Aidan Murphy-Morven’s one year exchange trip gave him lifelong friends and a second family abroad. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

Heart of Our City: It was a “bon voyage” for Aidan Murphy-Morven

Murphy-Morven, a Charles Hays Secondary student, was bit by the travel bug

Aidan Murphy-Morven contracted a travel bug and now he’s spreading it around.

From a young age, Murphy-Morven, now 18, witnessed his aunt, Margo Murphy, travel across the world. Most recently, she spent more than a month in Africa. Her adventures inspired him to make an adventure of his own.

“She loves to travel and she always talks to me about where she goes and how fun it was and what an enriching experience it was. And ever since that I’ve been really motivated and willing to travel.”

Murphy-Morven just got back from his first ever overseas trip to France last year with the Rotary Youth Exchange, choosing the country to improve on his French.

For anyone, especially a 17-year-old, leaving your family and friends behind thousands of kilometers away can be a scary experience. Just like the travel bug, fear was also a feeling Murphy-Morven was not immune to.

READ MORE: Rotary international exchange opens to Prince Rupert students

“It was a bit scary at first just going to some place where I knew no one. I was just going out into the real world by myself for the first time,” he said.

Luckily that bug did not take long to overcome. Along his journey he also met other like-minded exchange students and kind hearted French.

“I made a lot of really good life-long friends. But it took some time like with anything. I call them family now.”

Murphy-Morven’s host family lived in Valence, approximately an hour south of Lyon. When he was feeling homesick his temporary family fixed what ailed him the North American way — with barbecued ribs.

“The first month, I started to feel a bit homesick. But my host mom actually took me to an American-style restaurant, which was really comforting and it showed to me that she cared, which I really appreciated. I had some barbecue ribs and I felt really good again. My dad makes that a lot [back home] and it’s really good. So it made me feel like I was home again.”

After a few weeks of settling in it was time for some fun — and of course some study — over the next 12 months.

Murphy-Morven attended school like any other regular French kid. One of his favourite daily activities was eating, but this time around French-style cuisine a-la-carte.

“The cheeses and breads, those marked me the most. The cheeses were excellent. They’re like world class. I’m missing them so much.” Murphy-Morven said as he went on to describe them in great detail.

Every morning before class he would head to the bakery right beside school to eat some croissant or a pain-au-chocolat. “One of my favourite things about going to school there.”

Classwork in France was a different experience for Murphy-Morven, who was used to writing tests.

Aidan Murphy-Morven’s – third from left, bottom row – one year exchange trip gave him lifelong friends and a second family abroad among which included his classmates at Cité Scolaire Emile Loubet in Valence, France. (courtesy photo)

“In France they would just lecture to you and you would have to take down notes and the tests would instead be writing an essay about a topic,” he said. “And now being back I’m having some trouble adjusting back to tests and our style of learning the sciences in general.”

By the time Christmas break rolled around he was feeling a mix of emotions. Luckily he managed to keep the home sickness at bay with the help of technology, having Skyped his mom and grandma as the whole family opened their gifts.

“The French really like to keep up with their traditions. So I spent Christmas with my host family’s families. I actually had a six-hour lunch which turned into dinner . It’s a really French tradition to have a five platter lunch. That was a cool French tradition I learned.”

Murphy-Morven completed his year studying abroad without a hitch, and spent his free time traveling Scotland, Greece, Paris and Barcelona before heading back home.

“I think my perception of Rupert has changed a lot because I could walk anywhere in town in like 10 minutes, which is really nice.”

“Whereas in France I would have to take a bus somewhere. Or if I was going to walk, I would have to plan it beforehand, or the day before, so I would have enough time to get ready and walk there,” he said about his new found appreciation for Prince Rupert.

It was a life-changing experience in more than one way for Murphy-Morven.

He has come out of his shell more so than before, joining groups like the debate club, and even trying escargot for the first time in his life.

Murphy-Morven hopes the next stop on his journey will be to UBC in Vancouver where he plans to apply for their Go Global program.

In the meantime, Murphy-Morven has won his bid for president of CHSS’ Interact Club.

His first order of business?

To pass on the travel bug.

READ MORE HEART OF OUR CITY: Aisa Smithanik, even kids can be a part of something big


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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