MONTREAL, JANUARY 6, 2011– Royal West Academy’s Alexandre Pettem and 18 of his closest friends are all in agreement - their exchange trip to India last February changed their lives.
Thankfully, for the family they left behind and their fellow Grade 9 students, it was all documented on a film which he recently premiered to a packed Royal West gymnasium.
Braving blizzard conditions, scores of past and future exchange students flocked to the Montreal West institution to watch Pettem’s film as well as hear firsthand accounts from the other students, who were equally as awe inspired with one of the world’s oldest civilizations.
With great foresight, Pettem’s film begins with succinct, yet, poignant pre-trip interviews with a number of fellow travelers. Concerns which range from flying, to dietary and extreme culture shock are made clear; yet, the students nonetheless share their excitement and passion for a trip which they have prepared for since their first days as Royal West students. Pettem’s creative narration helps guide the audience on their journey, which is highlighted by world famous landmarks, ancient and holy temples, a sneak peek into life with their adopted families and even a few segments navigating the maze of the country’s streets consisting of the endless and infamous traffic.
“It was culture shock to the extreme,” said Pettem. “Everything was unique, the people, the smells, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We experienced so many things, like the celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors where everyone gets covered in colorful paint. I think we wrecked an entire bathroom trying to clean off the colors.”
Although many scenes were left on Pettem’s bedroom floor, the documentary nonetheless opened up the eyes of future participants and will undoubtedly propel them to forgo any concerns to jump head first into the Ganges. With that inspiration in mind, the premiere of the documentary coincided with the first meeting for these future exchange participants. The interactive session provided a prime opportunity to explain every detail of the trip – from the intense learning and fundraising beforehand, to the billeting families in Dehli and of course, the incredibly enriching and continuous cultural experience, explained by the students and staff who lived it.
For these new exchange students and their families, the arduous process of preparation is only beginning, however, if this last class of alumni has anything to say for it, they wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.