On any given school day, you can walk through the halls of Parkland secondary school and pass students from Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Spain, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, China, Japan, Columbia and Austria. You might even hear the occasional word of a foreign language. This is all because of the 86 international students who have chosen to study at Parkland through the Saanich international student program.
To get a better idea of what attending school in a different country is really like, I talked with Yurui He and Juanje Martos, two international students at Parkland.
Yurui, who also goes by the Canadian name of Jessie, came to Parkland from China almost two years ago. She wanted to study English and Canada seemed to be a safe country to go to. Yurui will graduate from Parkland this spring and plans to continue living in Canada to study business at the University of British Columbia.
“If I can find a job here, I would live here,” she said. “I like Canada.”
Juanje, who travelled from Spain, has been attending Parkland since September and he’ll be staying until the end of the school year before returning to Spain to finish high school. He chose to study at Parkland because he read about the fine arts and theatre programs the school offers. He had a leading role in our school musical, Bye Bye Birdie, and was very impressed by the musical theatre program.
“I found it really professional. I was really surprised,” he told me. “If we want to do a musical in Spain, we do not have anyone to help us. We do not have three, even four teachers that can help us [like we do at Parkland].”
Yet, as exciting as it is to be immersed in the culture of a new country, there are some drawbacks.
“Even if I can Skype with my family and friends, it’s not the same,” Juanje expressed.
Yurui agreed. “You need to get to know new friends and new people.”
However, they both agreed that, so far, their time in Canada has been a positive experience overall.
“I feel very free here,” Yurui concluded. “It feels like I’m grown up now because I can choose whatever I want.”
Catriona Dempsey is a Grade 11 student at Parkland secondary school.