'In addition to all the natural beauty that surrounds Vancouver, the fine cuisine of its restaurants, the exquisite shopping malls and stores and the great cultural diversity, in the last couple years or so, I would say that the low prices charged by schools have been [attracting] more and more students. Since our currency was devalued, more and more Brazilians are choosing Canada as their destination, and Vancouver is certainly their [first] choice. There are so many things to do. Most students tell us that they love walking around Stanley Park, riding their bikes, shopping, dancing in the various nightclubs in town and even a simple stroll down Robson Street, one of the main shopping areas, can turn out to be an exciting experience.'
Roberto Passarelli, FLS International, Brazil
'The geographic situation of Vancouver attracts many students. They usually choose academic programmes rather than language [courses] because of the variety of courses [available]. They have the ocean, the mountains and if they want, they can travel to Victoria or other cities. I'd recommend it to students aged 18 or older. It's too far away for students under 18…. I'd only recommend it to [them] if they go with a big group.'
Elena Salomonova, Insight-Lingua, Russia
'[Students choose Vancouver] because of the image of Canada as a cultural centre. It is also attractive because of the weather. Vancouver has very mild weather because of its location on the Pacific Ocean. It's also known for its schools and universities, and finally, the people are very nice and make students feel at home. In their free time, students usually like to do water sports [or] go to the Rocky Mountains and national parks.'
Gerardo Eusse, CEI Colombia, Colombia
A city boasting spectacular natural beauty, Vancouver also has considerable cultural appeal. Amy Baker reports.
I see it time and time again,' says Jamie Meikle, Marketing Manager at the Canadian College of English Language. 'Many students are sorry to have to leave Vancouver. It is an outdoor recreational paradise for people of all ages, with breathtaking ocean and mountain views. The English programmes here are among the best in Canada, and the pleasant environment makes the study experience that much better for the student.'
'Vancouver is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world,' adds Katya Henry at Canada Language Centre. And, according to an annual urban quality of life survey, Vancouver is frequently rated one of the most liveable cities in the world. Situated on a narrow peninsula with English Bay to the west, False Creek to the south and Burrard Inlet to the east, Vancouver's downtown area boasts beaches, a dynamic port and waterfront, as well as a fantastic mountain backdrop.
'Where else in the world can you snowboard and go to the beach, all in the same day?' says Meikle. 'The local mountains [to the north of the city] offer a wide range of ski and snowboard runs from beginner to advanced, while Vancouver's shores play host to the Pacific Ocean.' The downtown area is also home to a stunning range of mirror-fronted skyscrapers, which look out towards residential north and west Vancouver.
The city is home to a large and diverse local population. 'Many people from around the world have made Vancouver their home,' explains Henry. 'Vancouver is a multicultural city with strong Indian, Chinese, Latin American, European and indigenous communities. Diverse neighbourhoods, international restaurants and community festivals all make Vancouver the dynamic city it is.' Gregor Young, of the International Language School of Canada, points out that foreign students enjoy Vancouver's cultural mix. 'The city prides itself on respecting diversity while still being able to function economically, socially and politically,' he says.
A city with evident natural advantages, many outdoor opportunities and a mild, yet warm climate, Vancouver has other benefits for language travellers too. One factor, resulting from Vancouver's cultural diversity, is the growing reputation the city enjoys as one of North America's culinary capitals, says Young. 'From Asian cuisine to emerging West Coast trends, Vancouver's restaurants are being written about worldwide.' Vancouver's young population also means it has a cutting-edge youth culture, with modern clubs, shops, bars and galleries to check out.
'Vancouver has a lively nightlife,' asserts Henry. 'Students can sample one of Vancouver's many restaurants, go [clubbing], see a concert by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, cheer on the Canucks - Vancouver's hockey team - or catch the latest release at one of the city's cinemas.' There are options for younger students as well, such as roller blading in Stanley Park, ice-skating, skiing, snowboarding, watersports and relaxing on the beach.
Stanley Park, on the edge of the downtown area, is huge - almost 1,000 acres. Ocean surrounds it on three sides, with a road and walkway following the sea wall around the peninsula for 10 kilometres. The aquarium in the park is a popular attraction, while the park itself offers dense rainforest, marshland, beaches and plenty of open areas for picnics, sunbathing and roller blading.
Other attractions in the city include Granville Island, under Granville Bridge, which was once an industrial area and is now a popular public market with streets of art, craft and speciality stores. Street buskers keep visitors entertained for hours. Nearby, the Vanier Park museum complex groups together some of the city's main museums. The Maritime Museum and Heritage Harbour display old-fashioned shipping vessels, while the Vancouver Museum traces the history of the city. On the University of British Columbia campus, the Museum of Anthropology houses a collection of west coast Indian artefacts.
Language schools in the city often try to incorporate the city's attractions into language learning programmes. 'English classes may visit shops, restaurants and local attractions to practise classroom language in real situations,' says Henry. Hyacinth Torres, of Aspect ILA Vancouver, adds, 'We participate in special events like trips to the museum [and] trips with students at other schools to Tofino for whale watching.'
Given Vancouver's varied communities, it is unsurprising that the city's annual calendar has many festivals and cultural events. Torres says that students like to become involved in free festivals, such as the Jazz Festival, dragon boat races and the Children's Festival. Lester Lin, from Burnaby College, says their students enjoy the Chinese New Year Festival, while other events include the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Indy Car Race.
With so many possibilities, Vancouver is understandably hard to leave for some language students. Young sums up, 'Vancouver is on the edge of wilderness that offers world-class skiing, mountain bike riding and hiking. Students choose [to study here] because there is a wealth of quality language schools and year-round opportunities [for students] to enjoy themselves when their classes are done.'