TEACHING and learning lessons abroad by Laura Dillman Ripley hat Christoph Becker (’95, ’96) describes as a decision made on a ‘whim’ turned out to be one of the most important life experiences for his family. The Port Elgin, NB-based elementary school teacher and vice-principal spent the past year teaching on Phillip Island, Victoria, off the coast of Australia, as part of a family exchange program through the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation. The Beckers — Christoph, Pamela (MacRoberts) (’97), and their teenage sons Jeshua and Josiah — left home for Australia in December 2012. The exchange saw the Beckers trading houses with the Carlson family — Nick, Kylie, and their two daughters. Christoph taught a Grade 3/4 split at Cowes Primary School, while Kylie took on teaching duties at Port Elgin Regional School. “I taught at a grade level I had never taught before, in a country I had never been to,” says Christoph. “It was a great learning experience. The classroom experience was similar to Canada’s, but there were obviously curriculum differences.” Pamela, who also works in the New Brunswick school system, spent the year working at home and taking courses through correspondence. W “The exchange gave us a new pace and perspective,” she says. “The Australian school system runs on a different calendar than our North American one. There are three or four small breaks over the school year with a shortened summer break. We were able to use this time to explore some of Australia, learning more about the culture, and to travel to New Zealand. There’s a good life balance in Australia.” Jeshua, the Becker’s oldest son, is glad to be back in Canada, where he is a Grade 11 student at Tantramar Regional High School. While hard for a teenager to leave his home for a year, Jeshua says he is happy for the experience.  “I made so many great friends. It was much harder saying goodbye to them at the end of the year. You don’t know when you will be back in Australia,” he says. Christoph and Pamela met at Mount Allison and say Mount A was helpful in preparing them for this adventure.  “I participated in the Strasbourg exchange program when I was taking my BSc,” says Christoph, who grew up in the Tantramar region. “This experience living abroad gave me the courage for Australia, knowing that our family could do this.” Originally from Dartmouth, NS, Pamela was recruited to Mount Allison by Sue Seaborn, recently retired sports information officer and former volleyball coach.  “I love the small town experience,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to live in a city again.” Both Christoph and Pamela say the year also gave them precious time with their teenage sons. “We felt like this was one of our last true bonding experiences with the boys before they leave home. It was an important time for our family,” says Pamela. As the Beckers return to their life in New Brunswick, they say the friendships and memories made will stay with them. “We became really close with the Carlsons. They actually stayed a few extra days at our place when we got back so we were able to spend part of the Christmas holiday together,” says Christoph. “This kind of experience really makes you appreciate the family you have, wherever they are.” 20 / Winter 2014 / RECORD