Every student who achieves a British Columbia High School Graduation must fulfill the “Grad Transition (GT)” requirement in their grade 12 year. This involves completion of several tasks including thirty hours of work-related experience, a log book of their physical activity schedules and successful participation in the “GT Interview”.
Recently, five Stelly’s International Students who will graduate in January impressed the “GT Interview” team consisting of school staff and community representatives with reflections on their experiences in Saanich and their plans for the future.
Reika and Yurie are from Japan while Even, Winnie and Lingbo come from China. Their time in Saanich ranges from 1.5 to 3 years. In their individual interviews, each student explained why they wanted to study abroad and how they have changed since arriving at Stelly’s.
All five described their determination to attend high school in Canada and how they persuaded their parents to let them go. They each had a vision that experiencing a different school system, living in a different culture, learning a new language, meeting new friends and facing unknown challenges would help them grow as independent individuals.
Jose Andre’s from Mexico and Kevin from China are enjoying their grade 8 year at Bayside Middle School in Saanich. Both boys appreciate the differences between their schools back home and what they are experiencing at Bayside. “School is simpler here, we only have four blocks a day and the classes are easier. We don’t have to wear uniforms, we can just wear ordinary clothes.” They also like the approach to learning at Bayside. “Our teachers are very nice, they help us a lot and take the time to answer our questions. We go on field trips and sometimes the teachers show movies that help us learn. That is better than listening to the teacher all the time. There is not so much homework here and it is more interesting. We do projects like biographies or posters so it is more enjoyable.”
Life outside of school is also easier in Saanich. Jose likes his homestay but Kevin lives with his mother who has also come to Canada. “My homestay family is really nice, we have a dog and I have two “brothers” to talk with. My family never says what I can’t do, they just want me to tell them what I am doing.” (Jose) “People are really kind here, when my mother goes shopping, people help her with the money and how to buy things.” (Kevin) Both boys feel very safe when they go out. “Security is good here, I can take a bus at any time and people will always help you if you don’t know where to go.” (Jose) “Back home you always have to be careful on the subway that someone will steal your money, but it’s not like that here in Canada.” (Kevin) The fresh, clean environment is also an advantage of living in Saanich.
When Marc first arrived in Saanich from Hong Kong in September, he hoped to find a local Fencing Club to join. “Back home in Hong Kong, we had a fencing club at school. It is very popular over there, we even have competitions between the schools." Although Marc enjoys many sports, fencing has become his favourite. I have been fencing for three years now. I like the individual nature of it. You have to rely on yourself and I like that.” Marc has joined the Capital City Fencing Club in Victoria and practises three evenings a week for two hours at a time. He can compete with other club members and receives coaching from several adult mentors.
“Our schedule was a bit different in Hong Kong because we practised twice a week afte r school and again on Saturdays. But I’m glad I can continue with my fencing and get this amount of practice time here.” Marc’s coach is happy to have him in the club. “He is a very good fencer and we are delighted to have a new member with his skill, send us more like him.”
Jeff and Baron from Taiwan are so proud of themselves for completing their high school graduation programs in Saanich. “We have been here for four years, starting with grade nine. It was very hard at first but now we are glad we came.” Both students achieved University Entrance Graduation and received offers from several big schools. Jeff has decided on Georgia Tech in the U.S. where he will study Bio-Medical Engineering.
“I had many offers and narrowed it down to three or four but chose Georgia Tech as it is one of the top two in my interest area.” Baron will stay inVictoriato study Computer Science at UVic to start with. “I haven’t decided what my specialty will be, perhaps Engineering or Medicine or more Science. I also had offers from UBC and SFU but decided on UVic because I can continue with my Homestay and I am used to Victoria.
Jeff and Baron are glad they came to Saanich and would recommend the International Student Program to other students who are interested in studying inNorth America.“It is expensive to come here but it is worth it if the student works hard and tries to be part of the school. You will learn more about different cultures and this is important if you are going to stay.” (Jeff) “I would encourage all the International Students to go to a Canadian high school first before attending any North American university. With four years education in a Canadian secondary school on your transcript or CV, it will not just increase your chances of getting into some outstanding Canadian universities, but will boost your speaking, writing, listening and reading skills to ensure that you will satisfy the advanced literary skills at the university level in order to be successful for the future.” (Baron)
Nanna and Iver from Norway wanted to study abroad and are pleased they chose the Saanich International Student Program because of the wide range of courses and activities available in their schools and the community. Both students say that they decided to go overseas because they enjoy new experiences and wanted to become more independent. For Nanna, “My main reason for coming was the overall experience of doing something different.” Iver feels the same, “I’m interested in experiencing new things, I wanted to live the culture and see how schools are over here.”
In Norway their school is on the linear system where they take eleven courses all year. “Our teachers move around and we stay in the same class group. But the semester system here helps you to focus more because you are taking fewer courses at the one time.” Choosing Canada was an easy decision. Nanna , “I’ve always wanted to travel to see other parts of the world but I’ve been interested.
An important consideration in choosing Saanich was the opportunity to choose a school program that would give them credits for their Norwegian high school graduation requirements. In Norway they attend a “Sports High School” so in Canada would have to engage in courses and activities that would be recognized in Norway. Saanich schools and local community programs offer such a wide range of options that both students found it easy to meet their educational needs in Canada since I did a project on this country in elementary school”.Iver, “I like hockey so I wanted to come to Canada where people live and breathe hockey and treat it as their national sport. We also wanted to improve our English. In Norway we learn English from an early age and now we have a chance to speak it all the time and to actually think in English.”