Last summer, I was fortunate enough to be one of the 2 cadets from Dorset & Wilts wing chosen to take part in the International Air Cadet Exchange – where I represented the Air Training Corps in the exchange to Canada.
The two and a half week adventure saw me fly in Canadian military aircraft, explore the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and most importantly forge long lasting friendships with like minded cadets from across the globe.
After months of preparation and fundraising building up to the exchange, the journey finally began at the end of July, where I met the 20 other UK cadets who would be joining me on the trip. The IACE programme aims to expose aviation minded youths from across the globe to new countries and new experiences. In my two and a half weeks I learned so much about Canada, its people, and particularly its cadet organisation. I was fortunate enough to meet many cadets from across the province of Alberta, often at hosted lunches and barbeques. We also got to see a Canadian cadet camp in action, gaining a first-hand look at how their basic camps operate – with many differences to the UK system!
Not only did I see the Canadian way of doing things, but I also made good friends from all over – including Belgians, Dutch and French cadets. Although they were all ‘air cadets’ their organisations ran in very different ways to ours, and it was great to see their way of doing things, and learned what’s involved in their training and activities.
The trip also provided many opportunities for personal growth and development. Meeting so many people from all regions of the world, certainly broadened my mind, and I learned so much more as a result. Leadership situations presented themselves on a daily basis, allowing all of us to take the lead, and learn from each other. There were also plenty of occasions in which I was able to experience something that I never had, and probably never again will experience in my life. A notable example is when we flew on board the Canadian Forces’ Griffon helicopter; flying low level in formation over the Canadian countryside is something I will remember for years to come!
We also got to experience hiking and kayaking in the Canadian Mountains, through stunning scenery unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We also took the opportunity to visit a number of national museums, sail on the lakes, and of course, shop!
I have been fortunate enough to experience a lot of great things in my time as a cadet, but this will always stand out as an absolute highlight. I would certainly encourage every single cadet who is eligible to go out and apply for IACE, as I can guarantee that you will have an awesome, and life changing experience.