Posted by Susan Kurushima on Jun 05, 2019
Our 2018-19 International Youth Exchange student Lucia Penavic, spoke about her amazing experience as she prepares to wrap up her year in Canada.  
Lucia said that while she was still in Croatia, she didn't really know what to expect in Canada.  She didn't really do any research because she likes surprises.  She had 3 home stay placements, all very different. First she was in Metchosin and she remembers it was very peaceful with an ocean view and fields of sheep.  Once there was a bear in the backyard!  She has good memories of walking on the beach, the smell of the ocean, picking berries....  Her host mom baked cookies every week and the grandmother taught her how to knit. She spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and her birthday with that family.  
Then she moved to Fairfield in late December.  She enjoyed being in town, only a 15 minute walk to downtown.  She liked walking on Dallas Road, learned to love curry and used a sewing machine for her fundraiser.  She also went snowboarding. 
She is currently staying in Esquimalt where the host family is just like hers.  She has brothers and sisters and dogs. Her friends are closer.   She enjoys the MacAulay Point walkway. 
Lucia was warned to expect some difficult adjustments but she didn't experience any.  She was always happy.  She saw so much on Vancouver Island as well as California, Boston and New York (places that she had once dreamed of ).  She worked hard in school, starting in grade 11 but she completed the necessary equivalencies to graduate.  She modelled her graduation cap for us and is looking forward to prom.  
In school she was introduced to field hockey.  She is grateful to Cheryl who recommended a course at UBC where she gained confidence and leadership skills.  She is proud to declare that she will never give up on her ideas.  She has ideas for what she will do back in Croatia (perhaps an Interac club). She has been inspired by the 4-Way Test and has changed her way of thinking.  The Youth Exchange program was amazing.  She learned to understand others and to appreciate other nations. 
Lucia kept a diary and in it she noted that the world is small and we are all connected.  She met an exchange student from Germany who had summered in Croatia and had met Lucia's best friend from elementary school. While she was working in a flower shop a customer spoke to her in Croatian.  He was from Bosnia!  That same day another customer was from Croatia and a third customer overheard and announced that he is from Split.  What a small world !!
Lucia was surprised that stores close at 6, that the people are healthier and less stressed, that people are outdoors a lot and that the school offers more choices.  
July 7 Lucia will be leaving for home.  She still has to qualify for graduation in Croatia and she is looking for scholarships in the U.S. and Canada.  She is planning to come back as soon as she can.  
Everyone agreed that she has been an exemplary exchange student who has really embraced the experience.