One student's 'Encounters with Canada'

Grade 10 student Cole Gauthier spent a week in the nation's capital taking part in a unique program called Encounters with Canada. Learn all about his experience.
By Cole Gauthier '22
 
Encounters with Canada is a phenomenal program put on by Historica Canada in the beautiful city of Ottawa. The week that I attended was themed around global affairs, but Encounters is not limited to just this. Other weeks, Encounters offers sessions themed on various other topics related to potential career paths. While in Ottawa, I learned from people who work at the United Nations, Canadian diplomats, indigenous leaders, ambassadors from other countries, peacekeepers, and heads of non-profit organizations. These speakers would often stay behind afterwards to chat and answer individual questions. 
 
In addition to the guest speakers, I met other students from across the entire country, including a few from the Northwest Territories. Despite being one country, the different provinces of Canada have different interests, perspectives, challenges and strengths. Learning about them all from actual residents of these places gave me a better understanding and appreciation of our country. While it was slightly awkward to socialise with new people at first, by the end of the program, the entire camp was all singing Backstreet Boys together on stage at talent night. We were all sad to leave our new friends behind, but I am sure that I will be keeping in touch with them. 
 
One aspect I enjoyed about Encounters is that students are taken out on various occasions to explore Ottawa. We visited parliament, watched question period in the House of Commons and had the opportunity to skate on the Rideau Canal. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Diefenbunker. The Diefenbunker was used between 1961 and 1994 as an emergency government headquarters in the case of a nuclear attack. The bunker is over 100,000 square feet and reaches four stories underground. As someone who is passionate about history, it was fascinating to learn about the Cold War in an actual Cold War bunker. We even got to run a crisis simulation where we debated how we should aid the USA after a pretend nuclear strike. 
 
Alongside providing valuable career insight and knowledge about our nation’s capital, Encounters is entirely bilingual, giving ample opportunities to practice your second language. We even had a student from France and we all got to participate in a bilingual contest where the winner won a few hundred dollars. 
 
By the end of the program, I felt I had an idea of the type of work I would do if I entered global affairs and the steps I would need to take to accomplish this goal. I had made new connections near and far and gained a better appreciation for Canada and our nation's role in global affairs. I am thankful that RNS was able to provide this opportunity for me. 
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