Student Exchange Program: A Global Life Lesson

Jan 23, 2023

By Charlotte Riley ’81

Sacred Heart School of Halifax is a big family. A really big family given there are over 300 schools in 50 countries around the world. In addition to being big, we’re diverse in terms of language, culture, and geography. Yet, we are all united by one thing — our Sacred Heart mission.

That global diversity is what makes our Exchange Program one of the most unique in the world. What adds to the appeal is that when our students travel to another country, or an exchange student travels to Canada, they stay with another Sacred Heart family, one which has been drawn to the same mission, creating a powerful, loving continuum for any student leaving home. 

Whether near — one of our schools in the United States or even Montreal — or far — Nantes, France, Brisbane, Australia, or Rome, Italy — the value of exchange cannot be underestimated. It’s a chance for a young person to gain independence, overcome fear and uncertainty, and navigate the complexities of travel. In other words, it’s a massive lesson in life skills, cultural competency, and resiliency. In Sacred Heart terms, it’s a reinforcement of our 5th Goal — personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom.

Not only is travel one of life’s great joys, it’s also an education in itself.

Part of that growth comes from travelling to a new place. Not only is travel one of life’s great joys, it’s also an education in itself. Trying new food, walking different paths, learning about a different culture, meeting new people, visiting iconic locations, exploring museums and galleries, practicing another language, or simply changing the view — it’s one big, global classroom.

And while the cultural dimension of an exchange is important, so too is the personal dimension. Through our Sacred Heart Exchange Program, students form authentic relationships built on mutual respect, shared values, and the Sacred Heart bond. Exchange students and their families often build friendships they carry throughout their lives, and these people and their time together resonate deeply for years to come. 

Embraced by our School and cherished by our Network, the Exchange Program also takes place in a caring environment with both home and away coordinators who help students adapt and grow, through both success and challenge. As the Program Coordinator for our Halifax school, I look back on the many students who I had the opportunity to meet and shepherd over the years and I am both impressed and inspired by their willingness to undertake this experience (in their footsteps I too have journeyed to many of our Network schools around the world.)

Their feedback is almost unanimously positive; these students have loved their adventure, enjoyed finding common Sacred Heart bonds, and relished the Canadian experience. As Coline, a Grade 11 student from Ecole Sacré-Coeur La Perverie in Nantes, France attests, “My exchange was truly amazing. Thanks to the teachers and students who welcomed me. I had such a great time and I am so thankful for my experience. Also, my English speaking improved a lot. I would do it again any time!”  

Regardless of the destination, our Exchange Program is a stellar opportunity for students to build life skills and add to their multi-dimensional Sacred Heart experience, one that sets them up incredibly well for the future. It’s another facet of what makes Sacred Heart stand out and above.