February 2009 issue

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Glorious Vancouver

A multitude of sports activities await language students going to Vancouver to learn English, as well as beautiful scenery and a vibrant modern city. Bethan Norris finds out what makes Vancouver one of the most popular study destinations in Canada.

There is no shortage of language schools in Vancouver and staff at many of them leap at the chance to extol the virtues of their city. “I’ve never met anyone who has visited Vancouver and not liked it,” says Ken Gardner, President of Vancouver English Centre, who adds, “Vancouver is a recreational paradise.”

Barabara Godt from King George International College says that her experiences have enabled her to see the city from the point of view of students. “I emigrated here from Austria, so when I first came here I saw the city through the eyes of an international student and I just fell in love with it. ‘The best place on earth’ – the British Columbia licence plate says it all!”

Vancouver consistently ranks highly in international guides ranking world cities in terms of their quality of life and the proximity of many natural attractions, as well as a mild year round climate, means that there is no shortage of recreational activities to take part in. Lucas Bertoli from iTTTi says that the city’s unique location sets it apart from other world cities. “The difference is that Vancouver is located on the water and by many beautiful mountains, thus increasing the number of mountain/water activities students can enjoy,” he says.

There are a number of large ski resorts within easy reach of Vancouver city centre and Paul Maher from Global Village Vancouver, says, “The nearby coastal mountains have record snowfalls in North America which makes for premium conditions for snow sports.” Cypress, Grouse and Seymour Mountains are all reachable by public transport, while the world famous ski resort of Whistler is only two hours away. The resort is to co-host the 2010 Winter Olympics with Vancouver, and Jeff Romonko from IH Vancouver says that the city is getting ready to welcome visitors from all over the world. “Vancouver is one of the most multicultural cities in the world,” he adds. “This contributes to its vibrancy. You can eat food from just about any country and you can shop for items from around the world.”

With its reputation for a high quality of life, Vancouver is a popular destination for those wanting to emigrate and the city has welcomed many different newcomers from North America and further afield over the years. This means that the local people tend to be very tolerant of strangers, according to Godt. “People stop on the street and help you when you look lost and have a street map in your hand,” she says. “Once one of our student forgot how to go home – he had no address and no phone number with him – and he was assisted by a lady who called us and once she got the homestay details from us then she drove him home.”

Gardner agrees that local Vancouver residents tend to be “friendly and relaxed” and adds that students have little to fear from crime. “Vancouverites tend to be honest and law abiding,” he says. “Recently two of our students left their wallets in a city bus. They later retrieved them from the transit company, with credit cards and a large amount of cash in tact. That sort of thing is not unusual here.”

This friendliness means that interacting with the locals is easy for international students and many schools organise events and programmes that ensure plenty of opportunities to meet local people. Maher says, “At Global Village we run a free ‘English in the community club’ which is designed to help students get involved in a wide range of activities happening in the city, such as participating in organising marathons, international film festivals, dragon boat races etc. The introduction service enables students to meet Canadians, form lasting friendships and make them feel part of the community.”

The local obsession with sports and outdoor activities also offers a way to interact with local people. “Vancouver has a very well developed and inexpensive parks and recreation system,” says Romonko. “Students can swim, take part in sports and use well-equipped gyms for only a few dollars a month.” IH Vancouver also arranges a number of activities to ensure that students explore the history and attractions of Vancouver to its fullest. “We do theme weeks where students do a variety of tasks to learn more about the city, Canada and the world around them,” says Romonko. “We recently held a photo-scavenger hunt where students were sent to find various interesting and historical locations around the city.”

And to further cement friendships with locals and other students, Vancouver offers an array of restaurants, clubs, bars and cafés, says Gardner. “There are a number of clubs and restaurants in the downtown areas of Yaletown, the West End and Robson Street that are frequented by students,” he says. “There are also plenty of opportunities to make new friends and practise English at parties, picnics and sporting events.”

Vancouver offers students so much to do and see that it would be easy for them to spend their entire trip within the confines of the city, yet there is also a lot to explore within easy reach of the city too. Maher says that their school organises trips to Victoria, Vancouver Island, Whistler and the Rocky Mountains, which are popular with students. He adds, “There has been recent interest in overnight trips to the beautiful Okanagan region to tour the wineries and taste award winning wines.”

Students at King George International College get to experience some of Canada’s great outdoors if they are studying at the school in May as Godt says that the school closes down completely for one week and 150 students and staff go on a trip to Banff in 25 recreational vehicles. “[We also arrange] bigger trips to Portland [Oregon] for baseball games,” she adds.

Vancouver is close to the USA and many local people make trips across the border for the day. Students with US visas can also cross the border to touch American soil. Gardner says that they arrange weekend trips to Seattle in the USA for students, as well as nearer-to-home Victoria on Vancouver Island. “Our Seattle trips often include a baseball or football game,” he adds.

Agent viewpoint

“Vancouver has not too cold weather (for Brazilians it’s very important), but with the possibility of being able to ski/snowboard. It is not too big a city (compared with Sao Paulo), but big enough to be able to do everything [students] want. Students mostly ski and snowboard in their spare time. Vancouver is also very organised, clean and safe. It is not so easy for students to mix with local people. Their only way to do it is through the host family and this is a key point when choosing a language school to work with.”
Monica Mandil, N&M Intercambios, Brazil

“Students really love the location. Sea, mountains and parks all together are not very common and make Vancouver a unique city to study in. Our students like the outdoor sports, jogging in Stanley Park, taking a trip to Victoria, going whale watching or going hiking in the mountains. Vancouver is known to be a very liberal and easygoing metropolis.”
Claudio Cesarano, globo-study, Switzerland

“Students particularly like the weather, the beach and the many activities [available]. They enjoy the beach very much. They can also ride bicycles and go to school by this means. Vancouver offers a multitude of things to do, many stemming from the variety offered by the seaside and mountains. The Sky Train links up with the sea bus, making North Vancouver part of the rapid transportation network. It is really easy for local students to get involved with the local life as the inhabitants of Vancouver know that this is one of the main economic activities for them. The local people try to welcome students and to make them feel happy.”
Ana Maria Gonzalez Paquot, Enjoy Languages, Mexico

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The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





English Australia  
Perth Education


Your World on

Malta Tourism
Office de

English Australia  

Bond University
Curtin University
La Trobe University
Language Studies
Pacific Gateway
      University of
University of
Wollongong College

Berlitz Canada  
Bodwell College  
Camber College  
English Bay
Global Village 
      (Australia, Canada,
Richmond School
      District #38  
Vancouver English

      Language Training

Ardmore Language
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Bell International
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Camp Beaumont  
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Kaplan Aspect  
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LAL Language
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Malvern House
      College London  
Northumbria School
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Queen Ethelburga's
RLI Language
St Giles Colleges  
      (Canada, UK, USA)
Study Group  
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, New Zealand,
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Twin Group  
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University of
      Essex - International
Wimbledon School
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      Université de
Alliance Française
      Paris Ile de France  
French in
Langues Sans
Universite d'Avignon
      et des Pays du

Carl Duisberg
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F+U Academy  
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International House
      Berlin - Prolog  

Centre of English

Kai Japanese
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      Language School  
EC English
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inlingua Malta  

EAC Language
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Cape Studies  
EC Cape Town  
      Cape Town  
Good Hope
inlingua Language
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Interlink School
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International House
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LAL Cape Town  
      Teaching Centre  
Shane Global
      Language Centres -
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South African
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¡Idiomas Si!  
International House
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EF Language
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Zoni Language
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