A Cambridge Grade 11 student is headed to France and Belgium next week as part of a fully-funded educational tour of major First World War sites.

Ronak Patel, 16, is one of 22 young people selected to participate in the 2023 Vimy Pilgrimage Award trip.

The group leaves April 2 and will visit historic battlefields, cemeteries and museums during the nine-day program.

“I think it’s going to be really eye-opening,” Patel said. “Because in Canada we don’t really have that same connection to the First World War as in France or Belgium, and so I’m really honoured.”

Patel and the other students will be researching groups that are often left out of accounts of the war, like Black, Asian and Indigenous soldiers.

“With the First World War, there were so many groups that were involved, but only a few of them were actually talked about during that time, and afterwards,” Patel said.

Bringing those stories to the fore will have important present and future consequences.

“History is really what governs our decision-making and essentially humanity’s fate in the future,” Patel said. “So it's really important that we learn from the First World War… and I think it's really important that we learn about all perspectives so we get a deeper understanding of the entire situation.”

In particular, Patel is looking forward to being at Vimy Ridge on the anniversary of the historic battle, along with seeing trenches and getting insight on the day-to-day lives of soldiers.

“It’s going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.