Healthy Communities YMCA Youth Programs

The Summer of a Lifetime: Brad and Ayooluwa’s Summer Work Student Exchange stories

YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange participants pose under "Entrance To Trains" sign at Union Station, Toronto

Summer is coming up fast! As a youth, you might be thinking of what to do this summer or applying to summer jobs. We talked with Ayooluwa and Brad from our Youth Advisory Committee about their experience with the Summer Work Student Exchange (SWSE), to give you a snap shot of what the program is like.

With SWSE, 16-17 year old youth have the opportunity to stay in another community in Canada for 6 weeks over the summer. While in their new community, they are immersed in their second official language, stay with a host family, work full time at a job placement in a local non-profit organization, and participate in weekly group activities with their local coordinator and other participants.

The exchange usually begins with a train trip to their new communities, accompanied by other participants and YMCA chaperones. “While the train was definitely unforgettable, arriving at Quebec is a moment I will never forget,” Ayooluwa says. “Every host family was lined up with signs welcoming each exchange student to Quebec. They were just as excited as we were to find out who we would be living with. It was a lot to take in, honestly, but I couldn’t help smiling through it all. I was going to live in a new part of Canada, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was, and felt, truly welcomed.”

Youth have the opportunity to make lasting connections with families, other youth, staff, and their employers. “The weekend activities were also an amazing part as you got to meet up with friends and other people on exchanges,” Brad says. “My group went to amusement parks, canoeing, wind tunnel sky diving and so much more. Our Local Coordinator made this part of our trip perfect and fun.”

Youth are matched with a variety of work places, such as summer camps and museums, depending on their interests and what is available in their host community. Work also acts as an amazing place for language learning! Ayooluwa tell us that “in terms of French learning, work was perfect for that. I learned a lot more practical words than ever before. The kids at the camp were more than willing to help me out as well.”

Indeed, with SWSE, there is possibility for the full language immersion experience! Brad says that “I’d never be as fluent in French as in the language I spoke at home every day. Yet I can say that I survived in Quebec—and even thrived, in my work and my language-learning. I couldn’t help but practice. I saw and heard the language I had studied all around me, on signs and buildings, in the streets; it was the culmination of all my efforts.”

The exchange experience can be challenging, and this is what makes it so rewarding and empowering. Brad says “when I think back to what I accomplished over the summer, I feel like I’m capable of whatever I put my mind to. Living in Quebec made me more confident.”

For more information and to apply for SWSE, check out our website May 15 is our second priority deadline for participants, so make sure to get those applications in soon!