience has brought us new friends and family and it has been through these new connections that we've made memories at the local Bonspiel, seen seven black bears in the wild, participated in the inaugural local Amazing Race, been invited to camp and share in a family sing song.
We have had time to see the local sights, cross ice bridges, see deer wandering through town, get lost in giant corn mazes and watch giant pumpkins drop from the top of a crane.
The people we have met have welcomed us as family and the connections we have with our school and community will last a lifetime.
If you want more than a holiday; if you want to challenge yourself; if you want to experience a different life; then the only thing you need to say is 'Yes' to a teacher exchange.
It's hard work and it isn't always smooth sailing but the memories you will collect along the way will be priceless."
- Gemma, IEUA-QNT member from the Gold Coast