On 23rd September, 7 students from Year 12 embarked on the adventure of a lifetime to Canada, where not only did we visit Niagara Falls and Toronto, which were both awe-inspiring experiences, we also attended the Round Square International Conference at Ashbury College in Ottawa. Here are our experiences…
From the early morning school bus rides with the rising sun over Ottawa, to chatting with new people about their home countries and schools – the Round Square Conference in Canada was a life changing experience for all 7 of the Year 12 students who went and we treasured every second of it! My personal highlights and moments of inspiration came from the many key note speakers we were fortunate enough to listen to during the trip. We were taught all about indigenous tribes in Canada, the vast variety of cultures around the world, the importance of self-confidence and personal development and even how to change the world for the better. Every single speaker was inspirational and shared their empowering stories with us, for example, a man who was a child soldier from Sudan impressed us with spirit, energy and willpower despite the many challenges he has faced in his life.
A particularly life changing moment for me was actually asking Sophie Trudeau, the First Lady of Canada a question in front of the hundreds of people at the conference and finding inspiration in her answer… it was a terrifying but rewarding moment that I will never forget. The trip on the whole was a wonderful experience from beginning to end, and I have made many friends across the globe – one particularly good friend in Chile who I am planning on exchanging with or visiting in the future. The overall trip has taught me that although we come from different backgrounds, religions and cultures, we are all the same inside, and we all have similar senses of humour and common interests… as humans we are all equals.
Although Ashbury did a fantastic job at hosting the conference, they wouldn’t have been able to do it without the amazing billeting families who opened up their homes to over 300 students. Not only did they provide lovely accommodation for all the delegates for the duration of the conference, they also went above and beyond what was required to make sure we had the most incredible experience. One of the highlights for me was going to see the ice hockey game; Montreal Canadians v Ottawa Senators. Something very Canadian that we all wanted to experience, the atmosphere was like no other. Thanks to our billeting families we all got the opportunity to go to the game. This was one of the many things our billeting families allowed us to enjoy, something I will be forever grateful for. Their warm welcome to Canada made the trip as a whole outstanding. This experience has made me realise how much more there is to life outside the walls of the Fylde coast. With a new perspective on life I am now very much looking forward to what the future holds.
My Round Square experience is one that will stay with me forever. From meeting interesting new people and experiencing different cultures to getting to explore the beautiful town of Ottawa. The day that inspired me the most was the service day, where we got to volunteer at the Christie Lake Camp. This camp was specifically designed to give underprivileged children the chance to experience an adventure outside of their comfort zones, so giving back to the community was truly rewarding. Firstly, we were given the opportunity to build bird and bat houses, from a simple piece of wood, which taught us many new skills in teamwork and problem solving, and it was rewarding to give something back to nature. Next, we were taught how to build fires and tie ropes, which was interesting as it taught us many new survival skills. One of the best activities of the day was canoeing, it was so much fun, although maybe not for Niamh – who fell in! Overall, I thought that the day was both meaningful, interesting and so much fun.
During our Round Square trip to Canada we were given the opportunity to go on an adventure day. The four options given were; caving, white water rafting, Parc Omega and hiking. I chose to do Parc Omega where we drove around a beautiful, Canadian national park on a safari bus and had the chance to see and feed animals and walk around a tranquil lake. This experience was really fun and it allowed me to talk to people I hadn’t spoken to beforehand throughout the conference. Going to the Round Square Conference has given me the opportunity to come out of my shell more and to meet new people and get to know their cultures better. My whole experience has been absolutely incredible and I have been able to bring back so many different perspectives and new ideas I’d love to share. The people I met and the activities we all took part in gave us all a chance to widen our horizons and I’m determined to keep this spark within me and bring it back to AKS.
One of the main themes of this conference was celebrating diversity and multiculturalism. Not only did we learn about Canada’s rich history and indigenous people through various speakers such as Sytukie Joamie, we were also immersed in the individual cultures that were represented by each delegate. I found it both saddening and empowering to listen to a panel of indigenous people talk about the hardships that their community have faced so recently. Each person had such an inspiring story that showed how powerful and resilient they are.
Over 300 students were welcomed to Ashbury from all over the world, each bringing with them different languages and cultures. On the last night, many got their chance to show off their traditions. From a traditional Kenyan dance to a classic American country song, every performance was eye opening and interesting to watch.
Attending this conference has opened my eyes to a much wider world and has made me keen to travel in the future.
The Round Square International Conference has to have been the most unbelievable opportunities I’ve yet to experience, it truthfully exceeded every expectation I had before the expedition. Each and every aspect of the jam-packed timetable taught me a different skill and life lesson that I will continue to practice throughout my life. However, the experience as a whole would truly not have been the same without the hundreds of delegates we as AKS pupils were introduced to over the course of just a week. Every person I met was an open door to a different world. Within five days I became close to so many individuals who not only came from different schools and had a dissimilar background in life, but individuals with entirely diverse ethnicities and cultures to me. These nations, whom I created the most treasured memories with, not only opened my eyes to the world outside my own personal social bubble, but also helped me to perceive the world in so many new ways.
Within an hour, pupils from all across the world went from being strangers to beings who I will continue to cherish each and every day. Although it broke my heart when the time came to say our final goodbyes, I know now that is only the beginning of a new adventure of travelling around the world, exchanging with those special people who I know will be lifelong friends. Round Square for me was so much more than travelling to Canada and just ‘taking part’, it taught me to be unafraid of new beginnings and opportunities, not to shy away from new people, new energy, new surroundings and to embrace each and every chance given to me because the most unexpected conversations, could be the door to a new adventure.