Since 1978 En Famille International has been organizing foreign language immersion exchanges with families between the countries of France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, USA and Canada. Children and adolescents aged between nine and 16, from two different countries, spend a year together. Six months are spent welcoming the foreign student into the Canadian family’s home and another six months are spent abroad living with a host family.
More than 2,600 children have participated in this bilingual experience. One of those students is Calix Webber, a Grade 7 French immersion student at Rossland Summit School (RSS). Calix is currently living in Vannes, France with his host family. In February, the host family will send their son, Rémi, here to live with Calix and the rest of Webber family until September 2015.
Calix’s mother Tabatha Webber says, “We are all skiers in our family, and Calix is a little sad about missing the start of the season. Although he is excited to show his exchange brother Red Mountain when he returns.” In the fall break the RSS student visited Paris to see the sites. He saw the Eiffel Tower and went to the Louvre Museum. “Calix was amazed at how small the Mona Lisa was,” recounts his mother.
French student, Albane of Nantes, arrived at the Webber’s home the day before Calix left for France. She will be staying until February here in the Kootenays with Calix’s younger sister Meadow Webber. Albane’s home city of Nantes has 280,000 people and she does not have access to the same downhill terrain we have here in Rossland. “Meadow and Albane are anxious for Red to open, as Albane skies for a week once a year,” said Ms. Webber.
Rossland has the Francophone School and the French Immersion program, making the exchange a great fit. The Kootenays offer so much, “We are lucky here with our lifestyle and our splendor, it seems a shame not to share it. Our host families are great, our schools are first rate, and we know that our kids going overseas will be well equipped to handle the challenges,” said Ms. Webber.
She explains that many families from Rossland have applied for the next round of exchange, scheduled for February 2015. Staff of En Famille International will visit the homes of prospective host families, while counterparts overseas are scheduled to do the same. The primary value of the organization is the well being of the students. “We carefully vet our candidates and their families, and Canada is high on the list of desired countries,” Ms. Webber said.
Rossland plays host to the international organization’s fall meeting, to be held Nov. 21 and 22 at the Seven Summits Centre for Learning. On the Friday evening the organization is holding an open house for families and students. Those who attend will find out more information about participating in the exchange program. Albane and Meadow will be on hand to answer questions from parents and students.