An official welcoming ceremony was held at École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School on Thursday to welcome dozens of students from Guangdong Province, China to Lacombe as part of Wolf Creek Public School’s International Learning Program.
The three-week program involves 65 Chinese students split into two groups, each staying for two weeks with an overlapping stay of one week.
Wolf Creek Public Schools Superintendent Jayson Lovell says the program is significant because it reflects the desires expressed by grade 9 and 12 students two years ago to experience other cultures.
“Cultural exchange is really that pathway that we can provide as a school division to allow our students an opportunity to both visit and experience other cultures, in this case, it’s China,” says Lovell. “As equally as important, is students coming from China to Wolf Creek to experience our culture and our language and our warm hospitality in central Alberta and lifestyle.”
Lovell also feels It’s been a great opportunity for the district to be the first school division in Alberta K-12 to offer this opportunity.
“There’s been a memorandum of understanding established in Alberta since 2007 but we’re the first school division to act on it,” he says. “So we’re really proud that we’re the first, not only because of the significance of us being the first school division but most importantly to see what we just witnessed today, which is an opportunity for students from both and staff from both countries to come together and really experience something pretty special.”
Lovell says the program may also grow in the future, expanding to six months or year-long stays for Chinese students and for more schools from Wolf Creek Public Schools to become involved as well.
“That’s an important step for us is to grow the program in a way where it’s more of an immersed and educational experience to tie into their educational program,” adds Lovell. “We also are looking at having our Wolf Creek students visit China in March. We’ve had preliminary discussions around sending a group of our students, which could potentially be between 30 and 35 students who will visit that Guangdong region.”
Lovell notes another important component to the program is teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to the Chinese students.
“In the morning, they’ve actually had English as a Second Language teaching and instruction with a teacher but also with their student ambassador that they’ve been buddied with from Lacombe,” states Lovell. “So the language enrichment part is a really important part of this program and it’s a little unique in that sense because programs often just focus on excursions and experiences which are really important but we really wanted a blend of educational opportunities with some of those cultural experiences and the sights and sounds of Alberta.”
Chinese student Jiang Yihan, 18, is part of the first group of students concluding his two-week stay in Alberta and says he enjoyed many aspects of his trip to Canada.
“I love the weather here and the sky is blue and the air is fresh,” says Yihan. “I’m very thankful to the teachers and the school and student ambassador. Also my host family, she showed me her love like my mom, I’m very happy and will talk about this experience with my classmates and friends.”
Chen Guo, 13 is just beginning his stay in Alberta and says he’s taking part in the program to improve himself and learn more English.
“I want to learn the culture of Canada,” he explains. “English skills and the culture, I love the food in Canada.”
Fellow student Liang Jingwen, 16, says she’s looking forward to learning a lot.
“I look forward to making friends, learning more about Canadian culture, education and having some food,” states Jingwen.
Morris Jiang, 13, says he too is taking part because he wants to learn more about Canadian culture.
“I want to make friends with the Canadian students,” says Jiang. “Canada is the second largest country in the world and its food is very delicious. In Canada, people are very friendly and I think the trip is very meaningful and can teach us many things.”
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