An NJC Story; Ali & Steve '78

Ali & Steve DeNure
What led each of you to NJC?

Ali: I graduated from grade 12 in British Columbia and was looking for a chance to travel and thought that a year in Switzerland could act as an amazing starting point. Little did I know that it would end up guiding the direction of my life. My older sister had wanted to go to NJC but went straight to university instead. My grandfather had attended school in Colombier in the early 1900s. My turn had arrived and I wanted to seize the opportunity. 

Steve: I knew about the school through a family friend and spending the final year of high school in Switzerland sounded like the gateway to a great adventure. 

How did you meet? What is “the story”?

We became good friends almost from day one.

We met at the school orientation in Oxford, England.  With a free afternoon to explore, Ali proposed the first independent travel plan of the NJC year. We stuck out our thumbs and hitchhiked to her Grandfather’s place in Henley on the Thames, making it back to Oxford in time for dinner.

It wasn’t until Easter that we realized that there might be more to this relationship than being just friends. We embarked on another independent travel adventure, this time to Greece. How perfect, romantic love blossoming in the homeland of Aphrodite. 

After graduation – how did your love story continue? 

Immediately after NJC Graduation, we embarked on a summer tour. Ali bought a 1969 VW Bug in Lyon. Steve kept it running with his Swiss Army knife and an improvised tool kit. We made our way from Lyon to Avignon, then on to the Camarge, Costa Brava and through Spain to the dunes of Bordeaux, then the Loire, Paris, the forests of the Ardennes and then Amsterdam and England until it was time to return to reality and university back in Canada.

After a year of bi-coastal life and another year in Europe at the Université de Grenoble, we both ended up at university on the west coast of Canada and then got married on Vancouver Island in 1984. The film and TV business drew us out to Ontario where we have lived ever since. 

Our life together, starting at NJC as “friends” and then as loving life partners back in Canada, has been wonderful. A balance of career and family life that suited us both have now become even sweeter with the addition of a farm, an island home, grandchildren and healthy active lifestyles. From where we started to where we are now led us to hope that there are many more life adventures in store for us “good friends “. 

What are your fondest memories of NJC – besides meeting each other? 

Ali: My favourite memories of NJC have to be school life with good friends, many of whom we are still close to. I adored the free time spent in each other’s company in the lovely Foyer library or on the front deck overlooking Lac Neuchâtel. I also managed to enjoy the academics despite the fact that I thought it would be more of a “gap” year.  I did quite well in classes that really mattered to me such as biology, and Mrs Hinchcliff’s English class, and did passably well in the very useful and necessary French class. After school, extracurricular fun included helping Steve in the photography dark room. In hindsight, producing the class yearbook succeeded not only in developing our love and friendship but also in developing and preserving everyone’s photographs, memories and highlights of 1977-78!

Disco dancing at Bar Club Academix, beer at Pickwicks Pub and coupes at Place Pury, the Fete des Vendages, making friends with the other Canadians at school in Lausanne, and the many wonderful weekend ski trips rounded out one the most incredible chapters in my early life.

Steve: On top of the things Ali mentioned one of the fondest memories for me was living with the DeCoulon family in St Blaise. The family had two sons, Cyrille and Alexandre, who were of a similar age. Cyrille attended NJC for the first semester with us. When our son Graham was at NJC Cyrille was his first point of contact. We have remained friends and the brothers were in Canada last fall for a visit. Not so long ago Cyrille moved to Canada and married another of our classmates, Becky Kribbs. Now there is another NJC  Valentine’s story.
Neuchâtel Junior College offers the unique opportunity to study Canadian curriculum abroad. While living in Switzerland in a French community, students enjoy an international education through travel and experiential learning in Europe. Gap year and Grade 12  high school students gain international experience and develop independence and life skills that prepare them for university and the global workplace.

A Canadian high school in Switzerland | Grade 12 & Gap