Parents

Welcome to the Experiences Canada Family!

Congratulations on registering your child for a reciprocal exchange! Over the coming months you will find this is an experience that not only leaves a lasting impression on your child, but on your whole family. Whether you will be hosting a student in your home, or supporting the youth in their common stay activities, we hope you will enjoy being an ally on their journey to discovering more about this country, its diversity of language, cultures, and history, and about themselves.

We’d like to tell you a little more about Experiences Canada, our programs and services, as well as provide some tips about what you might expect while your child is participating in the exchange. There is even information about opportunities for your youth to stay involved once their trip has ended!

Host Family Tips

  • Introduce yourself and let your twin youth know how you would like to be called
  • Be open and communicate
  • Call their family and introduce yourself
  • Give them a tour of the house
  • Let them know about your laundry schedule
  • Give them your meal time schedule
  • Review the week itinerary so everyone is aware of morning wake up time and afternoon schedule
  • Review the pickup and drop off schedule
  • Meal plan for the week-discuss allergies, food preferences, times
  • Make the youth feel comfortable and part of the family

Preparing your youth for Travel

  • Be open to new things — explain to your youth that there twin may speak a different language and eat different foods, encourage them to be open and try new things!! Trying new things will build their awareness for diversity and support their appreciation of differences
  • Establish a schedule on when to check in with you when they are on the exchange
  • Encourage them to communicate with their twin family
  • If they are homesick or if something is bothering them, encourage them to speak about it right away with their group organizer or host family
  • Pack appropriate clothing for weather-speak to your twin family for tips
  • Provide spending money, during the exchange there may be time for youth to shop

FAQ

What if I have youth that have special needs?

We strongly believe that all youth should have equal access to participation in Experiences Canada Exchanges. As such we provide limited funding to support the inclusion of youth with special needs or disabilities, from low-income households, rural or isolated areas and other needs on a case-by-case basis.

What if there are any behavioral issues or other emergencies while on exchange?

Although an Experiences Canada representative is always available to discuss situations, the Group Organizers are responsible for the day-to-day supervision and overall group management. All emergencies and/or incidents are to be dealt with in a timely, appropriate and professional manner by the Group Organizer or another responsible adult from their school or organization. If there is an emergency situation while on exchange, please inform our staff at your first opportunity by calling the emergency phone line number that will be provided to you.

What kind of insurance do I need to get?

All Experiences Canada participants are covered by a group accident insurance plan during the two weeks of their exchange. Travel or cancellation insurance, which includes emergency hospital/medical insurance, is not part of Experiences Canada’s plan however it can be purchased directly from our travel provider, or through family plans or independent insurance providers.

Do I need to bring anything with me to complete the Police Record Check?

Please bring photo ID and the volunteer letter which can be found in the Experiences Canada secure website.

How do I obtain a Police Record and Vulnerable Sector Check?

To obtain the Police Record and Vulnerable Sector Check please visit your local police department.

Who is required to obtain Police Checks?

All group organizers and chaperones are required to obtain a Police Record and Vulnerable Sector Check. All members of the host family who are over the age of 18 are also required to obtain a police record and vulnerable sector check.

How do I know the host family stay will be safe?

The safety and security of our exchange participants is Experiences Canada’s number one priority. All host families must complete a strict screening process which includes providing references and/or having a home visit by the Group Organizer. We believe that the host family experience is a positive learning opportunity and creates a connection between the youth that would only occur outside of structured activities.

Where do we stay when we visit our twin group?

Experiences Canada exchanges are intended to be a reciprocal, homestay experience. Each youth participant is billeted in his or her selected twin’s home; likewise, adult chaperones are expected to host each other. If there are circumstances in which a group is unable to billet in homes, either for cultural, space and/or safety and security reasons, it is possible to request and plan a common stay arrangement.

Who arranges the travel and how do we get to our destination?

Experiences Canada pays for and arranges your group’s travel by airplane, train or coach based on your requested dates. Experiences Canada will also arrange the airport transfer buses if your school is located 100 km or farther from the nearest airport. Groups who are closer to the airport organize their own airport transfers; however, Experiences Canada will reimburse them for this cost upon presentation of official invoices.

How do I twin the youth?

Group Organizers develop twinning criteria together and a plan to facilitate good matches based on individual profiles, ages, interests, as well as on any allergies, medical concerns and/or special needs.

What kinds of activities are involved?

The types of activities you do with your twin group should generally reflect the local culture, community, and history of where your group is located. Current guidelines from Canadian Heritage require that a minimum of 30% of each exchange week’s activities be historical or heritage related. Additional activities may reflect specific thematic exchanges and can be organized accordingly for music, sports, leadership, outdoor education, anti-bullying discussions, and more. In collaboration with the twin group organizer, each group designs a hosting week program that shows off their own community and meets the objectives of each group’s exchange learning plan and Canadian Heritage’s guidelines. Please note that all participants in both groups must participate in all activities during both halves of the exchange.

How much will an exchange cost and who pays these costs?

Each group pays a membership fee upon submitting an application, and then a per participant registration fee once an exchange has been approved and confirmed. The travel costs between community airports are paid for by Experiences Canada with funding from Exchanges Canada at the Department of Canadian Heritage. Participants are, however, liable for the full price of the ticket if they cancel and the group is not able to find a replacement up to 1 week prior to scheduled travel. In such cases, Experiences Canada will invoice the participant. The cost of local activities and excursions during the exchange is paid for by the groups through self-financing. The average cost per youth varies from $300-$500 depending on the activities and excursions chosen. Many groups organize fundraising events to help cover the cost of activities and local transportation when hosting their twin group.

Do students miss school?

Yes, depending on the travel and hosting weeks, students could miss school. However, Experiences Canada, participating schools, and community associations recognize that experiential learning is a valuable complement to the school setting.

When does our group travel and host?

Exchanges can take place any time of the year. Once approved for funding, the two groups discuss and agree on travel and hosting dates. Experiences Canada will then coordinate the travel arrangements.

Where can I travel on an exchange?

Anywhere in Canada! Experiences Canada is active in all Canadian provinces and territories. Groups can request a specific destination or let our staff recommend one.

How long is an exchange?

Exchanges are typically 7 to 10 days for each group (including 2 days of allotted travel time).

How old are the youth that participate?

Experiences Canada Exchanges are designed for youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years.

What is an Experiences Canada Exchange?

An Experiences Canada Exchange is a reciprocal, homestay exchange between two groups of Canadian youth, each in a different part of Canada. Experiences Canada exchanges are enriching, enhance learning and give participants an experience that lasts a lifetime.

What if I have other questions?

Experiences Canada staff are available Monday through Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm (Eastern Standard Time) to answer any and all of your questions.

Testimonials

A huge thank you. My twin daughters went to British Columbia in 2017. It was an amazing and memorable growing experience. They are proud of their country, Canada, and its history. — Parent
My daughter struggles in our small school with self-confidence. Being in this group this past year has given her confidence and show her a whole big world. She has now chosen to move away and continue her next step in education closer to the new friends she has met through this experience. There’s another world out there and this experience has pushed her... — Parent
I have seen changes in my children and other students each trip. They are using French reflexively on the way home. Increased confidence, pride in being able to travel and live outside of their comfort zone, and knowing their communication skills are improving with each day. Other students have had life changing trips. One of my daughters continued in French... — Parent
This is a program that needs to be more widely known. As parents, we were very impressed with the staff we spoke to. Everyone was very helpful, and willing to find answers to any questions we had. They were very accessible and easy to contact. We have no hesitation recommending the program to other families. — Parent
Both my boys (who are in French immersion) did a week-long exchange in Quebec in middle school, with a student staying with us as well for a week each time. They all had great experiences, and I think it was a valuable learning experience for them. Very healthy for them to be exposed to a new family and their different way of living and eating. — Parent
My son had a fantastic time! It was a good opportunity for him to gain some independence & confidence. — Parent
Amalie was an incredible gift to us during this week and we are all going to miss her tremendously. I was very nervous at the beginning but the minute she came into our house I knew she was going to fit in perfectly and she did. — Surb Atwal, Parent
My daughter loved the experience and formed a wonderful friendship. We even welcomed her friend again last summer. — Parent
My son still almost 7 months later talks about his experiences on his forum trips. He is a better student, leader and volunteer since he went. We live in a small community and he would never have been able to gain these experiences here. — Parent
One of my daughters continued in French in university as a result of the trips. — Parent
On my exchange, I became friends with people who spoke a totally different language, living at the other side of Canada. We became very close friends and I realized that the only thing blocking myself off from other people were not “cultural differences” or "language barriers"... it was myself! After my exchange, I took the extra leap to run for student... — Lauren Lee of Vancouver BC
There is no better way to see the diversity in Canada than to go to a new community, with a different culture and completely immerse yourself into the culture and the community. With my exchange, I realized that life doesn’t always have to be busy, like it is in Edmonton, my home-town. Now I have an interest in experiencing new cultures - not as a tourist... — Samuel Geisterfer of Edmonton AB
It may sound strange, but, I didn’t expect I’d really have to use English to communicate on my exchange. What a shock when I got to Redcliff, and was left alone with my Alberta parents who didn’t know a single word of French! I felt really lost… But with a full range of gestures, facial expressions and sounds, and lots of laughter and patience, we... — Léola Muntu-Caron of La Pocatière QC
My exchange opened my eyes to new cultures and experiences, which have increased my knowledge of our nation. The family I was placed with emigrated from the Netherlands in 2000. The Experiences Canada exchange program is the only program that I know of that allows you to personally experience another culture by being totally immersed in it... — Sarah Simpson of Cavendish PEI
I was lucky to go on an exchange to Nunavut, and it was so exciting to learn about a different culture that is literally in my own back yard, but is yet so far away. The North is such rich part of Canada's geography and heritage, and I had not learned much about it until this exchange opportunity came along. I felt it was important to learn the about the... — Andrew Grose of Alma Ontario