Quebec students enjoy P.E.I. exchange trip through YMCA

Dave Stewart
Published on August 11, 2014

Emily Hughes, left, co-ordinator of the YWCA Summer Work Student Exchange program in P.E.I., is helping to organize activities for eight Quebec students. From left: Hughes, Sasha Grgicevic-Lesage, Marie Reghamen, Sarah Vouhavoun and Sandrine Guvrule.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

A Montreal teenager can sum up what she likes about P.E.I. in three words: food, beaches and Cow’s ice cream.

Andreea Toma, 16, is spending six weeks in P.E.I. as part of the YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange program.

Eight Quebec students, ages 16 and 17, are in P.E.I. while eight Island students are currently spending six weeks in Quebec. Each group is there to improve their second official language skills and gain important employment experience through a work placement while on their exchange.

“The food is really good down here,’’ Toma told The Guardian, referring to P.E.I. “I really like the beaches and I really like the Cow’s (ice cream).’’

She’s also happy to have made friends with the other six students on the P.E.I. exchange. But Toma said she’s never been away from home this long before.

“I miss home,’’ she said.

Emily Hughes, the local co-ordinator with the YMCA exchange program, said each student is matched with a host family and gets assigned work with one of a number of non-profit organizations, such as Community Connections in Summerside, the P.E.I. Humane Society and the Morell River Watershed Group.

“They get to learn about different areas that are within our culture,’’ Hughes said. “It’s like a journey (for them). We’re doing activities all over the Island. I’ve planned things that are cultural, sports oriented, historical, just to give them a taste of the culture that we’re living in.’’

The students from Quebec arrived with a decent grasp of the English language and will depart, more or less, completely bilingual.

“It’s phenomenal the progress they’ve made in just a short period of time.’’

Hughes said one of her better experiences so far was watching how the Quebec students react to things many Islanders take for granted.

“We went out for a day-long sea kayak tour and we got to see some seals which was really cool. They have beaches in Quebec but they wouldn’t have anything like marine wildlife that we have here.’’

Hughes said the eight Quebec students got a real kick out of the amount of media attention the beaver, the one that cut down the tree that struck a motorist’s car, received.

“The kids lost it over that.’’

Even though Toma misses home, she talks about the friendships she has created on P.E.I. that could last a lifetime.

Hughes said the group plans to stay in touch once they leave the Island.

“They’re such a tight-knit group. They get along so well. They all live in the Montreal area and are already making plans to get together,’’ Hughes said.