Purpose of this Blog is to provide information on:

(click on topics that interest you)

• 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

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On Being a Homestay Student in Vancouver

On this blog I intend to provide monthly information along with relevant photographs about the activities and events participated in by international language students staying in Vancouver through the year. In preparation, I wrote this introductory article in March.* This is when students begin to return to the city after the language schools experience lower enrolments during the winter months. March is a particularly invigorating and visually appealing month in Vancouver due to the clarity of light, noticeably longer days, and the blooming of spring flowers.

This blog is a companion to my novel Vancouver Memories: My Year Abroad found at www.vancouvermemories.ca. The novel is a fictional account of a group of homestay students but it nevertheless features over 325 photographs of areas in and around Vancouver that highlight the events and activities that international students routinely experience through the year. In March, for instance, active students can still be skiing or snowboarding on the local mountains or cycling, walking, or rollerblading on the seawall that surrounds so much of the city.
As a homestay parent to over 80 international students for more than 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. They have made so many meaningful connections and had so many memorable experiences. This happens wherever they are from and however long they have stayed in Vancouver—from less than a month to up to a year. About 37 percent of my homestay students have been from Asia, 27 percent from Europe, 26 percent from South America, 6 percent from Canada (Quebec), and 4 percent from Mexico. Students from all these areas appear in the novel.
Away from restrictions of family expectations and cultural norms, students at Vancouver language schools experience a feeling of freedom and begin to develop a new sense of identity. Recognizing their independence, they gain 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 couple of days of arriving at their school. All international students want companions with whom to attend popular events and to tour areas in and around the city. Also homestay students’ mutual interests outweigh their cultural differences. The reason for sped-up friendships is also because students know they have limited time. Students’ commitment to their studies along with the school’s schedule creates a structure to safely guide them while still enabling them to live a balanced life in Vancouver.
My novel Vancouver Memories: My Year Abroad reveals the experience of a fictional group of international students who participate in the yearly events that make up popular culture on the West Coast of Canada. The classmates in the story take part in the same activities that real students in Vancouver participate in—activities that they may not have access to at home. Skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, barbecuing, going to jazz and folk music festivals, hiking, picnicking, attending a lantern parade, Pride parade, and a Chinese New Year’s parade, whale watching, beach exploring, participating in carol ship night and a polar bear swim, viewing fireworks displays, taking in some film festivals, and breathing fresh ocean air while walking miles on the seawall are some of their choices. These activities form the backdrop to the novel.

I hope that this blog and my novel, with its many photographs, might provide insight to potential language students considering coming to study in Vancouver.
Both these resources indicate the main activities and events that international students commonly experience during each month of the year. I hope they also serve former students as photographic reminders of the places they visited and some of the experiences they had while studying in Vancouver. See the précis of the novel elsewhere on this blog.
If you are a teacher or administrator with a language school and you would like to use the above article or put a link to this blog on your newsletter, just contact me. I would be pleased to know of your support. And if you would like me to carry your website address on a particular article or in the Announcements section of the novel, please contact me at:
Note that most of my homestay students have attended and continue to come from Pacific Language Institute, now known as Kaplan/Pacific Language Institute. For information about PLI, see www.pli.ca

*An initial version of this article, with additional photographs, appeared in the March issue of the Japanese e-magazine Cradle Our Spirit.

Text and Photographs by Wendy Bullen Stephenson

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