November 2010 issue

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Canadian style

Canada is a vast country with endless opportunities for outdoor activities, lively safe cities, welcoming towns, and great education and work opportunities, as Gillian Evans finds out.

Canada has never been so attractive to international students. While its untamed scenery, lively cities, quality education and friendly population continue to draw students from around the world, an additional attraction is the country’s favourable work regulations for international students. According to Micki Lalonde, Manager of International Recruitment and Marketing at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, BC, international students are now permitted to work part-time during their studies and to stay in Canada to work for up to three years after completing a diploma or degree course. In addition, she says, “Now that the Canadian government has adjusted the immigration policies in recognition that international students make some of the best immigrants, Canada is even more desirable for those international students who fall in love with our beautiful country and decide to apply for immigration.”

And no wonder visitors to Canada find it hard to leave. “Canada has garnered a positive reputation as a very safe, friendly destination where students feel they will be treated with respect,” relates Andrew Newton, Marketing Manager at Académie Linguistique Internationale (ALI) in Montreal. “I frequently hear students comment about how accepted and at home they feel in Canada.” He adds that “it also helps” that the cost of living in Canada is significantly lower than in most of Europe or the USA. “Within Canada,” he continues, “the cost of living [in Montreal] is a good 20 to 25 per cent lower than Toronto or Vancouver.”

Montreal itself is a multicultural city with a distinct European feel, a rich cultural history and a lively social scene. To help students get to know the city and its history, ALI recently introduced an optional class called Civilisation Quebecoise, which looks at topics such as the unique cultural background and heritage of the French language, food and dance. “Students really enjoy learning these local facts,” says Newton.

Being a bilingual city, both English and French are used by Montrealers on a daily basis, which says Yuriko Nadeau at Point3 in Montreal, surprises many international students. “It is possible to study both languages without a problem,” adds Nadeau. “Many students who come for one language end up wanting to return to study the other language on their next visit.”

For a more complete French immersion experience, there is Trois-Pistoles, where according to Patricia Trinquet at Académie des Langues, 99 per cent of the population speaks only French. Trinquet herself moved to Canada from France 17 years ago as she was keen to “discover for myself the vastness of this under-populated country“. She adds, “A personal highlight of my region is the beauty of the St Lawrence Estuary with its spectacular sunsets.”

Nature is also abundant in Winnipeg, Manitoba, says Gary Gervais of Heartland International English School. “Recently I spent the day canoeing the Seine River in Winnipeg where I saw wild deer, muskrats, beavers, ducks, geese, hawks, eagles and turtles. The entire 25-kilometre paddle was within city limits.”

Another city that offers plenty of outdoor attractions for visitors to explore is Hamilton in Ontario, the province that is also home to Niagara Falls, a spectacular waterfall that is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. “There are many beautiful sceneries and attractions in Hamilton,” recounts Akosua Andam at Columbia International College in Hamilton. “When people visit Hamilton, they have the opportunity to go hiking at Webster’s Falls, visit Dundurn Castle – one of the biggest castles in Ontario, built in 1835 – and visit the Royal Botanical Gardens [where] tourists have the opportunity to see different species of plants and are dazzled by the flora and fauna there.”

Situated at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Prince George in the north central area of British Columbia, is a great location from which to explore Canada’s great outdoors. Many of the local people have adopted an outdoors lifestyle and culture that is easily accessible to overseas students. “The opportunities to enjoy life in the beautiful outdoors draws many people to our area,” confirms Lalonde at the College of New Caledonia. Every summer the college takes its students on a weekend trip to explore the fantastic scenery of the Rocky Mountains. “During this trip, we walk on ancient glaciers, hike through alpine meadows, swim in hot springs, shop and eat in picturesque villages, and take awesome photos to remember a trip of a lifetime,” relates Lalonde.

Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Halifax in Nova Scotia – which because of its 11 universities, is known as Canada’s education province – offers students a rich ocean experience of Canada. “The sailing in and around Halifax is wonderful,” exclaims Sheila Nunn at the East Coast School of Languages. “Even if you don’t have your own boat, there are many activities to take part in – harbour cruises, deep sea fishing, kayaking, whale watching, and tall ship sailing. In addition to activities on the water, many of our festivals take place on the waterfront [such as] the buskers’ festival, jazz, outdoor movie screenings, beer festivals, night-time art festival, Shakespeare plays performed in a park by the sea and concerts.”

Nunn is keen to dispel the myth that Nova Scotia is cold. In fact, she says, it is one of Canada’s warmest provinces in winter. “Students often think we will have very cold winters because we are beside the sea but our average winter temperatures are warmer than they think. Nova Scotia is further south than London,” she says.

Calgary in Alberta, meanwhile, does experience cold winters, but Sarah Owen at Calgary-based Bow Valley College says that even during the winter months, the sun is shining and there is plenty to do. “Winter brings with it the opportunity to take up activities such as ice skating, ice hockey, snowboarding, skiing, dog sledding and sleigh rides,” she says. There is lots to see and do in Calgary whatever the season and weather. “With its diverse, rich, and artistic cultural scene Calgary has plenty of attractions to keep everyone entertained,” says Owen. “There is always something to do from exploring the food delights of Chinatown, taking a trip up the Calgary Tower, visiting the Glenbow Museum to learn more about Alberta’s western heritage to enjoying a barbeque in the park. These, along with its outstanding public safety record and cleanliness, are the reasons why Calgary is regularly voted as one of the top cities in the world in which to live.”

Two other Canadian cities that regularly feature at the top of the most liveable city league tables are Vancouver and Toronto – which in 2010 ranked first and fourth respectively in the listing produced by The Economist newspaper. Summing up some of Toronto’s attractions for international students, Gloria Tuck at Toronto’s Centennial College says, “Toronto is very safe and diverse and offers something for everyone. The people here are peaceful and accepting and are very friendly and helpful. The city is culturally diverse which means that no matter what their country of origin, students will be welcomed into the community.”

Vancouver, one of Canada’s most popular language travel destinations, also promises students an experience of friendly people, plenty of activities and breathtaking scenery. “I love walking along Kitsilano beach all the way to Granville Island as I can clearly appreciate the combination of mountain and sea,” says Veronica Cartagenova, National Director of ICE Programs at Berlitz Canada. Vancouver has many attractions to visit, but Cartagenova says her favourite is the Vancouver Aquarium, Canada’s largest aquarium and home to the beluga whales. The city also hosts a whole raft of annual events and festivals such as the international fireworks competition and festival, called the Celebration of Light, which, says Cartagenova, “is the ‘must go’ event for all students and Vancouverites”.

Ottawa, the country’s capital, also hosts many festivals throughout the year. Christiane Millet Alexis, Founder and CEO of CMI Interlangues Inc in Ottawa, comments, “People often do not realise how rich culturally Ottawa is. It is not just a capital with museums but a vibrant city with cultural activities year round, three universities, very warm though short summers and beautiful bright long winters. The streets are lively and you can bike or rollerblade safely everywhere.”

Sharen Craig, who set up the National School of Languages (now known as NSL Camps) in Ottawa in 1998, says she was originally drawn to the city by its immense potential. “Which other city in Canada has over 80 museums and galleries, plus over 60 festivals a year?” she asks. “Ottawa is a city of outstanding architecture, multiple waterways such as the Rideau River, Rideau Canal and Ottawa River, and is surrounded by hills and forests. It is a city with an exciting downtown core and lots of tourist attractions all year round including our winter carnival Winterlude.” In addition, in winter the Rideau Canal transforms into the longest ice rink in the world when it freezes over and ski slopes are only half an hour away. “I like to take my students everywhere,” says Millet Alexis. “Winter, summer – every season is fun in Ottawa!”

Agent viewpoint

“Students like Canada because it’s regarded as one of the safest countries to live in. They also choose to study there because they feel there are fewer distractions and there is this widely-held belief amongst Nigerians that Canadians are more hospitable than other Westerners. These [reasons], coupled with the fact that Canadian institutions are recognised worldwide makes Canada a choice destination for Nigerian students looking to further their education abroad. Our students are scattered almost uniformly all around Canada from the far east to the far west but with slightly higher numbers in the city of Manitoba and the province of Ontario. This is because most students like bigger cities and these cities have reputable universities and colleges which offer a wide variety of programmes.”
Tukeni Obasi, Maple Education, Nigeria

“Canada has always been a very popular choice with international students because of the strong cultural diversity, cost advantages, standardised public education system, lure of the North American living experience and the welcoming nature of the Canadian people. The bigger centres like Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary have proved to be the most popular choices for international students over the years but recently they have started looking at the smaller cities like Prince George. This can be attributed to different reasons like much more cultural diversity, experiencing the Canadian culture first hand. Prince George is known to be a great outdoor [location] and a very friendly place for everyone. I have been a resident of Prince George since I moved to Canada in April 2002 and love the place and would not live anywhere else.”
Arvinder Billing, Success International Education Consultants, Canada

“The quality of education in Canada is very good and the post secondary system of education fits in well with our national system where students spend 12 years in primary and secondary education followed by four years of university education. This means that students who have pursued the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education are able to apply and get admission directly to most Canadian universities and colleges. In addition, the cost of studying in Canada is relatively cheaper than the cost of studying in Australia and the UK, which have been popular student destinations for Kenyans. What surprises students most about Canada is the cold temperatures in the winter. The students say that our definition of cold-season wear (our version of winter) is almost summer wear and that in winter it is really cold in Canada.”
Emmanuel Kung’u, Destination Careers, Kenya

“I think it is a combination of a great country, with both nice cities and also a great nature and especially the people that makes people choose to study in Canada. We send students to Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Waterloo-Kitchener. Toronto seems to be the most popular because it is a big city with lots of things to do and also because flights are shorter and cheaper from Spain. What surprises our students most is the friendliness of the people and the excursions they can do from there. As well as all the things to do and see in Toronto city itself, students also travel to Niagara, Montreal and even New York. The ones going to Vancouver, on top of the city itself, travel to Victoria and Whistler. Finally the ones going to Ottawa enjoy the city, some of the nearby National Parks and trips to Montreal and Quebec.”
Juan M. Elizalde, Kells College, Spain

“Students choose Canada for a number of reasons: Canada has beautiful landscape and excellent weather and environmental conditions; it is the most multicultural country in the world, there is no discrimination and people there are very friendly; it provides high quality education and is close to the USA which could offer potential career opportunities. Students enjoy sports such as kayaking, skating, skiing and mountain hiking, which cannot be easily done in China. Also they love shopping and participating in social activities, such as film festivals, fashion festivals and all kinds of celebration events. Canada’s society provides equal opportunities for everyone to develop their career.”
Maggie Gu, Bridge Education Exchange, China

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British Council  
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International House World Organisation  
IALC International  
Languages Canada / Langues Canada  
MEI Ireland  
Neas Australia  
Quality English  

Globus Education Agency  
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Cambridge Esol  

Dr. Walter GmbH  
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LTM Digital  
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Twin Group  

Academies Australasia  
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Language Studies International  
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Universal English College (Global Village Sydney)  
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Ecela - Latin Immersion  

Ceran Lingua International  

Berlitz Canada   
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Capilano University  
College Platon  
East Coast School of Languages  
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Global Village  
Guard.me Insurance  
International Language School of the YMCAs Quebec  
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National School of Languages  
Niagara College  
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Queen's University  
Saint Mary's University  
School District No. 42 Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows  
Stewart College of Languages  
St Giles Colleges  
Study Abroad Canada  
Thompson Rivers University  
Vancouver English Centre  
VanWest College  

Cyprus Tourist Office  
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Tandem Santiago  

Mandarin House  

Intensa Spanish Language School  

Study Team Cuba  

IH Cairo  

Active Learning  
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Cambridge Education Group  
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Quality English  
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St Clare's Oxford  
St Giles Colleges  
Study Group  
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Twin Group  
University of Essex - International Academy  
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Accent Francais  
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College International de Cannes  
Ecole PERL  
Ecole Suisse Internationale  
Education En France  
Institut de Langue et de Culture Françaises - ILCF  
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Le Franc Parler   
LSF Montpellier  
Lyon Bleu International  
Media Langues Caraibes   
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GLS Sprachenzentrum  
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F & U Academy of Languages   

Media Langues Caraibes  

Academia de Espanol Probigua  

Cork English College /Language & Activity Holidays  
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Galway Cultural Institute  
Horner School of English  

Alpha School of English  
Clubclass Residential Language School  
EC English Language Centre  
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Feltom (Via Malta Tourism Authority)  

Habla Ya Language Center  

Derzhavin Institute  

EAC Language Centres and Activity Camps  
University of Stirling  

CLIC-IH Seville   
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Malaga Si  
Inturjoven Spanish Courses  
Pamplona Learning Spanish Institute   

EF Language Colleges Ltd  
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Hargrave Military Academy  
Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs  
Language Consultants International  
University of California Riverside  
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