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CANADA | Wednesday, 12 December 2007 | Views [13015] | Comments [37]

The top 10 reasons to do an exchange teaching year in Canada

Reflections of an Australian exchangee

So you’re thinking about doing an exchange year in Canada?  But you’re unsure.  It all seems too hard.  There are lots of forms to fill in, deadlines to meet.  Your best friend might be getting married soon.  Perhaps a promotion beckons if you stay put in Australia for one more year.  There will always be excuses to postpone an exchange experience, but what about the reasons to just pack up and go?

Inspired by The Late Show with David Letterman and his nightly top 10 compilations – which seem to alternate from the ridiculous to the sublime - here are my top 10 reasons (in reverse order) for doing an exchange teaching year in Canada.

Cue the drum roll…….

10. Summer Holidays

Compared to most professions, Australian teachers are blessed with 6 weeks of Christmas holidays.  However, this pales in significance when compared to the summer break that our Canadian colleagues enjoy.  This year, I did not teach a single student from the 13th of June through to the 5th of September.  It provided me with the ideal opportunity to have an extended holiday in the northern hemisphere.  By traveling during the hottest part of their year, I avoided the usual frigid temperatures of December and January and was able to experience many locales that would be otherwise inaccessible.  The lengthy summer break is an essential component of the Canadian school system; the thought of it alone was enough to get me through the freezing nights and 16 straight teaching weeks at the beginning of the school year.

9. Halloween, Homecoming & Hockey

We just don’t have these events down under!  Sure we have festivals and costume parties, but Halloween celebrations in Canada are more about the adults than the candy.  Teachers, bus drivers, office staff, doctors and hosts of other professionals get dressed up to celebrate in style every October.  Houses are decorated with spooky and delicately carved pumpkins, helping the streets to come alive as kids of all ages enthusiastically trick or treat for sweets.  Homecoming is not as widely celebrated, or grandiose, as the American version, but it is still a popular event where the students get dressed up in their finest clothes, elect a school king and queen and dance the night away.  A very different cultural experience to the traditional Year 12 Ball in Australia, homecoming is a vibrant part of the Canadian school calendar.  Supporting ice hockey during winter in North America, put simply, is compulsory.  Even non sports fans can’t help but be caught up in the spirit when the puck drops on hockey night in Canada.  The passion and intensity of the fans rivals the best English soccer supporters, just without the violence!  It has taken me almost a year, but I am positively hooked on the game, especially now as my eyes have adjusted to following the fast-moving puck.  Although attending an NHL game can be quite expensive, watching a live contest is a must for anyone coming to Canada.

8. Calgary Stampede

Each year in July, millions of visitors from around the world come to Alberta, Canada to participate in the annual Calgary Stampede and Exhibition.  This event includes a rodeo, theme park, concerts, chuck wagon races and a range of other events.  But it’s not just the showground’s that are abuzz with activity.  The whole town comes alive for 10 days of cowboy inspired festivities.  I was overwhelmed by the hospitality and contagious enthusiasm of the towns’ locals.  Whilst not as rowdy as the Merritt Mountain Country Music Festival, the Stampede has a broader appeal and is a truly unique experience.  Just make sure to BYO Akubra hat and be prepared to witness every cowboy cliché known to mankind!

7. The Honeymoon Period

The first few weeks of school every year are well known as a teacher’s honeymoon period.  Students are usually on the ball, attentive, polite and respectful.  Making the most of this period is imperative as it potentially sets the tone for the whole school year.  Just having a different accent in Canada stretched my honeymoon period considerably.  The students I taught loved my quirky sayings as much as I loved their idiosyncrasies.  Simply saying “g’day” was enough to get their attention and keep it.  Although I did quickly tire of the requests to say crikey, bonza and strewth!  Tales of kangaroos, Australian football, surfing and dangerous reptiles kept the kids entertained.  Lessons were easily revitalized and energy levels boosted by playing games of two-up and boomerang throwing contests, whilst vegemite snacks and lamington treats were unique rewards for hard workers.  If only my classes in Perth were this easily impressed!

6. The Weather

Now this might seem a facetious inclusion, but the weather is such a tangible aspect of life in Canada that it warrants inclusion.  In Australia’s warmer climes, its easy to take for granted a bright sunny day in the mid 20’s.  Not so in British Columbia, or many other parts of Canada.  With a record 33 straight days of BC rain in 1999, any day with sunshine is characterized by hordes of people enjoying various outdoor activities.  Sunny days were so few and far between during the early part of the year that I had no choice but to make the most of them.  The weather was also a guaranteed conversation starter, if only to bemoan the fact that I spent 20 minutes de-icing my car again this morning!  Not that I should complain, with the lower temperatures come the flurries that produce the scenic snow covered mountains that Vancouver is universally renowned for.  More beneficial, I found, was having some of the world’s best ski fields less than an hours drive away.  Giddy up!

5. The Students & Professional Development

Kids are just kids, right?  Surely they are the same worldwide?  Wrong!  After four years at the same private school in Perth, I was confident in my use of classroom management strategies and comfortable with my teaching style.  Teaching an Alternate & Modified program in Canada, I had to adapt quickly to a range of students with diverse needs and complex social & behavioral issues.  This led to a host of classroom challenges where I was required to effectively respond to rapidly changing circumstances.  In general, I found Canadian students to be very accepting, socially responsible and more aware of current affairs than their Australian counterparts.  Of course, this is a generalization based on my own experiences.  But simply being able to compare between the two groups of students was a highlight for me and has enhanced my ability to deeply reflect on my teaching and its effectiveness.  The diversity of Canadian students has also fostered a range of different teaching pedagogies such as Restitution and Tribes, which I was exposed to throughout my exchange year.  Furthermore my Canadian school has dedicated staff collaboration time to focus on understanding and implementing such pedagogies.  I am looking forward to sharing these new ideas with my colleagues back home and gauging their responses.

4. The US Dollar & Shopping

Living in Vancouver is fantastic for many reasons, not the least of which is the city’s proximity to Seattle.  The grunge capital of the world is an easy two hour drive from Vancouver along Interstate Number 5.   Numerous factory outlets are littered along the I-5 and the cheapest of these is at Tulalip, located 30 minutes north of Seattle.  Puma, Nike, Levi, Sony, Oakley……… all the major brands are represented and their products are invariably sold at bargain basement prices.  In particular, electronic devices, gas, alcohol and clothing are significantly less expensive south of the border.  With the current value of the US dollar against the Canadian loonie & the Aussie dollar, I spent much of my hard earned indulging in retail therapy.  However, buyers beware; US customs have very strict limits on the amount you can purchase without paying duty and the border waits – up to four hours on weekends - can be horrific.  Savings of 50% on a new pair of designer sunglasses may just help to soothe the pain!

3. New Experiences

Without doubt, the best bit of advice I received before heading overseas came from Tim Staples, a Canadian exchange teacher in Perth, who told me that “no matter what offer is made to you whilst away, just ACCEPT it!”  The result has been myriad experiences, both inside and outside the classroom.  Professionally I have taught new subjects such as dance, shop and alternate & modified education classes.  In addition, I have coached a dragon boating team, introduced cricket to my new school and performed two outlandish dance routines in front of 600 students as part of the annual Staff Olympics.  On a personal note, I have pushed my own boundaries by running a half marathon, skiing & hiking, snow-shoeing, deep sea fishing and countless other first time experiences.  No matter what the invitation was, I always said yes and it has led to many encounters and adventures that I could never have dreamed possible. 

2. Friends

As any traveler knows, it’s the people you meet that make the trip.  I am very proud of my 1000 plus photos of stunning Canadian vistas and unique wildlife.  But my pictures, no matter how good, will never evoke as many memories as the time spent with randomly met, eclectic people from all walks of life.  These encounters have been the heart and soul of my exchange year.  From a Saskatchewan politician to an Alaskan fisherman, a New York marketing manager to an Irish architect, these new friends and acquaintances will be forever imbedded in my memory.  Not to mention the numerous locals and ex-pat Australians that have all influenced my time here.  Obviously, the majority of contacts I established were at work and the staff at my Canadian school was extremely welcoming and supportive.  In addition, I have met many other past and present exchange teachers through the British Columbia Exchange Teacher’s Association.  The BCETA holds regular functions and events to facilitate networking and acted as a vital support cog in the first few months of my exchange.  The challenge now will be to stay in touch with everyone!

1. Benjamin David Lomas (Me)

A selfish selection perhaps, but I have learnt more about myself professionally in one year than I could do in five back home Australia.  Stepping out of the safety zone at my familiar and comfortable private school in Perth into an Alternate & Modified program at a much larger Canadian school forced me to re-evaluate my teaching.  Tried and tested pedagogies did not work in this new work environment.  My use of language had to be modified, a different curriculum learnt and prepared for.   To reach the end of the school year in one piece and professionally rejuvenated is evidence that I can meet any challenge I set my mind to.  Moreover, positive feedback from school administration, fellow staff and the student body has not only validated my decision to do an exchange year, but also my choice of profession.

For those teachers out there that are considering doing an exchange year, JUST DO IT!  It will be the most amazing experience of your life.  Yes, there will be ups and downs, but what year doesn’t have them?  There are horror stories of exchanges gone wrong, but these are the exception not the rule.  The positives outweigh the negatives by a Canadian km or American country mile.  If you’re adventurous, flexible and open to new experiences, an exchange year is definitely for you.  For veteran exchange teachers, I hope that this article has brought back many fond memories and possibly provided a trigger for you to one day consider doing another teaching exchange.  

My year has passed at super sonic speed in a blur of good times, new friends and positive personal and professional experiences.  The countdown towards my next exchange experience has already begun!

Benjamin Lomas

December 2007

Tags: Work



How inspiring! I am a primary school teacher teaching in NSW and I am currently deciding whether to go and work in Canada for a year.You have really helped the debate going on in my head (for the better).
I am so glad that you had a wonderful year teaching in Canada. It seems so daunting but i agree with you definetely grow as a person stepping out of your comfort zone.
Thanks, Jo

  Joanne Frith May 16, 2008 4:54 PM


I am just beginnign to think about doing an exchange program in canada. Do you have a few names of the agencies to contact. I am currently teaching in QLD and would like as much information as possible!

  Cassie Jun 14, 2008 10:40 AM


Hi Ben, Are you able to tell me the name of the program you went to Canada with? I'm interested in going on exchange for a year but not sure how to go about it.

  Jacqui Jun 27, 2008 12:39 PM


please send contact details of Teacher Exchange in Canada and how to get started. Thank You

  Silvana Martens Aug 25, 2008 12:43 PM


At the moment I am totally re-evaluating my choice of profession (secondary IT and English teacher in Brisbane) as I am feeling, well, a little stuck, stale and basically itching for something new. I've always wanted to do an exchange, either to Canada or the UK, but am (as of tonight) leaning towards Canada.

If you have any suggestions for specific agencies or educator exchange organisations then, please, point me in the right direction! Very inspiring story, thank you for sharing!

  Carmen Aug 28, 2008 9:11 PM


I would like to receive some more information about a teaching exchange in Canada. Thanks, Toni

  Toni Sammut Sep 15, 2008 5:15 PM


THANK YOU for your inspiring words. After reading your blog I put some long held plans into action and now I'm about to begin my own Canadian Exchange experience. I can only hope that my year is as successful as your own? So . . . already completed your application for 2010??

  Jennie Oct 6, 2008 8:37 PM


Hi Ben,
sounds great and i have been thinking about doing this for a while. could you send me some details of your program and how i go about putting this adventure into action. i am planning it for 2010.
Thanks Liam

  Liam Nov 3, 2008 5:03 PM


I see youve had a few people ask this but could you please send me details too :) I am a fellow western aussie and wanting to head over there asap.

  Leone Jan 3, 2009 11:06 PM


Hi Ben,
Thanks so much for your detailed analysis of your year in Van! Would you mind also sending me the details of your program, I am very keen to do something similar in the near future.
Thanks so much!

  Monique Feb 7, 2009 10:20 PM


Hi Ben!
Thanks for sharing your tips! I would really appreciate you sending me any information re: where to start & how to go about it all. A year in Canada sounds amazing! Where are you heading next?
Thank you!

  Ruth Feb 24, 2009 2:26 PM


This was great to read. I am a Canadian teacher currently looking to do an exchange to Australia. It's so funny to read about someone's experience coming to the country I am currently looking to leave. I am hoping that my year in Australia will be equally as rewarding!!

  Sandra May 2, 2009 7:56 AM


Hi. I really enjoyed reading about your experience. I know that lots of people have asked this- would you be able to send me information about your program? Thanks!

  Emily May 2, 2009 8:12 PM


Hello. Sounds like Canada was an awesome experience! Do you have any specific tips to share about how you got your work permit, if you used an agent, etc., etc. Would love to hear how you made it happen.


  Kristina May 13, 2009 2:37 PM


Hi Ben,
Absolutely loved reading about your experience! Brilliant! I'd also really appreciate some tips about how you got started and how you made it all happen. Any advice would be great, i'd love to head over there teaching as soon as possible.

  Loretta Jun 8, 2009 10:37 PM


Just one more year to go, and I will have the five years I need. Your story is an inspiration for sure. Do I have doubts? Many - I have a house and a mortgage and a permanent position 1km from home at an idyllic school - why would I give all that up? Because you said Just Do It!

I am aiming at Canada 2011. C'mon - who is with me?

  Cameron Haines Oct 10, 2009 5:05 PM


wow what an amazing experience! I have just graduated from my teaching degree in Perth and am intently looking to move to Canada for a little while in 2012. Did you go with an agency and if so who is it as ill be buggered if i can find one!! Ive also been told its rather hellish trying to get a visa and a job.. howd u go?

  Tamyn-Leigh Oct 28, 2009 1:29 AM


What a great article!! So relevant and true. I am currently 5 months into my 12 month Canadian exchange and can totally related to all that you wrote!! It is he absolute experience of a lifetime. For those of you considering taking the step... go for it! It will be the most rewarding and challenging year of your life. I haven't regretted a single moment yet and know there are many more fabulous experiences to be had!! :o)

  Natalie Jun 7, 2010 5:31 AM


Thanks so much for your experience.

I was wondering my hubby is only a short way off being a high school teacher. We have always talked about doing something like this. In your opinion how long would you teach in Australia, before embarking on an adventure like yours? Also would it work to take your family (3 kids.)

Thanks again.

  Laura Jun 8, 2010 10:44 PM


Hi Ben,
would you be please able to send me the name of the agency you went through?
Thank you

  Jamie Sep 27, 2010 10:32 AM


Hi Ben,
A great read! Can I get the details of the agency you went through?

  Emily Nov 9, 2010 7:19 PM


Hi Ben,
I am really interested in joining an exchange program at the end of this year. I would only have two years teaching experience, not sure if there is a min or max amount of teaching experience needed?? Would you be able to give me some more information about the agency you went through and any other handy tips I may find useful?

Prue Seawright

  Prue Seawright Jan 30, 2011 11:40 PM


I was on exchange in 2007 in Calgary from Brisbane. Do you remember the name of a counsellor from the Gold Coast who was in Vancouver on exchange in 2007?

  Peter Rose May 3, 2011 1:42 PM


Hey bud, great article, I'm looking to teach for a year in Canada, and maybe move over there permanently if all goes well...like everyone else has requested, could you send me some info on the whole thing? How does one go about applying?

  Jay Sep 21, 2011 3:50 PM


Be careful. Some teacher exchange participants rack up huge bills and damage property. A once clean house in Victoria now has smoke stains and ruined flooring.

  Better informed now! Oct 17, 2011 2:04 PM


I am a Canadian teacher and my husband and I are looking for an exchange to Australia. We both teach on Vancouver Island in a great town with great schools. We have 2 school-aged children and are ready for a year abroad. Your comments from the 'down under' perspective are great!

  Sandra Oct 31, 2011 2:04 PM


Make sure you get everything in writing before you go. Not all teachers are honest.

  Wendy Dec 6, 2011 2:27 PM


Message to Sandra- do you have an exchange partner yet? My hubby is a primary school teacher on the mid-north/east coast of Australia. It’s a fabulous, vibrant regional town near a major centre and great beaches. We also have two young children and are looking for a teaching and house exchange for 2013. Not sure how we start the process, but just putting it out there! Cheers,

  Kim Jan 20, 2012 10:53 AM


Inspiration story - I taught in Sydney for a few years and am now teaching in London. Can I teach in Canada without going on an exchange program? How would I go about it? Are there recruitment companies?

  Graeme Edgar Jan 30, 2012 12:11 AM


Hi Ben

Ive been looking into teaching in Canada, and your experience sounds great! Can you send me the agency you went through and any other important information. Thanks

  Hayley Feb 26, 2012 4:34 PM


Hi Ben,

I am moving to Canada at the end of the year and really want to continue my teaching professon over there. Like the many others I would really appreciate so,e information on how to go about my adventure.

Your post has made me all the more excited to venture to Canada this year.

Sarah :)

  Sarah Feb 29, 2012 9:10 AM


I am a primay school teacher from the North Coast NSW Australia and am interested in a teacher exchange to BC Canada in 2014, and would be interested hearing more about how to acomplish this and also anyone who is interested in exchanging.

  Debbie Apr 21, 2012 2:38 PM


Hi Ben, great article! I am a Primary teacher in NSW interested in getting an exchange to the Montreal area as my son is planning to study there in 2014. Any suggestions of how to go about this or whether it is feasible? In my research, I've found a lot of information from the Canadian end, but not much from the Australian end.

I'd appreciate any ideas you have.
Thanks, Juliette

  Juliette Apr 28, 2012 12:37 PM


Hi Ben,
Great article. I too am finding it difficult to locate any information about teaching agencies in Canada that accept Australian teachers. I am currently living and working in Melbourne but it is my dream to teach in Canada. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated.



  Greg May 17, 2012 11:10 AM


I applied for a teaching exchange from Canada to Australia for 2013 but wasn't matched. Applying again for the 2014 calendar year. Hoping to connect with a potential partner and help the process along. I have a blog at http://teacherexchange.ca with more info. Would love to see more people posting about their exchange hopes there. Maybe we can engineer some matches there!

  Miles Sep 23, 2012 9:34 PM


Hi there,
We are looking for a number of teachers to fill full time positions in the UK, UAE and parts of Asia. Please get in touch with P2PE (www.p2pe.com.au) or join us on fb for current job listings. [email protected]

  Carly Jul 2, 2013 8:34 PM


Hi there,
I'm a K-12 Music Teacher from Australia looking to do an exchange to BC Canada in either 2015 or 2016. I have five years teaching experience. I live on the Central Coast of NSW Australia in the beachside suburb of Noraville. An hour and half drive north of Sydney. I own a 3 bedroom home to exchange which is located just 15 minutes drive from the School at which I'm permanently employed. If anyone is interested in arranging an exchange please contact me @ [email protected]

  Chloe Abdilla Dec 19, 2014 3:01 PM

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