Reflections on Two Years in Normandy

| August 24, 2017

Scott Entwistle is leaving the Centre Juno Beach where he has been working as a guide in 2015 and 2016, and as Visitor Service Manager since this position was created one year ago. Here are Scott’s impressions about his experience. This is the occasion for the Centre’s team to thank him  for his contribution to the development of the museum, and for sharing his vast knowledge with visitors as well as with his colleagues.

Two and a half years ago, I arrived in the small seaside village of Courseulles-sur-Mer. I had just left my home in British Columbia, ready to work at the Juno Beach Centre, Canada’s Second World War museum in Europe. I had initially signed up for a seven month contract, but eight months after that finished, in May of 2016 I came back and have been here ever since. This site holds a special place in the collective memory of Canadians and Europeans alike, and to be a part of it for this time is something I will never forget.

For the uninitiated, the Juno Beach Centre’s guide program is a seven-month work experience at Canada’s D-Day landing beach. Committing to seven months abroad is a daunting prospect for many. The length, along with the need to be fluently bilingual, is the largest reason that young people are hesitant to apply. To put life on pause for so long can be difficult to reconcile, especially when we are told that graduating university as quickly as possible is best. But this is not a pause, it is rather a succession of amazing experiences, unforgettable interactions, crazy adventures and new friendships that have shaped who I am and have taught me just as much as my bachelor’s degree will. I often joke that I am on the “six year degree track” but it really has been six years of education, not a four-year degree plus two years of suspended animation.

This is not a perfect experience, make no mistake. There are a great number of cultural differences to become familiar with, times of great stress and frustration, and what can feel like weeks of never-ending rain. However, the negatives of this job are nothing compared to everything it has to offer. Working at Juno, you join a family. The guides, who live and work together, form a special dynamic that I will forever cherish. I have seen three guide teams in my time here, and each time seven young Canadians came together and created something special in our little corner of Canada here in France. There is no single thing that makes this job unique. Be it living in a foreign country to represent your own, working at a site that has deep connections to many who visit, interacting with the men who fought here in 1944, or passing that memory to a younger generation. Any of these individually would make for an amazing experience. To be able to do it all at once and to share it all at once with six others who came for the exact same reason makes this a once in a lifetime experience.

Every day I look out my office window onto a small section of Juno Beach where, on D-Day, 92 Canadian soldiers were killed or wounded in the span of two hours. I have had the great honour of speaking to many veterans who fought here, and I am incredibly humbled to have spent the last two years here telling their stories, rather than facing the horrors they did in the summer of 1944.


The first deadline for the 2018 Student Guide Program is October 13th. Click here to find out how to apply!

 

Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at jbca@junobeach.org.