Meet Desi Ivanova, the Eager Beaver!

desiThis week on the CultureWorks Hotspot we are joined by Desi Ivanova.  Desi has been teaching at CultureWorks since 2009 at our Oshawa campus.  As many of our students will tell you, she’s an awesome teacher and a very fun person!

Q. What is your favourite show on Netflix right now?

A. I have been watching “White Collar” its about a con-man who is given an option to help FBI agents capture other criminals in return for his freedom.

Q.What idiomatic expression best describes you and why?

A. I would say I am an eager beaver because I like learning new things and most of the time I am enthusiastic and excited about new projects. At the start of every semester I get really pumped up about new groups of students and a new start.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/American_Beaver.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/American_Beaver.jpg
http://i.neoseeker.com/
http://i.neoseeker.com/

Q. When you’re not teaching, what are you doing? Do you have any hobbies and why do you like doing them?

A. When I am not teaching, I am either cooking or spending time with my son. I try and stay healthy so I like exercising, which is my hobby I guess. Or maybe I just like it as it clears my head and helps me relax. I also enjoy reading books and watching documentaries. I am really into the documentaries right now. I just finished one on Dubai, it was very interesting.

http://cdn.shopify.com
http://cdn.shopify.com

Q. You are excellent with people, Desi. How do you make our students feel comfortable in class? What do your students need when they first come to CultureWorks?

A. I once was an ESL student myself so I understand the hardship that new students experience. I feel for their struggle to fit in and adjust to a new culture. In class, I try and keep it light and positive. I always want all of my students to be heard and to feel happy coming to class. I often try and get to know more about my students by asking them what their hobbies, favourite music/movies are. I think when students first come to CultureWorks, they need to feel welcome and excited about being here. I think they need to feel like this is their home away from home, and that someone here cares about them and their education.

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Q. Lastly, for fun, if you could add one item, food or beverage, to the Tim Horton’s menu, what would it be? Why?

A. I would add Nutella sandwiches with the option of adding peanut butter because Nutella is like heaven on earth and everyone everywhere totally LOVES Nutella! Its like Italy with pasta! Canada with Nutella! 🙂

http://cdn.mtlblog.com
http://cdn.mtlblog.com

There we have it folks.  An eager beaver who loves documentaries and eats ‘nutellwiches’.  What more could you ask for in a teacher?  Thanks Desi, I hope you can stop by the blog again soon. 🙂

Stan Rath ~ The Best of Both Worlds

stanrathbus_lr

Today we’re joined by the one and only, Mr. Stan Rath.  Stan is one of CultureWorks’ powerhouses.  He is a teacher, a curriculum developer, and a mentor to both teachers and students.  If you want to learn something, I suggest you hang around Stan. I recently asked him some questions so you can get to know him a little better.

Q. Stan, who is your favourite Canadian musician?

A. Oscar Peterson is a world class jazz pianist. I listen to his music every day.

www.thestar.com
www.thestar.com

Q. What idiomatic expression best describes you and why?

A. I think “the best of both worlds” describes me well. I love to travel and meet people from different cultures, but I also love to stay close to home.

At CultureWorks, I experience the best of both worlds because I have many interesting students from a variety of cultures in the classroom, and I get to live in my hometown of London, Ontario.

globes-300x275
https://sendgrid.com

 

Q. When you’re not teaching, what are you doing? Do you have any hobbies, and why do you like doing them?

A. When I’m not teaching, I am usually hiking or planning my next vacation. One of the best feelings for me is being close to nature, and my favourite way to do this is hiking in Algonquin Park here in Ontario.

Stan Students Niagara

I find traveling, seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures very interesting. Two of my favourite countries that I have visited so far are India and Italy.

Q. You studied Biology before becoming a teacher. Do you think language is like science in any way? Do you draw from your scientific background in your approach to teaching?

A. I definitely think that language has scientific structure and rules, and I have found a scientific approach to teaching grammar and writing to be very effective. Many of my students have indicated that they benefit from using a formulaic approach when they practice using their vocabulary to build grammatically correct sentences.

http://www.ssri.psu.edu
http://www.ssri.psu.edu

Q. Lastly, for fun, if you could create a new word for the English language, what would it be and what would it mean?

A. gramtastic (adjective) definition: relating to the joy people feel when grammar unlocks doors to language learning

Gramtastic!  I love it!  Thanks so much for stopping by the Hotspot, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about you, and I know our CultureWorks students are lucky to have you as their teacher!

Stan Class Photo 2

Coffee Clash!

coffee-if-youre-not-shaking

We all know what we need in order to succeed at school:

1. Attend Classes

2. Maintain Study Habits

3. DRINK COFFEE!!!

So my question is very simple: Which coffee do you prefer?  This has been a long debate in Canada for quite some time, and ever since McDonald’s introduced their line of coffee, the debate has become quite heated! (And we need heat this time of year.)  Starbucks is considered to be the international ‘standard’ for good coffee-on-the-go, so let’s compare the others to it.

tim-hortons-starbucks-camps

mcdonalds-vs-starbucks

I want to know what you think.  Which one has the best taste?  The best price?  The best selection?  Which one works for late night study sessions?

If you are a tea drinker, I’m sorry if you feel excluded from this post.  Feel better knowing that you are probably healthier than the rest of us coffee lovers!

 

Canadian Compassion

www.ctv.ca
RCMP Officers at memorial www.ctv.ca

This was a very sad, but historical week in Canada.  After the terrible shootings of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Officers in Moncton, New Brunswick., a memorial was held on Tuesday, June 10th, 2014.  As you can see from the picture above, RCMP officers’ uniforms are red.  To show their support, thousands of Canadian citizens also wore red to demonstrate compassion for the fallen officers.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 11.49.11 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 11.49.25 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 11.49.36 AM

www.ctvnews.ca #wearred
www.ctvnews.ca #wearred
www.ctvnews.ca
www.ctvnews.ca

This is a great example of the Canadian social mentality.  When bad things happen to members of our communities, Canadians try their best to express sincere concern and support for those who are suffering.  Without question, it is easier to go through difficult times when you are supported by others.

Try to keep this in mind as you pursue your studies in Canada.  Support your classmates if they are struggling, whether it is at school or socially.  If you hear someone is having a hard time, reach out and show them you care!  Together, we triumph over adversity.

For more #wearred pictures: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canadians-wear-red-to-honour-fallen-mounties-1.1861511

Thanks a million! An Interview w/ Jenny Blake @ CultureWorks London

This week I am joined on the Hotspot with the lovely Jenny Blake.  Jenny’s the kind of person who smiles when she speaks.  Her warm, personal character leaves everyone saying ‘Thanks a million’ for her help!

jennyblake_london_lrg1

1. How long have you been working at CultureWorks?  What is it about teaching English that you like the most?
I have been working at CultureWorks for 5 years.  Believe it or not, I love grammar and collocation!  Of course, I also like having interesting and amazing students, and that’s exactly what we have at CultureWorks.

http://grammartimewths.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/grammartime1.png
http://grammartimewths.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/grammartime1.png

2. What are your hobbies?  Which of them do you recommend new students to Canada try, and why?
My hobbies are deep conversation over good coffee, reading about World War II, dance, and martial arts.  Joining a class or a gym is a great way for students to make new friends and immerse themselves into the culture.

http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/karate-class-2.jpg
http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/karate-class-2.jpg

3. There are a lot of students from a wide variety of cultures at our school, and each culture is rich in music, food, film, art, history, and stories.  Which of these cultural features would you be most interested in learning about?  Why?

All of them!  I love learning anything and everything about new cultures.  If I had to pick, I suppose I would choose history as I like to see “the big picture.”

http://nau.edu/uploadedImages/Academic/CAL/History/History_720x350.jpg
Tarracotta Warriors in China

4.  What is your role at CultureWorks?  Which courses do you specialize?  How do you feel these skills will aid our students in university or college?  Do you have any advice you’d like to give students in these areas?
I have two roles at CultureWorks.  I am a Level D instructor of Academic Reading and IELTS, and I am a Student Success Coordinator.  In my Student Success role, I help students transition from CultureWorks to university.  I know from personal experience of going to university in Scotland, that university in Canada is quite different.  It’s important to learn what these differences are in order to be prepared for university and be successful.  My best advice?  Ask a million questions!

jenny think

5. Lastly, for fun, if you could visit any Canadian province, where would you go? Why?

I would go to Prince Edward Island to visit Green Gables.  Anne of Green Gables is one of my favourite books, and I would love to walk through the countryside like Anne did!

http://www.cbc.ca/books/anne-of-green-gables.jpg
http://www.cbc.ca/books/anne-of-green-gables.jpg

TEACHERS ARE PEOPLE TOO

CultureWorks teachers are a little weird.  They’re real people.

Dreamcatchers_OshawaNative_2013

I mean, they stand at the front of the classroom like ‘regular’ teachers.  They give professional lectures and facilitate dynamic group exercises.  What makes them weird is that CULTUREWORKS TEACHERS WANT TO GET TO KNOW YOU.  Like, as a person. They’re weird because they don’t ONLY stand in front of the classroom, they also walk around the room and talk with you one on one.  They go on weekly trips with you and scroll through your Facebook photo albums.  Heck, I’ve even seen CultureWorks teachers exchange recipes, play squash, and sing with their students. Super weird, and like, totally human, right?

So the question is, what are you doing to connect with your teachers?  Your time in Canada is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so don’t be shy! Here’s a couple of ideas to get you started:

#5.  MAKE SMALL TALK

Easier said than done, right?  Well, believe me, CultureWorks teachers like when you ask questions!  The only way you’ll feel less shy around your teacher is by asking questions, simple stuff, like “How was your weekend?”  “Have you seen (movie)?” “Is there a restaurant you recommend in the area?”  Of course your teachers are there to teach you, and how better to do that if you are comfortable with them?

#4.  CONNECT WITH CULTURE

Canadians all have a unique heritage.  Just by asking your teacher’s family history, you’re learning valuable Canadian history and getting a better understanding of them at the same time.  Take me, for example.  My mother is German, and my father has Welsh heritage.  Now you know why I like to tell people what to do while eating lots of bread.  (I’m joking.) (Not really.)

#3.  SIT AT THE FRONT OF THE CLASS

Hiding behind your laptop or texting under the desk at the back of the class will never connect you to your teacher.  By sitting at the front, or near the front of the class, you will engage more with your teacher’s lessons and show them that you care, and are there to learn.

#2.  WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE

You work hard, and so do your teachers.  Taking the time to write a thoughtful thank you note for all the effort they put into your lessons will really mean a lot to them.  I know this may sound strange depending on your academic customs, but in Canada, teachers respond kindly when they know their work is appreciated.  This won’t guarantee you a higher grade, but it will give you a shared experience that goes beyond marks and tests.

#1.  THROW A SURPRISE PARTY!

Last week some students threw a surprise party for teachers at our Oshawa/UOIT campus, which was AWESOME!  Food, music, and loads of memorable photographs definitely showed the teachers that their students cared about them.  Cool, eh?  It goes to show that anytime is a good time for party time!

Reach out to your teachers.  You’ll learn far more than a language! 🙂

Oshawa Teacher Party
Oshawa Teacher Party

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MAKING MEMORIES IN CANADA

Hello new and returning students!  Welcome to another exciting, brand new term at CultureWorks.  2014 is just getting warmed up, my friends…because it can’t get much colder, can it! Ha! (Ok, bad joke.  Too soon?)

I’d like to start the new year off with a wish.  My wish is that all of you will embrace your first week, cherish it, and remember it, because these memories are golden!  They only happen once guys. You are in Canada, studying at CultureWorks, and that’s super cool!  So here’s 5 tips to make your life as an international student memorable.  Believe me, I’ve lived abroad before.   Some people look like they’re having the time of their lives, and other people look like their doing time. (Like, in jail!)  The choice is yours!

5.  Take a picture of something everyday.

Choose something that looks new or unusual to you, compared to life in your home country.  Your friends, Canadian fashion, transportation, the food, sites, etc…These pictures will add up over time and will be a great reminder at how different, and how great, your experience was.

Thanks Gustavo!  Great pic!
Thanks Gustavo! Great pic!

4.  Think of your life in Canada like it’s an adventure.

It is!  When you wake up, tell yourself that you have no idea what weird and wonderful things you’ll see and learn.  Maybe you’ll try a new food.  Maybe you’ll meet an odd bearded Canadian at a Tim Hortons who will tell you strange stories.  Who knows!  That’s the thrill of the ride!

sunnyyq.wordpress.com
sunnyyq.wordpress.com

3.  Spice up your life.

If you feel your routine is getting dull, change things around.  Take a different route to school.  Visit a different area of Toronto, or London, or Ottawa.  Explore a new area of campus, or even join a club. Just like a good curry, life is better with spice!

http://www.pasospices.com
http://www.pasospices.com

2.  Meet people, make friends.

Honestly, the friends you make now will be with you for the rest of your lives.  When you’re 80 years old, you’ll laugh together about the time one of you took the wrong bus and ended up in Montreal.  Or the time you finished an exam and then passed out with your face in the middle of a pizza.  You get the idea.

Ottawa Holiday Party
Ottawa Holiday Party

1.  Ask questions.

This is my number one piece of advice.  Your teachers, your student services co-ordinators, your cafeteria workers, your neighbours, your homestay parents…these are all people who hold the key.  When you ask, you learn, and you will learn so much from the people around you.  And you know what?  They want to help!

9670134409_06fa2fd41f_z 9670210787_58740e26ed_z liz

I’m jealous of all of you, to be honest.  I want to feel that *new* feeling again of living and travelling abroad.  You know what?  Forget it.  I’m enrolling in CultureWorks.  I’ll pretend I’m Russian and wear a big fur hat.  See you in class!

Tips on Study Tips

http://www.cse.buffalo.edu
http://www.cse.buffalo.edu

I remember preparing for my third year Anthropology class presentation, writing a 25 page term paper for my Classics course, and studying for three other courses, and all were all taking place in the same week. Ugh! They say university and college is great for teaching us time management, but I’d like to add that it is also great for teaching us how to stress out and throw dishes against the wall.

In researching this week’s blog post on study tips, I kept coming across the same advice.  Study with a friend.  Don’t procrastinate.  Use a highlighter.  Keep a log of difficult words and ideas.  Quiz yourself.  Divide your material into smaller, manageable chunks.  These suggestions are very good.  You’ve heard our teachers at CultureWorks give you the same advice a million times, so I don’t want to bore you with repetition.  Luckily, I came across two videos that offer some different ideas about preparing for tests.

This video has a lot of strange ideas that are just weird enough to work.  I definitely agree with listening to instrumental music while you study – music with lyrics are much too distracting.

[wpvideo xnQyUrVP]

This video offers excellent advice on setting a time limit when you are really concentrating.  In our age of iPhones and universal internet access, this is a great skill to practice.

[wpvideo NM4E1QUr]

These tips will especially help you with advancing your reading, listening, writing, and grammar skills.  Not only that, they’ll make your brain HUGE! Big brains are attractive, right?

NEED A BREAK? TURN UP THE MUSIC!

http://vapresspass.com
http://vapresspass.com

So, stress happens, right?  You’ve got dishes piling up, relationships breaking up (I hope not!), and, of course, assignments stacking up.   Stress is like a natural disaster in the body – a tsunami, a tornado, an earthquake all in one.  Good times!  And while there’s no pause button to life, there is one coping tool I can share that has helped me through the most stressful experiences of life, many of which happened at school.

MUSIC.

It soothes and inspires.  Music fills your spirit with beautiful distraction on a frequency that is far, far away from your worries.  Please, try it out, listen to music on your study breaks.  You’ll come back to your laptop feeling refreshed and ready to keep learning.  Music is like a reset button for your brain.

Being a proud Canadian, I have a few new Canadian bands I’d like to share.  If you are coming to Canada, or are already here, this is a great way to tune into the ‘vibe’, or the sound our country is currently producing.  Here are three musical suggestions from the great white north:

1.  Mother Mother – No, I didn’t type that twice by accident, that’s really the band’s name.  From Vancouver, this group is a mixture of indie (independent) rock with some amazing vocal harmonies and lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiXvDsHfpdk

www.mothermother.com
www.mothermother.com

2.  K-OS – A successful hip hop artist, K-OS (Chaos) studied music at York University and has since pumped out a huge variety of up-beat, intelligent hip-hop ‘beats’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryAeRXArVHY

www.epicureanmusician.com
www.epicureanmusician.com

3.  Marcio Novelli – A young, fresh indie rock artist with clean, hopeful voice from Hamilton, Ontario.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRmlwv6Fijg

http://static.music.cbc.ca
http://static.music.cbc.ca

4.  Death from Above 1979 – I recently came across this duo, described as rock/noise.  I’ve never heard that category of music before, but give them a try and see if you like them!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Wnl9PpnTXI

http://cdn.pitchfork.com
http://cdn.pitchfork.com

I tried to find groups that were distinctive and unique from one another.  I’d love to hear what music you are listening to!  Please share your recommendations on the blog or on our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/cultureworkstheschool

Remember, when you need a break from studying, turn up the music!

Show Me the Money Pt.2 ~ Budgeting

Courtesy of www.upload.wikimedia.org
Courtesy of www.upload.wikimedia.org

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the cultural significance of  money.  Now I thought I’d discuss how to budget and balance money while at university.

I have a very clear memory of the money jar my roommates kept in the top left hand kitchen cupboard in our Montreal apartment, just above the stove.  We agreed to deposit all of our loose change at the end of every day into the jar, as a way of forcing ourselves to save.  Every week the mason jar would fill up, and by month’s end we’d count our riches.  Keep in mind this was first year university, and our majors were music, fine arts, and literature.  We didn’t know very much about money, and math did not come naturally to us.  Garth, my big-haired, English major roommate, thought that if he spent more during the week he’d get more change, and, as a result, would save more in the jar.  Contrary to Garth’s illogic however, money isn’t like credit card points.  If you spend more, you do not save more.  Once we counted the money, we decided what to spend it on.  Laundry detergent?  Our cable bill?  Even though we had good intentions at the beginning of term, by November those ‘savings’ simply became a ‘pizza fund’.  Practical?  No.  Advisable? No. Delicious?  Yes!

Courtesy of www.miltonplanning.com
Courtesy of www.miltonplanning.com

There are three key areas to consider when budgeting for college or university. Tuition, Course Materials, and Living Costs.

Tuition differs from province to province in Canada.  Ranking lowest to highest is Quebec, Ontario, and B.C. Of course, tuition costs differ for domestic and international students, so I advice to take the time to research each before making a decision.  If you are an international student considering CultureWorks ESL and higher learning, you can find our tuition costs here.  It is important to note that Canadian tuition costs are MUCH cheaper than in the U.S.

Course materials are more predictable term by term, but on average you can budget around $800 to $1,000 per year for books, or a $100 per month, either for hard copy or electronic versions.

Courtesy of www.apps.carleton.edu
Courtesy of www.apps.carleton.edu

Living costs also vary by province.  If you choose to study in London, Oshawa, or Ottawa Ontario you can find a very spacious house to share between $700.00 and $900.00 a month. Residence is also a popular option, and you can expect to pay approximately $6,000 – $7,000 annually, or $700 per month.  You can find residence costs here for Western University, UOIT, and Carleton.  Homestays are another reasonable way to go, and can you find out about CultureWorks options here.

Courtesy of www.uoit.ca
Courtesy of www.uoit.ca

Take into consideration your food budget and transportation fees as well.  Compared to the U.S., England and Australia, food is considerably more affordable in Canada.  On average, students spend about $250 per month on food in Ontario.  Residences on campus offer meal plans that cost more than if living off campus, but have great value due to their convenience.  Bus passes can range between $200-$300 per month.

Lastly, there are budgeting tips and tricks that will save you money.  Living near campus will cut transportation costs, as you will be able to walk or bike.  Carpooling is a smart idea, too.  Buying used textbooks, cooking meals with friends for the week, avoiding the use of your credit card, looking for discounts with your student card, and researching grants and scholarships will all save you money in the long run.

Courtesy of www.edmonton.ca
Courtesy of www.edmonton.ca

Keep in mind that your education is an investment, and as such you will spend more up front.  If you budget wisely, you can still save and live comfortably and have confidence that your return on your investment will be very valuable.

I almost forgot to mention the value of living with roommates!  Cutting costs together will help everyone save.  Just don’t follow my example.  Choose friends with math skills!

Happy saving!

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