The strings on Sami Schurman’s violin will sing sweetly next year as part of a strings group. She’ll probably play a few different school sports, much like she did last year at Parkland secondary, and likely make some new friends.
That’s where the similarities between Grade 10 and Grade 11 end for the 16-year-old.
Well before her former classmates at Parkland are hitting the books in September, Schurman will be studying in Spanish, during school days that start at 7 a.m. in Ciudad Del Carmen, Campeche, Mexico.
“I actually cried tears of joy,” Schurman said of the day Rotarian Ian Morley called with the news. “Then I got on the phone and started calling everyone I knew.”
Since Grade 9 she’s researched, waited and sought out the perfect exchange. With a passion for Spanish, that extends out of the classroom and into online courses, Schurman’s pleased with the Mexico assignment — it was after all one of her top five picks.
The halls of Parkland fostered the exchange idea, with many international students coming and going each year, Schurman created a worldwide network of friends. It spurred the research that led her to the Rotary Club of Sidney.
She applied, interviewed and in December got the call from Morley, the club’s student exchange chair, who said they found Schurman to be outgoing and capable.
“When we pick students for the exchange we tend to look for someone that is going to be mature, self-reliant, and be able to deal with situations that may come up,” Morley said. “They are going to find themselves in situations where they’re dealing in a foreign language … and they have to be able to adapt.”
The first adaptation for the teen will be the weather. Schurman figures she’ll miss the cool air, and is slightly concerned over how to handle the heat. Fortunately, choosing what to wear to school will be whittled down, since there’s a uniform involved. And she won’t have long to be homesick, classes will start mid-August. Her parents won’t be coming out for a visit, but Schurman is calm and collected.
“I’m not sure how I’ll handle it, because I’ve never really been away from home. I guess we’ll find out,” she said with a grin.
Schurman has spent a bit of time reading books about Mexico, and as much time using online resources to scope out the situation — including taking a ‘walk’ around her Mexican school’s neighbourhood. Already she sees the exchange providing opportunities.
“This exchange has opened me up to the world,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be fluent in another language. I’m hoping by the time I get back I’ll be fluent in Spanish.”
Then there’s the culture.
Before her Aug. 3 departure, Schurman hopes to have stocked up on Canadian gifts for all the friends she expects to make.
“It’s so interesting talking to exchange students at my school so I think it will be interesting to be the new girl,” she said. “I’ve never been the new girl.”