St. Andrews, Antigonish County resident Mark MacDonald has a good grasp of the Gaelic language and now wants to add Italian to his skills. To do that, he’ll be immersing himself in the Italian culture starting this school year as an exchange student with YES Canada; spending his Grade 11 year in Italy.
“At first, I looked at Scotland, but Scotland didn’t have a language learning opportunity; it was just for experiencing Scottish culture … there was nothing for Gaelic,” Mark said in conversation with the Casket Aug. 14, noting he, at first, hoped to use and improve upon his Gaelic language skills.
“Then I looked for Italy because my mom is Italian. I [web browsing] clicked on Italy and looked at it; there was no language requirement, but it was set up so that you learn Italian from just doing the exchange.”
Mark’s mom is Jennifer and dad is Brian. He said both were supportive of him doing the maximum 10-month exchange as opposed to the shorter tenures of three or five months.
“We talked about it for a long time,” he said. “I filled out the application; it’s a long process but very exciting.”
Mark will leave Sept. 9. He noted he has been doing some courses online this summer and will continue to while in Italy, through Nova Scotia Virtual School, to make sure he is fulfilling all his requirements to graduate on time.
“To make sure I get all of my courses in,” he said.
The community Mark will be spending this school year in is called Guastalla; a town of about 15,000 people.
“A lot of history there; the buildings look like they were built a long time ago. I’m really excited to get there,” Mark said, adding YES Canada actually selects the exact location after the participants choose a country.
“They have a partner organization in Italy, so they find a host family and school, and they spread out all the exchange students,” he said, adding he has been in touch with his host family already and they told him he’ll be the first exchange student attending the school in three years; the last was a girl from California.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Italy,” Mark said. “The food is amazing, the scenery, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to speak Italian. I tried a few years ago from some apps on my phone but there is not really [the opportunity]. Even now I’m trying to learn Italian because I’m going over there and my host family, school, everything will be in Italian; but as far as resources in Antigonish to learn Italian, there are not many.
“But they say it happens pretty quickly. In your first few weeks there, at some point, something clicks and you’re thinking in Italian.”
He also noted being encouraged to join a club or team early on.
“They tell you to join a club or something the first week and a half you get there, to make sure you meet more people,” he said. “I would like to join a running team or something like that; I do running here, cross-country and track and field.
“I’m also looking at Google maps of the place I’m going and there is a track right next to the school, so I’m assuming they have a track and field team.”
Asked if the exchange experience works into future goals, Mark said that’s unclear at this point.
“I really don’t know … I want to go to university but I don’t know yet what I want to study,” he said. “I think just having the experience of doing an exchange, going 10 months to a place with people I’ve never met before [will be beneficial].”
Student our way
Coming this way for the 2019-20 school year is a student from Japan, who will be attending Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School.
Writing to the Casket earlier this month, Scott Baird from YES Canada noting they’re still seeking a host family for the student.
“YES Canada is currently seeking a host family in the Antigonish area to open their home and hearts to a Japanese boy that will be arriving in the fall to attend Dr John Hugh Gillis Regional High School,” Baird wrote.
“The student is coming to Canada for 10 months to immerse himself in Canadian high school life and to create a lasting bond and experience Canadian culture through living with a Canadian host family. Host families are asked to provide three meals a day and a safe, nurturing environment, and are compensated monthly for welcoming a student into their home.
“To learn more about hosting or to explore outbound programs for a Canadian student interested in travelling abroad, please contact YES Canada; website: youthedservices.ca, email at email@example.com, or phone at 416-623-6220.”