March 2010 issue

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Prairie provinces of Canada

Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan in central Canada promise a friendly, real study experience for students interested in immersing themselves in authentic Canadian life with an emphasis on the great outdoors. Amy Baker reports.

In our part of the province, it is very common to have families not lock the doors on their homes, so we are able to provide an incredibly safe environment for the students when they are with us,” says Dwayne Zarichny of Mountain View School District, which encompasses 16 schools in seven communities within south-central Manitoba.

Zarichny sums up one of the selling points of the region – the rolling provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – which is its social accessibility and friendliness. The other is the vast open space on the doorstep of all locations, and the activities available as a result.

Skiing, tobogganing, duck hunting, skeet shooting, ice fishing, hiking and snowmobiling are just some of the activities that Zarichny details as typical outdoor pursuits that students might try when in Manitoba. Although not all outdoor activities involve snow, it should be noted that this entire region sees freezing temperatures in winter and is guaranteed snow. Zarichny says, “Not only can we provide a guaranteed white Christmas, but we also can provide the activities which can only be had in an area with four distinct seasons.”

Other activities that foreign students might like to try are archery, hiking, boating, tubing and canoeing. “Students who want an adventure as well as a quality educational experience will choose our communities,” sums up Zarichny. Birgit Hartel at River East Transcona Schools International Education Programme, based in Winnipeg, emphasises, “Our natural environment is outstanding. While we are not a particularly mountainous area of Canada, we do boast over 100,000 fresh water lakes. [Outside of winter], students can hike, play organised sports and enjoy camping and water activities.”

Many of the attractions in the province are natural attractions – Zarichny details Clear Lake Resort in Riding Mountain National Park, polar bears and the Eskimo Museum in Churchill and The Mound in Pilot Mound as among his tips. The Mound, a natural hill in the middle of the plain that was used for ceremonial dances by native Americans, is now a memorial to a battle that took place between buffalo-hunting settlers and the native Sioux who lived in the region in the mid-1850s.

The town of Pilot Mound is also home to Prairie Spirit School Division, which represents schools in “small, safe and clean agricultural rural communities”, says Heidi Arnold, Facilitator of International Education at the division. “The schools strive to provide quality education in safe and respectful environments,” she relates. She notes that students here are within close proximity of Spruce Woods Provincial Park, “home to the only desert in Western Canada”.

Heartland International English School in Winnipeg is, relates Andrew Wilkinson, Marketing Manager, the only private language school in the province accredited by Languages Canada. “Winnipeg embodies the ‘Heart of Canada’ slogan in more ways than one, by being renowned as having some of the warmest and friendliest people in Canada and being located in the geographic centre of Canada,” he says. “Winnipeg can be described as vibrant and cosmopolitan with all the charm of a smaller city.”
Wilkinson echoes Hartel’s claims that there is a lot on offer culturally in the city. “There has been a buzz in Winnipeg over the past few years;” he states. “This has recently culminated in Winnipeg being recognised as one of the 2010 Cultural Capitals of Canada.”

Another prairie province is Saskatchewan, to the left of Manitoba. With its rolling farm fields and grasslands, Saskatchewan typifies the rural, heartland of Canada and is sometimes referred to as the “Land of Living Skies”. Alison Seitz at Luther College High School in Regina extols the virtues of the province: “Saskatchewan offers a unique geography to explore including sand dunes, great plains, rolling hills, lakes and many provincial parks.”

As well as excitingly-titled towns such as Moose Jaw, there are a few larger cities, notably capital Regina and Saskatoon, home to the largest population in the province. There are educational opportunities for international students in both, and Seitz elaborates, “Outside of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, Regina can offer the best of both an urban environment and small close-knit community.” Meanwhile, Kim Hoffart, Director of the International Student Program at Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools board, says of

Hoffart says students appreciate Saskatoon’s big-city amenities, without the costs and crime of big cities. He says they will often attend concerts, such as “Beyonce, Elton John, Rolling Stones and the Foo Fighters”, which have visited fairly recently.

Finally, Alberta borders the prairie heartland and the Canadian Rockies. Perhaps most impressive to visitors are Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, which are home to famous resort towns Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. Most students will head to Calgary, the largest city in the province, which blends impressive urban amenities into a small-scale navigable city that is geared up to stand all temperatures. A series of interconnecting high-level walkways ensure citizens can get around without having to brave the cold winters!

Bonnie McKie of the Calgary Board of Education gives a strong reason for choosing Calgary: “The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) tops the world in academics,” she says. “In international testing, Alberta had the top scores in mathematics, reading and science. CBE was not only top in Canada, but of all English speaking countries.”

For English language training, one option is Global Village (GV) Calgary, a school in a heritage building that has been redeveloped for an international community, with the top floor housing a café and student social area. John Taplin at GV Calgary says students always take trips to the Rockies. He details, “Students really like winter sports including skiing, snowboarding as well as hiking, horseback riding and whitewater rafting in other seasons.”

Agent viewpoint

“I mostly send high school students to Winnipeg because we receive a very professional and great service from the school district we work with and Winnipeg is a very safe place to live. Its people are kind and the city itself has much to offer: Students like to go to the movies, shopping malls; there is much art and culture as well as sports and all types of music concert. But mainly, they enjoy the nature and its wide open spaces, they like going to the lakes to do water sports and skiing. Winnipeg is an affordable city, compared with others in Canada. It is host to world class ballet, theatre, visual arts, music and festivals.. and although Canada is well known as a multicultural country, Winnipeg welcomes everybody as a member of its community. My students report there is no racism at all. Winnipeg people are very open to all cultures.”
Elizabeth Madrid, Alianzas Culturales, Mexico

“Manitoba has so much to offer. On the one hand, there is Winnipeg, a great city with lots of attractions and many cultural events. On the other hand, there is fantastic wildlife and there are beautiful landscapes. Among the animals that can be found in Manitoba are elk, moose, pelicans, buffalo, lynx, black bears, beavers and even polar bears up in the north. Students choose to study in Winnipeg because our partner (River East Transcona School Division) offers a great programme. The schools offer a great variety of courses, eg Aerospace Technology, Robotics or Cosmetology. Even though Winnipeg is in the English speaking part of Canada, one of the schools does offer all its courses in French. This is a unique opportunity for German students to improve their English as well as their French.”
Thomas Müller, Treff Sprachreisen, Germany

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