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Students Speak: Exchange

Anisa Mansour, a grade 9 student at Collingwood, had the opportunity back in March and April to go on an exchange. Anisa stayed with an exchange family in Peru for five weeks, and attended Markham College, a fellow Round Square school in Lima. We asked Anisa about her experience, and her insight into the exchange program in general.

Why did you decide to go on exchange?

I decided to go on exchange because I wanted to put myself out there and seize this amazing opportunity.

How did you pick your location and school?

I chose Peru because I love Spanish and I really wanted to improve my linguistic skills. I also wanted to experience a new culture and step out of my comfort zone.

In general, how was your exchange experience and what was your favourite aspect of it?

It was very difficult immersing myself in a new culture as everything was different and it took a long time to adjust. The language barrier was a big obstacle because it was hard to follow conversations and I always felt apart from the group. But, as time went on I understood more and more and now I am very comfortable with the language. I loved Lima so much as it was such an alive city. There was a very big wealth disparity which is something I had not really encountered before. My favourite part of the experience was all the people I met. Everyone was so warm and welcoming and very understanding of my Spanish struggles. I made so many amazing friends and I developed a very close connection with the sisters of Catalina (my exchange). It was a very enriching experience and I definitely feel as if I have become a more aware, confident, and mature person through my exchange.

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Image courtesy of Anisa Mansour

How did your experience change your perception of your life in Vancouver?

I now realize how lucky we are to live in a city that is quite safe and clean. I also noticed how closed off we Canadians really are. Although we pride ourselves in our inclusivity, we lack the spirit that Peruvians, and Latin Americans in general, have. In Peru, I became accustomed to kissing everyone I met and treating everyone as family, which is very different from how we greet others here.

Would you recommend going on exchange to other students?

I would definitely recommend exchange to other students. Although you take a risk in choosing to go, I feel that everyone could benefit from the experience in some way.

Do you have any advice for students who are interested in going on exchange?

The student needs to be all in. If 100% effort is not given, the exchange will not pay off. In order to make the most of this opportunity, I had to try and disconnect myself from Vancouver and really live in the moment. This was very challenging, but it is a skill in itself which I developed while I was there. In terms of schoolwork, it was hard to stay on top of everything but catching up when I got back really wasn’t that hard. While in Peru, I tried not to worry too much about work, especially near the end, and so I just had to work very hard for 2 weeks upon returning back home. I really hope others choose to go to Peru and seize this amazing opportunity. I am so grateful to have had this experience and I wish I could go back.

If you are interested in going on exchange, talk to Ms. Thureau in the English office in the Academic wing, or email her at

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