October 2007 issue

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Adventures in Ontario

A mix of welcoming towns and cities, wide expanses of spectacular scenery and excellent adventure activities all combine to leave a lasting impression on language travellers to Ontario. Gillian Evans reports.

Ontario has impressive credentials: it is Canada’s second-largest province after Quebec; has Canada’s largest city, Toronto, and the country’s capital Ottawa; is home to over a third of the country’s population; and accounts for over half of Canada’s industrial and agricultural resources. Nevertheless, it is a province “very rich in nature and parks”, according to Magda Karasinska, Marketing Director of the International Language Academy of Canada, which has a centre in Toronto.

David Oancia from Hansa Language Centre in Toronto believes that the main draw for many students going to study in Canada is its wonderful natural environment. “Canada has the reputation for a bucolic wonderland dotted with interesting cities and Ontario is no different on that front,” he states.

Ontario’s other important attributes are, says Joanna Nicholson at Queen’s University School of English in Kingston, the fact that it is “safe, has a rich culture and the cost of living is significantly lower than in countries that also offer ESL, such as the United States or the United Kingdom”.

Being surrounded by great scenery means that outdoor activities are an important element of an Ontario experience for most language school students. “One of our most popular summertime activities is a caoe camping trip through Algonquin National Park,” relates Oancia. “The students paddle their way through some pristine countryside, camp under the stars and are able to witness the beauty and power of nature first-hand. The students almost always say that the activity was the highlight of their trip to Ontario.”

Camille Withaney at Access English in Toronto, which also offers a camping trip to the park, adds, “There is nothing like seeing the stars when there are no city lights around and experiencing incredible sunsets and sunrises in this vast untouched place.”

A province characterised by water, Ontario is lapped by Hudson Bay to the North and the Great Lakes to the south – including the famous Niagara Falls. In between, the province has numerous small lakes, rivers and streams. In fact, the name Ontario is thought to have its origins in a word that means “great lake” or “beautiful water”.

Situated on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, Kingston is famous for being the freshwater sailing capital of North America, according to Joanna Nicholson at Queen’s University School of English, located on the campus of Queen’s University in Kingston. She adds, “[Kingston] offers a vibrant day and nightlife, with many attractions and activities for students. One of the many historic landmarks is Bellevue House, the former house of Canada’s first Prime Minister.”

Ontario is also home to Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, sandwiched between the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau Rivers. It is not only the seat of government but also a thriving centre for information technology and business. Nadia Ramseier, Sales and Recruitment Officer for Non-Credit ESL Programs at Carleton University in the city, goes as far as to call it “one of the most beautiful G8 capitals in the world”.

Also on the shores of Lake Ontario is Toronto, which Karasinska dubs a “mosaic of cultures and nationalities”. In fact, according to Oancia, Toronto has been declared by Unesco to be the most multicultural city in the world. This, says Gayle Forler, Director of Marketing at LSC Language Studies Canada, located in the city, is a big draw for international students who travel to Toronto to learn English, as it “makes students feel at home right away”.

The colourful mix of nationalities is reflected throughout the city. Karasinska explains, “Toronto has many different neighbourhoods such as ‘Little Italy’, ‘Greek Town’ and one of the largest China Towns in the world, to name a few. There are many different cuisines to choose from so eating out is a very hot trend in Toronto.”

Despite Toronto being the largest city in Canada, Oancia is keen to stress, “the city is not just a concrete jungle”. He explains, “Featuring over 90 kilometres of trails, there are many green spaces, gardens, parks and even lakeside beaches accessible at any given moment. In essence, it’s a great place to jog, ride a bike, and cross- country ski.”

Being a major city, there are plenty of things to do and see, and Withaney lists just some of the city’s highlights. “There is of course the CN Tower where you can take an elevator to the top and then walk on the grass floor; watch a baseball game at Rogers Center; visit Casa Loma in the heart of downtown; [and] visit the new Crystal building at the Royal Ontario Museum.”

Culturally, too, there is something on offer for everyone. “Apart from a thriving theatre panorama, there are impressive independent rock and electronica scenes, with major clubs, bands and DJs,” relates Oancia.

For a different experience of Ontario, students could head to North Bay, which is situated between Lake Nipissing and Trout Lake and offers an atmosphere somewhere between a big city and small

Agent viewpoint

“Students choose to study in Ontario because of its cities and its location. Students can easily travel from one attractive city to another one, from Toronto to Ottawa, to Montreal to Quebec. Also, they like its multiculturalism and reputation. According to our students, the cities there are modern, safe and full of warm people. Toronto is the first choice as it is one of the most well known cities in the world. Students are always very surprised by how helpful Canadians are. Also, they always talk about the high quality education in schools and universities.”
Jose Montes Castilla, UcanLearn, Mexico

“I like to send my students to small communities in Ontario because most of them are under 12 years old and a safe place, as well as a demanding English atmosphere, is crucial for the success of the programmes I run. They love the activities scheduled by the host school which are always focused on academic purposes and the full day excursions on weekends, which allow them to visit great places such as Toronto and Niagara Falls. Almost all my students attend the immersion programmes the schools run in groups and are escorted by their own teachers. This means attendees always have a packed calendar with 30 lessons a week plus daily field trips keeping them so busy that despite their age, homesickness is never an issue.”
Hugo Alberto Restrepo, Palomares Tours SA/Optima International, Colombia

“My students like to travel and study. They also like to go where there aren’t many other Korean students; somewhere close to the USA where they can apply for a tourist visa before they depart. In vacations, students go to the USA and then fly on to the state of Ontario. They use this opportunity to study as well as to meet new friends.”
Alex Lee, iAE Edu Net, Korea

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