Fifteen-year-old Japanese exchange students Yui Matsumiya and Reina Yanagisawa are flanked by their homestay mom Alicia Brown

Fifteen-year-old Japanese exchange students Yui Matsumiya and Reina Yanagisawa are flanked by their homestay mom Alicia Brown

Relationship-building through cultural exchange

Japanese students visit Saanich to learn and explore

While most teenagers are probably not too interested in spending part of their overseas summer vacation in a classroom, 14 students from Kitakamakura Girls’ high school in Japan have no problem with it.

The Japanese girls, on an exchange in Saanich this week through Muskoka Language International, are getting an authentic B.C. experience as ESL students at Pacific Christian Secondary and as tourists.

“So far they’ve been having a good time in classroom studies. They’ve learned a little bit about the provinces and territories, and we’ve had a lot of activities to try and get them communicating details about themselves in English: favourite foods, pets, family members,” said Sarah Carrie, program co-ordinator for the Victoria division of MLI.

“Here (in Canada) is when they work on their spoken language. They can practise writing in English at home, but when they’re here it’s important they start practising how they say the words.”

But the exchange doesn’t see the girls stuck in a classroom the entire time. Hikes through Goldstream Provincial Park and Christmas Hill, and visits to the Royal B.C. Museum, The Butchart Gardens, Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary and Victoria Butterfly Gardens are also part of their weeklong experience in Greater Victoria.

MLI sends upwards of 450 Japanese students to Saanich on an annual basis, allowing both local and foreign teenagers the chance to get up close and personal with a drastically different culture.

“I think it’s really important for them to have the experience of exchange,” Carrie said. “For the Japanese students, this gives them the cultural experience and it also shows them the diversity of our city – the history, the natural history, the First Nations history.”

Alicia Brown, a home stay parent currently hosting two  Kitakamakura students, says the cultural differences and language barriers are easy to overcome when a young traveller comes in to your home.

“It’s really quite interesting because I wasn’t sure at first how we were going to manage, but they’re so polite. I have two children and they are so excited every time we have students,” Brown says. “They’re just so much joy to the kids. They have a lot of fun and they play with the children. That cultural interaction is so important.”

Brown says she provides an authentic experience to the students by treating them as her own children, knowing full well they may be scared travelling without their parents and staying with strangers.

“They’re well taken care of here, like my children, and they’re very loved when they come to my home,” she said. “I love to take them downtown and show them what Victoria’s all about. And they’re amazed. They feel so blessed being part of it – you can see it in their eyes how they get so excited.”

Aya Okada, a Grade 10 student, said her first impressions of Canada were how relaxed people are and how beautiful our natural environment is.

“Canada is very big,” the 15-year-old said. She and her classmates will spend the rest of the week in Victoria, then travel to Vancouver on Monday.

Students from Kitakamakura have been coming to Victoria for the past eight years, thanks to an ever-growing relationship between Carrie and Ms. Oda, a Grade 10 teacher from the Japanese school.

Carrie says she’s continually impressed by how open the Japanese students are to the experience.

“The international program does bring a lot to our local community and economy, in terms of the learning, cultural exchange and the downtown and Saanich economies,” she said.

“It’s an equal sharing experience on both sides. It’s not just about ‘this is what we do here.’ The students love to learn about other cultures because it can only make it better for awareness.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Landis Carmichael is the Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as the Emergency Services Award winner. (Photo courtesy Landis Carmichael)
29-year-old firefighter has spent almost half his life with Langford department

Landis Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Emergency Services Award

Shannon Davis, manager at Sidney’s Star Cinema, holds up the largest available bag of popcorn available for sale at the theatre. It also also sells four smaller sizes in generating revenue following its closure last fall because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney theatre fills bottom line with popcorn sales

Theatre applying to return to doing our household-only private rentals

The construction zone remains for now at Clover Point, but plans for a new pedestrian zone and partially closed traffic loop were approved by Victoria councillors on Thursday. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Victoria council compromises with partial closure of Clover Point

Option preserves parking 14 spots facing ocean, creates more pedestrian space

(Black Press Media file photo)
Trees Cannabis to reignite downtown Victoria location as licensed store

The dispensary will reopen its 230 Cook St. location on Saturday

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen as COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Most Read