Purpose of this Blog is to provide information on:

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• Events homestay students participate in while being in the city

• English language tips for international students

Activities related to my novel about a group of international language students in the city
Profiles of Students

Monday, June 25, 2012

Prologue and first chapter of the imaged novel Vancouver Memories: My Year Abroad

Photographs & Text by Wendy Bullen Stephenson
As a homestay parent to about 80 international students for over 15 years, I have seen the dramatic impact that being a language student in Vancouver, Canada, has on young adults. They are always reluctant to leave the city when it is time for them to return home. This happens wherever they are from and however long they have stayed in Canada—for a month or for a year. About 35 percent of my homestay students have been from Asia and about 25 percent have been from Japan.
Away from restrictions of family expectations and cultural norms, international students at language schools experience a feeling of freedom and begin to develop a new sense of identity. Recognizing their independence, they gain in the self-confidence needed to shape their own life.
Part of the reason the experience is so fulfilling is that they find instant friends from the first day of arriving at their school. They all want companions with whom to attend popular events and to tour areas in and around the city. This is the reason for sped-up friendships because their shared interests outweigh their cultural differences and they know they have limited time. Their commitment to their classes and the school’s schedule creates just enough of a structure to comfortably guide their life as a student.
Students have opportunities to take part in activities that may not have access to at home. Skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, barbecuing, going to jazz and folk music festivals, hiking, picnicking, being part of a lantern parade, whale watching, beach exploring, viewing fireworks displays, taking in some film festivals, participating in carol ship night, attending a Chinese New Year’s parade, and breathing fresh ocean air while walking miles on the seawall are some of their choices.
I hope you’ll read the opening segment of the novel Vancouver Memories: My Year Abroad, which appears in this e-magazine. Written as a diary, the whole novel depicts many of these activities as a backdrop to the story and includes many photographs of the places that the classmates visit while living their life-altering year abroad. The images enrich the novel while giving the reader a you-are-here feeling and revealing a great deal about Vancouver.
The excerpt of the novel appearing here introduces the fictional 23-year-old Japanese female, Erika, about to leave Japan to spend a year in Canada to improve her English. The parting conversation between Erika and her extended family reveals her happy anticipation as she sets off to experience living overseas—an adventure her mom and sister enjoyed at about the same age. However, this excerpt also suggests the negative consequence that studying abroad had on her mother who suffered family pressure to marry quickly on her return to Japan.
Could Erika’s dad be right in saying that by the time Erika finishes her education she will be too old to be hired as an architect or wanted as a wife? Or could, in fact, Erika’s experience in Vancouver help her become the architect she hopes to be as well as introduce her to the man she loves (Sandy) and wants to share her life with? And would she really chose this Canadian architecture student/musician as a life partner when one of her Japanese male classmates, with whom she is very close, hopes she’ll return to Japan at the end of the year to live her life with him? Can readers believe in the magic between Erika and Sandy that has them envisioning a life together despite the obvious difficulties that they will have to overcome?
As the author, I wonder: is the story believable for Japanese readers? I’d love to hear your comments. (wendy@vancouvermemories.ca).
I hope to supply the second diary entry of the story in the next issue of Cradle Our Spirit, but if you wish to read some more of the novel before then, see
For a limited time, it is free for downloading to read. It appears without any distracting advertising.