Moving to a new place and starting at a new school can be a challenge. What can make it even more difficult is when that school is on the other side of the world. Nakusp Secondary School (NSS) is hosting five such students as part of the school district’s international education program.
Three of the students, Bill, Oliver, and Andrew, are from China. Maria is from Spain, and Sahya is from Japan.
The program for SD 10 is slightly different than other international programs. Because the students are in such a small community, the district can personalize the program and the experience for the students, something that might not happen in a larger area.
“If you go to high school in Vancouver as an international student, they’ll put you in an ESL class, and you can’t go to a regular class,” said Oliver. “In that class, the international students might not speak good English, so your English won’t improve so fast. Here, we can go to English class with local people, native speakers, and that makes our English improve faster.”
To help the students better acclimate to their new school surroundings, the district has an English Language Learning (ELL) instructor.
“I try to venture into each of their classrooms, wherever the need seems to be the most, and assist them in their learning,” said Jesse Law, the district’s ELL instructor. “In doing so, I work closely with the classroom teacher.”
Law is only able to make it up to Nakusp on Thursdays, but keeps in contact with the instructors at NSS.
“In working with the classroom teacher closely via email, and trying to keep up with what they’re doing in their studies and in their homework, we’re able to collaboratively work toward an education program that tries to suit and fit the students best, looking for any areas of difficulty or challenge.”
Students are also assigned a buddy to show them around and help them get used to everything.
“Everybody in the school, they really accept us,” said Maria. “They want to meet you, it’s really nice.”
The international program also has a home stay program to house the students while they’re here.
Because the area has such a small population, some residents feel they might not be qualified to house international students because they themselves might not have children.
“If they have a room, and wish to learn about other cultures and help an international student learn English and the Canadian culture, they are fully qualified to be homestays,” says Ryoko Kobayashi, vice-principal at NSS. “They can contact us at the school district, or the individual schools anytime, and I have homestay information meetings.”
Kobayashi added she has one such meeting coming up on April 13, at the NSS library, and is hoping that will bring people out to learn more about it, and to sign up.
An interesting aspect to the homestay part of the program is parents sometimes come with their children.
Oliver and Andrew are brothers, and their mother is also with them here in Nakusp. They live in a separate house on the property of the homestay parents. Oliver said having their mother here has been a comfort, and has made moving to a new place easier.
For some of the students, this isn’t their first time taking part in the international program.
Last year, Bill lived in New Denver, going to Lucerne Elementary Secondary School, and living with his aunts. His family felt he needed a change, so he was enrolled at NSS for the 2015/2016 school year.
Kobayashi said having the international students at NSS has been a great influence on the student population.
“There are a lot of comments from various teachers saying how nice it is to have international students here,” she said. “They add a unique flavour to our local population.”