World Travellers: Spring Break Tours

For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shawnigan students were able to take advantage of Spring Break to travel outside the country.
Students engaged in several trips abroad, learning first-hand about other cultures, visiting consequential locations, and experiencing the world, all while representing the School exceptionally well. The forays included an exchange trip to France, an historic rugby tour, and an eye-opening exploration of some of Canada’s most important sites of the two world wars.
The exchange trip to France saw students once again hosted by families from Lycée Sacré-Coeur in Angers. Three staff members — Mr. Graham Linn, Mr. David Hyde-Lay and Mrs. Rayna Hyde-Lay — accompanied 15 students on the excursion, which was more of an immersive experience in French culture as opposed to a sightseeing tour.
“Angers is a lovely size of city to do that sort of thing,” Mr. Linn said.
The students — many of whom take French Immersion classes at Shawnigan — spent 10 days in Angers, taking part in classes at the school in the mornings and visiting locations such as the Château d’Angers castle, Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Marché La Fayette outdoor market in the afternoons. On weekends, their host families determined their itineraries, which included trips to Disneyland Paris, Mont Saint-Michel or the Le Mans race track for some students. A contingent of students from Angers will complete the exchange next October when they visit Shawnigan.
“It was the experience of a lifetime for many of them,” Mr. Linn said. “Being immersed and having to communicate with people they didn’t know, it takes them out of their comfort zone and widens their perspective on the world.”
After their time in Angers, the Shawnigan group spent three days in Paris, where the students had some freedom to explore, and visited sites like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Palace of Versailles. In both Angers and Paris, the students ran across the demonstrations against the French pension reform bill and saw evidence of sanitation-worker strikes, but at no point did they encounter any danger.
“Overall, this trip will live in our memories forever,” Grade 11 student Harrison M. said during this Wednesday’s gathering in Chapel. “We made strong connections with people we would never have met otherwise, travelled to historic places, tried lots of rich French food, took in the subtle differences, like baguette vending machines, but most importantly, got a special opportunity to practise our French in a more realistic environment. We came back with more appreciation for Shawnigan and new cultural experiences.”
At the same time, Shawnigan senior boys’ rugby players proved they can play alongside the best high school teams in the world when they represented BC, Canada, and all of North America at the Rugby School International Sevens on March 25 and 26.
Shawnigan was one of 20 teams representing nine countries on six continents to compete in the tournament that celebrated the 200th anniversary of the sport on the very field where it originated — The Close at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England. That is where William Webb Ellis is said to have first taken the ball and run with it during a soccer match, thus inventing an entirely new sport.
“It is a huge honour for the School and our students and coaches to be part of this world invitational event,” said Shawnigan Director of Sport Mr. Tim Murdy, one of three coaches to make the trip along with 15 players. “Not only to be participating and representing Canada, but being recognized as one of the top rugby-playing schools.”
Shawnigan was invited to participate because the School previously took part in a tournament in 2017 marking Rugby School’s 450th anniversary. At the time, Shawnigan was both the Canadian independent school champion and BC provincial champion.
Prior to taking part in the tournament at Rugby School, Shawnigan attended the Rosslyn Park National Schools Sevens on March 20 and 21. Held at Rosslyn Park in London, it is the largest school rugby tournament in the world.
Shawnigan held its own in the tournament at Rugby School, which will boost the team’s confidence going into the XV season, Grade 12 student Josh K. said in the gathering.
“Ultimately the tour was an incredible experience that will be a core memory for me and my teammates when we look back on our Shawnigan days,” he said. “I know we all grew as players, I’m hoping a lot of us grew as people, and I just want to say thank you very much on behalf of all of the boys.”
Beyond the games, other highlights for the rugby players included staying with billet families in Cardiff, where they enjoyed home-cooked meals and tours of the city, a visit to the Welsh national team’s home stadium, and a viewing of Les Misérables in London.
The largest travelling group from Shawnigan over Spring Break consisted of the 28 students and four staff members who took part in the European History tour, a whirlwind 10-day trip through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, with a special focus on the Canadian experience in the two world wars.
“You’ve probably read about both World Wars in history class or watched the many movies on them,” Grade 11 student Max W. said in Wednesday’s gathering. “But being there firsthand and standing on the same beaches, such as Juno Beach, where Canadian soldiers stormed only 78 years ago really put into perspective the importance of these men and women who sacrificed their lives for us.”
Students laid a wreath on behalf of the School at the Menin Gate in Ypres, a memorial to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of the First World War, and visited the field hospital bunker where John McCrae, who wrote “In Flanders Fields” toiled, and the grave of the youngest British soldier who died in the war, at just 15 years of age.
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.