We are always delighted to hear about the extended families that are built through our exchange programs. Below you will find a testimonial that was written for us from Ximena and Sofia two Colombian host sister's of Shecana exchange student Jenna, who participated in our Colombia Teacher Assist Program in Spring 2012. Here's what they had to say:
Having Jenna at home for 5 months was a great adventure. At the beginning we had to understand her culture and she has to adapt to ours even at those little things that seemed a bit strange for all. As days passed by, we felt great affection to Jenna and she did likewise to us, and she became like our oldest sister who we taught how and why things are done here in Colombia.
When we first took Jenna to our farm she was kind of afraid, because she had never been in this region called “Los Llanos” (The Plains) where there are lots of cattle, livestock and little bugs around. We went to the cattle stockyard where we got mud all over our bodies, from head to toe, and Jenna seemed “muddy” and strange. However, from that and many other great and happy experiences we three of us shared, we built a strong, respectful and lovely friendship beyond the distance between Canada and Colombia. At the end of Jenna’s homestay, we learned how was it like to have an older sister… and the truth is that we both miss Jenna so much …and we love her deeply too.
This past June my parents, Dr. Jorge Corredor, Isabel Gaitan and us went to Canada to visit Jenna.. We had such an unforgettable experience visiting and hugging Jenna again, meeting her father and seeing again Margie, sister Katelyn and friend Sandra. We visited some places, made cupcakes, watched movies, laughed a lot as we remembered the great time spent here in Colombia, made jokes and had fun. Visiting British Columbia with Jenna and her family, seeing beautiful Canadian sights, wildlife and learning about its culture, has given us a life-time experience at our early age of 11 and 12.
Jenna you know well that here in Villavicencio, Meta, COLOMBIA you have a Colombian family forever and we also know we have a beautiful, sweet and lovely Canadian older sister!!
We want to share with Shecana some of the pictures we took at our recent reunion with Jenna in Port McNeill, BC. Thanks Shecana International Schools Ltd. for giving us this unique opportunity to host Jenna and through her, know about your culture, your amazing country and great people!!
It is always rewarding to hear the experiences our Canadian host families have with their exchange students throughout the years. It is a very rare occasion that we get to hear from the families that host our Canadian students while they are on our study abroad programs. The Salcedo-Mesa family from Villavicencio, Colombia who recently hosted Shecana Colombia TAP student Jasmine Jennens in the Spring semester of 2013 share their experience hosting a Canadian exchange student, how this has left an impact on their lives forever and more importantly the friendships that they have built together.
“SHARING IS TO LEARN”
By: Salcedo-Mesa Family.
For a period of five months we were the host family for Jasmine Jennens, Canadian student, who one day in her country took the option to share a life experience in Colombia, motivated by her restless spirit and eager to learn about our Colombian culture.
For us, receiving the invitation from Shecana International Schools through our Colombia Representative, Lic. Melba Moreno, was also an option to share and host in our home one member of our family, companion of full time for our daughter Juliana, assimilating our responsibility and willingness to offer our company, guide her and enjoy good times we had as a family throughout her home stay.
It was an enriching experience for our lives. It was an interesting exercise where everyone had to put the best of themselves, to understand and to learn from others, and to accept differences, actions that we believe were fundamental for our two daughters "Jas" and "Juli", during this time, which left them many teachings and fond memories.
Now that Jasmine has returned to her country, she left in our surrounding many anecdotes and good memories; left her “Llaneros” friends, left many things she learned to enjoy and we know, that somehow she always keep them in her heart.
Jasmine knows that she has left a family in Villavicencio. She has a close friendship with our daughter Juliana, and they both know it. This was a very rewarding for us to be her host family during this short time of her stay in our Plain land in Villavicencio, Meta.
Villavicencio, July 2013
Sadly, for most of our students on their exchange in Canada this year, there is only one month remaining. The emotions and thoughts can be really hard to work through in the last few weeks. Through my experiences of being on my own exchange program I realized that these relationships, memories etc will never leave you but instead will always be a part of who you now are. I found the below letter someone wrote about a month ago and found that what was written really resonated with me, even though my experience was over 5 years ago! I encourage you to read the below as I think it might be helpful to prepare you for the upcoming weeks.
A year has passed and now we stand on the brink, of returning to a world where we are surrounded by the paradox of everything and yet nothing being the same. In a couple of weeks we will reluctantly give our hugs and, fighting the tears, We will say goodbye to people who were once just names on a sheet of paper to return to people that we hugged and fought tears to say goodbye to before we ever left. We will leave our best friends to return to our best friends.
We will go back to the places we came from, and go back to the same things we did last summer and every summer before. We will come into town on that same familiar road, and even though it has been months, it will seem like only yesterday. As you walk into your old bedroom, every emotion will pass through you as you reflect on the way your life has changed and the person you have become. You suddenly realize that the things that were most important to you a year ago don't seem to matter so much anymore, and the things you hold highest now, no one at home will completely understand.
Who will you call first? What will you do your first weekend home with your friends? Where are you going to work? Who will be at the party Saturday night? What has everyone been up to in the past few months? Who from school will you keep in touch with? How long before you actually start missing people barging in without calling or knocking? Then you start to realize how much things have changed, and you realize the hardest part of being an exchange student is balancing the two completely different worlds you now live in, trying desperately to hold on to everything all the while trying to figure out what you have to leave behind.
We now know the meaning of true friendship. We know who we have kept in touch with over the past year and who we hold dearest to our hearts. We've left our worlds to deal with the real world. We've had our hearts broken, we've fallen in love, we've helped our best friends overcome eating disorders, depression, stress, and death. We've lit candles at the grotto and we've stayed up all night on the phone just to talk to a friend in need. There have been times when we've felt so helpless being hours away from home when we know our families or friends needed us the most, and there are times when we know we have made a difference.
Just weeks from now we will leave. Just weeks from now we take down our pictures, and pack up our clothes. No more going next door to do nothing for hours on end. We will leave our friends whose random e-mails and phone calls will bring us to laughter and tears this summer, and hopefully years to come. We will take our memories and dreams and put them away for now, saving them for our return to this world.
Just weeks from now we will arrive. Just weeks from now we will unpack our bags and have dinner with our families. We will drive over to our best friend's house and do nothing for hours on end. We will return to the same friends whose random emails and phone calls have brought us to laughter and tears over the year. We will unpack old dreams and memories that have been put away for the past year. In just weeks we will dig deep inside to find the strength and conviction to adjust to change and still keep each other close. And somehow, in some way, we will find our place between these two worlds.
In just weeks.
The balance between the two worlds is a challenge but it is an incredible gift to have. Realizing this opportunity has changed you, blessed you, and pushed you is so important to realize and important to share. Going back home will be a tough adjustment. I am sure many of our past Inbound students as well as many of our Outbound students would agree with this. We are all in this together however and are all connected through this crazy experience :)
For those of you who are preparing to leave, and those of you who have returned, please comment below with how you have been working through this. For myself one big thing that helped me through my return home was being able to spend time with family and friends and telling them about my experience when I was ready to. It's not always easy to tell someone in a few sentences what the experience was like. People will understand that it may take you sometime to be able to put it into a way for others to understand. If you're anything like me, you will continue to learn things from your exchange even years after!
It's so important right now that in preparing to depart you are continuing to take every opportunity to experience things here in Canada. Invest time into your family, friends and into your activities. Make the most of these last few weeks so that when you are departing you have no doubt that you represented your country well and took the most out of this experience as you could.
All the best to everyone who is in their final month. Make it incredible!
Shecana Inbound Manager
On Sunday April 21, a group of Prince George exchange students, host families and staff went to spend the afternoon at the Moose Meadows Sugaring Off Farm Festival outside of Quesnel, BC. It was a beautiful walk around Ted and Heloise’s land to explore not only the sugaring off process but also their many animals and beautiful property. The llamas, alpacas, goats, chickens, roosters, ducks, geese, pheasants, and rabbits were all quite the entertainment during the afternoon! Heloise and Ted are hosting with Shecana this year and have enjoyed their time with Titouan from France who has been helping with many different chores on the farm this year. This is a very different lifestyle then he has back home but he has adapted well and is enjoying learning about all of the different components of seasonal farm life.
The recent work has been to produce the Birch syrup which is a 2-4 week process. The Birch trees are drilled, tapped, and the sap is collected in buckets. The sap then goes through an evaporation process where the 100 liters of sap is turned into 1 liter of syrup. On average, Ted shared with us, each tree produces about 4 – 12 liters of sap per day during this peak season. They tap about 300 trees per year and make syrup that is sold at local farmers markets, online, and also in Victoria, BC. Heloise has even authored the first and only manual about birch syrup production in Canada.
We had a wonderful day walking around visiting animals, feasting on pancakes and syrups (maple, birch, hawthorne, apple pie, and many more), taking a tractor ride to view the trees that are being tapped, and learning all about Moose Meadows farms. It was a beautiful day and we were happy to spend it there. Heloise and Ted are incredible hosts and are very accomplished in their fields. Moose Meadows has won many awards for planning, business and agriculture. If you are ever in the Quesnel area we recommend you stop by to check out the farm and the Antler Shed gift shop for many treats that Moose Meadows produces.
If you would like to learn more about their farm please see the below link:
Below are some pictures from the day they spent there:
Shecana cultural exchange student Charlotte shares her exchange experience studying in Canada so far. Here's what she had to say:
"My name is Charlotte, and I´m from Norway, this school year I spend in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. I really enjoy my stay here, and I don't regret a second for going to Canada as an exchange student. I have been quading, skidooing, fishing, been to Vancouver and Victoria, and I have been out ice fishing. The nature of Canada is not very different to what I'm used to from home, but the catholic school system is different, since I'm going to a catholic school here. I really enjoy my stay in Canada!"
For more information about our Cultural Exchange program visit our Study In Canada page:
Last week Shecana's High School Abroad spring 2013 student's departed for their destinations. We are happy to share that everyone arrived safe and sound and are settling in with their host families.
Carolyn Arlt, the Outbound Program Coordinator for our High School Abroad and Specialty Programs, had this to say about our recent student departures:
"Even after 10 years of working in high school exchange, still, with every group of students that departs I feel the excitment, anxiety and anticipation, which are all part of departure time! These students have been looking forward to seeing another part of our world for so long, some for a year or more. Helping students to finally realize their dream come true, and supporting parents all the way is what I love!"
In Villavicencio, Colombia our Colombia Teacher Assist Program students arrived with a very warm welcome. Melba, our country manager in Colombia, shared this update about the girls with the Prince George team shortly after their arrival:
"I just want to let you know how wonderful and lovely these two girls are, there was so much tenderness, respect, and joy in their smiles and hugs!!! After such a long trip they had such a high spirit of joy!
Colombian Host Families, Salcedo-Mesa and Vallejo-Rincon in Villavicencio are so happy to meet our new Shecana students that will start their TAP experience at their schools."
To keep updated on what's going on with our students abroad you can visit our facebook pages at:
For our Colombia TAP
For our High School Abroad Program
Shelby our Shecana High School Abroad student in Sweden shares some great pictures from her Christmas holidays. Shelby and her host family travelled to the family cabin, had a delicious Julbord (Christmas dinner) and spent the week downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross country skiing. Her host father taught her how to snowboard so this a lot of fun for the family!
Please see the pictures below of her experience this Christmas and a favorite Swedish treat called Pepparkakor (Gingerbread in English).
Shecana Intenational Schools country manager in Colombia, Melba Lucia Morena, recently wrote a welcome letter to the next two students who will be attending out Spring 2013 Colombia Teacher Assist program.
The letter really reflects the kind-heartedness and good nature of the Colombian people and more information about our country manager in Colombia, so we thought why not share this with our readers.
Dear Shecana Students Spring 2013 Group,
I am Melba Moreno, your Shecana Representative in Colombia, looking forward to meet and greet you with lots of caring love and joy.
I would like to make a brief introduction about myself before your arrival in Colombia. This year 2013 my husband and I will be 30 years happily married. My husband’s name is Carlos Eduardo Mantilla and we have an only child whose name is also Carlos Eduardo and we often call him Charlie or “Carlitos” that means “little Carlos” (although he is not little anymore, is 20 years old, but with fond love and respect here in Colombia we often call people we are familiar with, using diminutive suffixes). My husband is an agricultural engineer that did his master degree in Entomology (Study of Insects) in England and then his Ph.D in Entomology at the University of Florida back in the USA. He is a professor at our public university “Universidad de los Llanos” teaching Entomology and Pest Management at the Agricultural Faculty. My son is going to start his 7th semester of Architecture at Piloto University in Bogota. He loves to sing some English songs although he does not speak English, has done oil paintings and likes to play the piano and guitar. He comes to visit us to Villavicencio on some holiday weekends (we have several holiday weekends in Colombia, no school on Monday), on Easter Week and vacation time. We also go to Bogota to visit him at least once or twice a semester.
I am licensed in Biology and Chemistry, majoring in Biology. I have been a Science teacher for the last 18 years at the two major bilingual schools in Villavicencio. I am currently the main Science teacher at Colegio Bilingual Espiritu Santo (CES) where I am in charge of maintaining and keeping track of the Science program from first grade up to 4th- 5th grade and supporting new Science teachers in Junior High when they arrive to school for the first time. This year 2013 is my 11th year at CES and I love this school very much. I also teach English at the same university where my husband works, at the Accounting (VIII semester) and Pharmacy (I semester) programs. This will also be my 11th year with Unillanos (short name for our Public University in Villavicencio).
Carlos Jr., Melba and Carlos on New Years Eve, 2012
I have been blessed working for Shecana since last year and having the experience to treat and get to know my Canadian students, has been a life-changing experience to me and my family. Making sure that our Canadian students get a safe, loving and a best family-environment at their host families is my priority as well as to ensure that at the private schools Shecana students are placed, get immerse themselves into our Colombian culture and learn Spanish as one of your main goals for the TAP. The schools that Shecana has been working with, are the best private schools we have in Villavicencio, I know the owners and staff well, the schools are quite different from where you are coming from but you and your Canadian parents can be sure that you are going to be very well respected, loved, cared for, supported, and enjoy your stay with the Colombian host families and schools where I have carefully placed you.
Villavicencio is a tropical and warm city in the Eastern Plains of Colombia, about two and a half hours from Bogota, our capital city. Villavicencio is often called “Villavo” and you can expect at your arrival time very hot weather in contrast with the winter you are having right now back in Canada (by the way, a season I love and remember back in England and New York where I lived years ago). Summer clothes, a good sun-block, lots of juicy tropical and new fruits are waiting for you to experience; new and delicious food for you to taste and love and traditions we have as any other country. Furthermore, your host family is counting the days to meet you at the airport and enjoy your company as part of their families. They are both wonderful families.
Colombians have such a high sense of admiration and respect for Canadians, appreciate how beautiful your country is, the wilderness, fields, mountains, touristic places and how warm and kind you are. Students at the schools are always looking forward to greet and meet Canadians with high respect, care, joy and warmth environment. As time passes by and you get familiar with our culture, know us better, you will find out how warmly our students are at the school, how we greet with a warm hug and kisses with friends and families we get to know as closer ones.
I am on vacation right now, arrived in Villa de Leyva last night with my husband and son and staying at the same hotel where my first Shecana exchange students were taken to see other part of Colombia and enjoy this lovely place. Yesterday we were in Barichara, Santander (Northeastern of Colombia) and thinking about you both, I got a special souvenir for each of you, something that I always like to give to my Shecana students to greet them with, when they arrive at the airport in Villavicencio. That is like a bond of trust, love, care and 100% support that you can expect from me while in Colombia.
Colombian children dancing to Folkloric songs wearing the traditional outfit in Santander
May this be the opportunity to wish each of you and your lovely parents and family a New Year 2013 filled with lots of joy, peace, health, love and happiness.
Melba Lucía Moreno V.
We have heard from two Shecana exchange students who have shared their upcoming holiday and Christmas celebrations this year in their host country with us.
The first is Ilia who is on the High School Abroad Program in France for 5 Months, here's what he had to say:
For Christmas the tradition is to spend it with family, this year my host mom family is coming! So we will spend the day at home playing games, talking and eating! They are really big into embracing the time they have together!
The second student is Shelby who is on the High School Abroad Program in Sweden for 10 Months, here's what she had to say:
The tradition in Sweden is to spend it with family and friends and Christmas is celebrated on December 24th here! This year we are going up to my host family's cabin at a ski resort up north. Also Christmas dinner is called 'Julbord' and it doesn't have to be eaten on Christmas day. Julbord consists of many strange swedish food...different fish, the christmas ham, breads, and many other typically swedish foods.
Thanks for sharing Ilia and Shelby and to all our readers we hope you have a safe and happy holiday season and we will be back with more great articles in the New Year!
Wherever you are for the holidays this year we at Shecana encourage you to take a moment and spend some time doing something special with your host family, new friends, extended family and those special people in your life.
Here is a holiday recipe for you to try that our Inbound Manager at Shecana has been using every Christmas!
"I encourage you to give it a try this holiday season. Who knows – you might turn into me and use it every year." - Chelsea Halvorson
Makes 32 bars| Hands-On Time: 20m| Total Time: 3 hours
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup toffee-and-chocolate baking pieces (such as Heath or Skor bars)
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Combine the flour, confectioners' sugar, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a crumbly dough is formed. Press the dough firmly into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake until just golden, about 13 minutes.
2. Whisk together the condensed milk, egg, and vanilla. Pour the filling over the baked crust. Sprinkle the pecans, chocolate chips, and toffee pieces evenly over the filling. Bake until the filling is set, the edges are golden brown, and the toffee is melted, about 25 minutes.
3. Cool completely in the refrigerator, about 2 hours. Cut into 32 bars. ENJOY!