Director of Programs, Experiences Canada
Experiences Canada’s exchanges offer youth opportunities to explore Canada in ways they never imagined.
For young Canadians, building connections and establishing a strong sense of self and of place are essential parts of growing up and of understanding and feeling secure in one’s identity. Connections with their peers, with the places they call home, and with other cultures and destinations across Canada help youth to both celebrate where they come from and to appreciate their differences, building empathy and understanding along the way.
Experiences Canada helps youth aged 12 to 17 to connect with one another and explore their country in ways they never may have imagined. The national registered charity, which receives part of its funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, facilitates youth exchanges across Canada and has been doing so for over 85 years. With reciprocal exchanges, forums, conferences, and other opportunities to travel and connect with one another, Experiences Canada is the trusted place to go for youth who are ready to experience their country in a completely new way.
The exchanges are organized between groups of 10 to 30 young people and are generally organized by either teachers or community and youth leaders. They’re typically based on a theme, such as geography, history, culture, leadership, or sports. The experiences allow youth to see a different side of Canada — different landscapes, economies, cultures, communities, languages, and traditions — and provide authentic learning opportunities, allowing young people to deepen their knowledge of a second language, for example, or of a new history or culture.
“Our reciprocal exchanges enable young Canadians to build their confidence and resiliency.”
“Our reciprocal exchanges enable young Canadians to build their confidence and resiliency,” says Jamie McCullough, Director of Programs at Experiences Canada. “Youth build lifelong friendships and develop a sense of independence — for many, it’s the first time they’re travelling without parents or family. The exchanges also help youth to really understand and respect the diversity that Canada has from coast to coast to coast, as well as to develop a stronger sense of community, because they’re showcasing their own community during the exchange.”
For many of the youth who participate in one of Experiences Canada’s exchanges, the impact is momentous, affecting the trajectory of their future personal and career development.
Rebecca French of Newfoundland participated in one of Experiences Canada’s youth exchange programs in 2011, travelling to Rose Valley Saskatchewan. “I often find myself reflecting on the invaluable experiences, skills, and knowledge I gained from my involvement with Experiences Canada,” she says. “During my exchange, we visited Wanuskewin Heritage Park. This was my first time learning about Indigenous Peoples outside of the Newfoundland and Labrador context, as this is a large gap in the school curriculum. This trip inspired me to expand my knowledge of the different Indigenous groups across Canada, as well as the impact of colonialism.”
Her experience with Experiences Canada influenced French’s foray into a career in social work, where she focuses on outreach and youth engagement. For youth looking to discover Canada in a way they never imagined, the opportunities are abundant with Experiences Canada.
Learn more at experiencescanada.ca/exchanges.