Why Homestays Are Awesome

Homestay @Cultureworks
Homestay @Cultureworks

Watch English TV shows! Listen to English music! Read English news sites!

There is a lot of great advice for students who want to improve their English fluency while studying in Canada.  My advice is if you want to put some real power into your Canadian academic English experience…you need to live in English!  Living in a ‘Home Stay’ is the opportunity of a lifetime, and so beneficial in many awesome ways.

Awesome reason #1:

Home Stays offer the greatest potential for conversational contact with native speakers.  Home Stay families are not English teachers, but provide an authentic Canadian environment and motivate students to think and live in English.  This will only improve the fluency of all your skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

CultureWorks in conversation
CultureWorks in conversation

Awesome reason #2:

By living with a Home Stay family you immerse yourself into Canadian culture.  It gives you an inside look at Canadian families’ many foods, lifestyle, customs and traditions. As a result you will better understand the country as a whole and even be able to adopt another worldview to your life.

Courtesy of www.myheartshapedworld.wordpress.com
Courtesy of www.myheartshapedworld.wordpress.com

Awesome reason #3:

Home Stays are another way to make you feel welcome in Canada.  One difficult hurdle students face when moving to a new country is not feeling included.  If you spend all your time around fellow classmates only, it is often harder, emotionally, to connect with the country.  Furthermore, when you expose yourself to new people, you are going to have new, unique experiences.  These are such valuable moments that come only once in a lifetime.  Perhaps your homestay family will invite you to a sporting event you’ve never heard of.  Or there may be a young son or daughter who includes you in their circle of friends.  Who knows what great times lay ahead?

I lived with French speakers in Montreal, and my French improved quickly.  I was ordering baguettes like a pro and philosophizing with café locals in no time.  But I lived on my own in Japan, and I hate to admit my Japanese sounds like an intoxicated baby’s babblings.  It’s a personal choice of course.  So if you’re coming to Canada, why not jump right in?  CultureWorks has a range of Home Stay options for you to choose from.

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CultureWorks wins Business of the Year!

With over 1,100 local community leaders in attendance, CultureWorks was named Medium Business of the Year winner during Wednesday night’s event at the London Convention Centre.

“Being recognized for our students’ and team’s contribution to London is extremely meaningful” says Tina Bax, Founder and President “I’m proud and grateful to have the opportunity to represent CultureWorks here tonight.” In her acceptance speech, Bax encouraged young entrepreneurs by acknowledging that all people are imperfect by nature and for new businesses not to think that perfection is the goal.

The London Chamber of Commerce’s Business Achievement Awards celebrates and acknowledges outstanding business successes in London, ON and area, and recognizes businesses that exemplify excellence. This annual gala is the largest of its kind in Canada.

Tina Bax, President

A Man of Many Hats ~ An Interview with Trevor van Peppen, CultureWorks Ottawa Director

CultureWorks Ottawa Director, Trevor van Peppen
CultureWorks Ottawa Director, Trevor van Peppen

Name: Trevor van Peppen

Title: Director of Ottawa Campus, CultureWorks

Best Canadian Musician: Pianist Andre Laplante

Q.  The idiom ‘to wear many hats’ is an appropriate one for you, Trevor.  You do wear many hats.  Out of all your projects as an educator, curriculum designer, and leader, which one are you focusing mainly on now? How will it impact the students’ experience?  

A. I am collaborating with my colleagues to develop a test preparation course so that our students will be successful on a recognized English language proficiency test, and this will give students access to universities across Canada.

Q. If you were to actually wear a hat, what kind of hat would you wear?

A. I love a good Fedora.

Courtesy of www.knowyoumeme.com
Courtesy of www.knowyoumeme.com

Q. Most people limit their singing to the shower, but I know you like to belt out a song wherever you are!  Tell us about your career as a musician.  How has it affected your life?  

A. I’ve sung as a chorister in opera halls throughout the world and done some solo work with orchestra – over 20 years ago! When you are singing, you are critiqued on your voice, your clothes, your physical appearance, your interpretation of the music, your diction, your stage presence…everything. Now, when I am in front of people, I feel no nervousness when speaking. Performing music gave me that confidence.

Courtesy of www.ottawachoralsociety.com
Courtesy of www.ottawachoralsociety.com

Q. Every term, many new students arrive at CultureWorks.  They are full of excitement and anticipation to start his or her Canadian experience, and improve many vital English skills. If you could give only one piece of integral advice to help new students succeed, what would it be?  Besides singing, that is.

A. Develop friends and interests that are part of Canadian culture but have no direct relation to your studies. This will help with your overall happiness in Canada and help you overcome homesickness and culture shock. With a happy mind, you will be able to focus on your studies more effectively.

Trevor & Kelly @ Opening Ceremonies 2012
Trevor & Kelly @ Opening Ceremonies 2012

Q. Lastly, for fun, if you could have any Canadian animal as a pet, which would you choose?  Why?

A. I would keep a snowy owl.

One day, my father and I were driving home and noticed strange tracks in the snow. We stopped the car and followed the tracks to a wounded owl, which I caught by using my father’s overcoat. I brought it to a sanctuary, where they treated its gunshot wound. A few weeks later, I released the healthy owl back into the wilderness. He glided away silently and perched on tree branch across a field. That memory has always stayed with me.

Thanks for your time Trevor, we hope to have you back on the Hotspot soon!

A Snowy Owl ~ Courtesy of www.whalesworldwide.com
A Snowy Owl ~ Courtesy of www.whalesworldwide.com

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Canadian Weather, Whether Sun, Rain or Snow

Spring at Ottawa Parliament, Courtesy of www.portwallpaper.com
Spring at Ottawa Parliament, Courtesy of www.portwallpaper.com

Canadians don’t live in igloos, we don’t have winter 11 months a year, and we don’t commute by dog sled.  Those are all myths!  We do, however, love to talk about the weather.  That’s because there are so many different kinds of weather, and it changes often.  This is especially true when we are between seasons, as we are now.  As we leave winter and enter spring, things can get kind of confusing.

Summer on Toronto Island, Courtesy of www.upmagazine.com
Summer on Toronto Island, Courtesy of www.upmagazine.com

For example, in the last three weeks, Toronto had over 25 cm of snow, followed by warm rain showers, blue skies and above 15 degree Celsius temperatures perfect for golfing.  Right now I’m looking out my window and marveling at a tree that has spring buds popping on its branches and a family of birds looking for a nest while some guy is walking by wearing a winter coat, a hat and gloves, summer shorts, and carrying an umbrella!  If you are from a country that is hot most of the time, you probably don’t need to check the weather report on the TV very often.  In Canada, we check it as often as our Facebook accounts!

Niagara River in Fall, Courtesy of http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/whirlpool?before=18
Niagara River in Fall, Courtesy of http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/whirlpool?before=18

Of course I’m exaggerating.  Canada does have four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter. All are beautiful and unique in their own way.  The temperature changes drastically from one season to the next, so you should make sure to have clothing appropriate for all temperatures.

Horse and Carriage near London ON Courtesy of www.demotix.com
Horse and Carriage near London ON Courtesy of www.demotix.com

Here’s what we here at CultureWorks recommend:

Winter Average temperatures vary between -2 oC and -10oC. Winters in Ontario tend to be snowy and icy. Pack winter boots, a winter coat, scarves, gloves, a hat, warm sweaters, etc.
Spring Temperatures in the springtime vary from cool to hot. The weather is typically a mixture of rain and sun. Pack a lined jacket/light coat, a raincoat, rain-boots, an umbrella, etc.
Summer Average temperatures vary between 25oC and 35oC. Summers are hot with occasional rainfall. Pack shorts, t-shirts, sandals, light fabrics (cotton, linen), bathing suits, etc.
Autumn Autumn temperatures are also variable. The weather can be hot like the summer or cold like the winter. Autumns are windy and can be rainy. Pack sweaters, lined jackets/light coats, a raincoat, rain-boots, an umbrella, etc.

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Don’t Forget Your LIFE!

Courtesy of www.psyche-your-mind.blogspot.ca
Courtesy of www.psyche-your-mind.blogspot.ca

My family travelled a lot when I was growing up.  Africa, Malaysia, Pakistan, China and across Canada.  Don’t get the wrong idea ~ it’s not like the police were chasing us or anything.  My parents valued travelling as an important part of life, an important part of learning.  We had amazing experiences!  If you ever need convincing about travelling or living abroad, let me know.  I can give you a thousand reasons.

Anyway, one piece of advice my father always used to say to us was: ‘When you travel, don’t forget to bring your LIFE!’  I thought that was a silly thing to say.  How can a person forget to bring their life?  Of course, I was a kid then, and I used to think everything my parents said was pretty weird, so I didn’t really pay much attention to the advice.

What my father meant by LIFE, however, was all of the extremely vital documents that you travel with that could SAVE YOUR LIFE when you are away from home.  Including:

  • passport
  • visa
  • birth certificate
  • driver’s license
  • immunization, vaccination, dental and health records
  • marriage certificate or proof of common-law status
  • official school records or academic transcripts
  • documents required for entry into other countries you plan to visit
canada-passport
Credit: www.crowfootplates.com

Whether you are already here at CultureWorks, or planning to come soon, we highly recommend that you bring original copies of all these documents.  Keep them in a safe place.  Also, it is important you tell someone you trust where they are just in case of an emergency.

Credit: www.fongvisioncentre.com
Credit: www.fongvisioncentre.com
Credit: www.bccdc.ca
Credit: www.bccdc.ca

I learned this the hard way once.  2004. Thailand.  I lost my passport.  To make a long story short, it took panic, police, buses, two odd, bearded Swedish backpackers, motorbikes, the Canadian consulate, too much money, sweat, some tears, a missed plane, and loads of luck to find it again.  I was outrageously lucky, but the experience took about five years off my life!

So take it from me.  Do yourself the favour, and DON’T FORGET YOUR LIFE!

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Credit: www.zazzle.com
Credit: www.zazzle.com