Dense, sprawling plains are a defining characteristic of the Prairie Provinces (comprising Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba). While these dense patches of grassland are more commonly found in the southern reaches of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the term has become very much embedded in the cultural and political identity of these three regions.
According to John Taplin at Global Village (GV) Calgary in Alberta, the prairies have their own unique charm, complemented by four very distinct seasons. “When we opened in 1996, I thought students would be worried by the winter, but they revel in it. It is not uncommon to see students...out in the park across from the school having a friendly snowball fight,” he says.
With fewer international students than more traditional destinations, Gary Gervais at Heartland International English School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, says students get to experience the “real” Canada. Like Taplin, he notes that the country is defined by the seasons which naturally feed into student activities. “Students can experience a real Canadian winter on the prairies like skating on a frozen river or lake. Long hot summer days mean lots of time to experience outdoor activities, festivals or trips to the beach. We have 100,000 lakes in Manitoba,” he says.
The Calgary centre of Sol Schools International is well-positioned for students to experience both prairie and city life. Situated in the heart of the city’s shopping and entertainment district, with direct access to public transport, Alexandra Schleicher, says, “Our Calgary campus is truly a nature lover’s paradise with lush prairies, graceful mountains, a bustling city and an untapped beauty you won’t find anywhere else.”
The schools (it also has campuses in Vancouver, Toronto and Miami Beach, USA) provide stock offerings such as general English and exam preparation as well as more targeted courses such as Specialised Intensive English, designed to produce quick results. “This is our most popular course,” says Schleicher. “It focusses on the core fundamentals of English with grammar and idioms, listening and speaking, reading and vocabulary, and writing and presentation.” In addition, students can choose two electives to customise their course electives include accent reduction, conversation and pronunciation and even English for a specific purposes.
General English is a consistent performer at GV Calgary. Taplin observes that students also gravitate towards programmes that will earn them an internationally recognised qualification such as Cambridge FCE, Celta, TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test) and Ielts.
Increased demand for Ielts test preparation has also been noted at Geos Language Plus in Calgary, as Director Kevin Ellwood explains. “Demand for this programme has jumped because so many foreign workers in Calgary need testing for immigration [purposes].” Intensive daytime and part-time evening programme options have been added as a result.
Founded in 1999, Heartland offers intensive English, Ielts test preparation a programme area that was expanded recently and a Study English and Work programme, which affords students the chance to study the language and gain work experience. Students are required to study full-time for a minimum of 24 weeks and the length of the work placement must be equal to or less than the students’ study period.
Combining work with study is hugely popular with students at Sol Schools International. “Calgary is one of the best places in the world for students looking for a place to study and earn an income,” says Schleicher, and students can opt to take either the school’s Professional Internship or Paid Work Co-op programme. In order to undertake the latter students must enrol on the school’s English for Co-op programme, which allows students to get a handle on vocabulary required in the workplace.
There has been greater interest from South American markets of late, attests Ellwood and this is expected to continue. “Their economies are growing, plus there is a strong connection to the oil and gas industry,” he says. Traditional source markets Japan and Korea are performing well too, but they are beginning to wane, adds Ellwood. Conversely, the Korean market represents 25 per cent of the student population at GV, but Brazilian and Taiwanese markets have started to increase in the last two years, says Taplin. Meanwhile, Gervais predicts Brazil and China will be growth markets over the next year. email@example.com
A selection of courses available in schools in the Prairie Provinces
(Due to the complexity of the data, this article is only displayed in the digital issue of Study Travel Magazine)