CultureWorks is the original ESL school for higher education in Canada. And London, Ontario is the school’s original location. Our CW students have created so many great memories in London, all the way from our summer programs, through our school year, and beyond into the alumni chapter. This Valentines Day, send some love to London, and enjoy these London memories caught on camera
Do you have any CultureWorks pictures you’d like to share? You can send them to us on our Facebook page!
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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!
CultureWorks teachers are a little weird. They’re real people.
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! 🙂
My colleague Christina informed me this week that our “Loonie”, the Canadian dollar, is at its lowest value now since 2009. “Isn’t that cool?” she exclaimed. “Wouldn’t it make a neat blog post?” “Yeah,” I laughed. “It’s a little loonie, but it’d work.”
Loonie is the slang name for the Canadian dollar. We call it that because it has the image of a beautiful Canadian bird, the loon, on it. Also, loonie (or loony) is another way of saying someone or something is ‘crazy’. And let’s face it, there’s a lot of things in Canada that are pretty loonie!
So how is a lower dollar value a good thing for the Canadian economy. I admit, I am no economist, so I had to do the research on this. What I learned is rather cool.
1. A lower Loonie will help our economy
Canada sells a lot of stuff to other countries (export). This includes manufactured goods and services. Canada’s tourism and services industry is big, too. So with a lower dollar, suddenly our stuff isn’t so expensive compared to the rest of the world. As a result, more countries will want to buy Canadian.
2. A dip in the dollar will help employment
Our lower dollar will make the U.S. exports more expensive. This means that other countries won’t buy as much from the U.S., and American workers could lose their jobs. Meanwhile in Canada our exports are busier than ever, which creates work for Canadians to keep up with the demand.
3. A bargain buck means ‘buy Canadian’
A lot of Canadians shop ‘over the border’, or in the U.S. because their prices are usually cheaper than ours. This is especially true for groceries and gas. But with the Canadian buck (slang for dollar) low, it doesn’t make sense to buy in America. Canadians will buy in Canada, and a higher volume of business is great for the economy. Also, Americans will come to Canada to buy Canadian! It’s a win win!
4. Cut-rate cash is great for tourism
Canadian music and theatre festivals, ski resorts and summer resorts, will all benefit from a lower dollar. Why? Because other countries’ money is higher value, making Canada a great place to travel too.
There are drawbacks, of course. People with Canadian investments and retirement savings won’t be earning as much. Bank rates haven’t been lowered either, which means people are paying more on their credit cards while the dollar is technically worth less. In the end however, this was a good lessen for me. When people say the ‘dollar is low’, it doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing. It’s when people say your pants are low, or your marks are low – that’s pretty much always a bad thing.
Title: EAP Instructor on London Campus, CultureWorks
Best Canadian Author:Will Ferguson! He takes an honest and critical look at this nation that we share. He has also written some fiction and travel memoirs, both of which I enjoy!
Q. The idiom ‘to wear your heart on your sleeve’ is an appropriate one for you, Joel. You are a very genuine, thoughtful individual, and people feel that as soon as they get to know you. How do you think teaching affected your personality? I mean, were you always this kind, or do you students keep you nice?
A. I am a very empathetic person. I try to understand and connect with the individual that I am engaged with; whether that be a student, the team or anyone in my life. I feel that working at CultureWorks has helped this quality in me to bud and grow. I have spent time living and working overseas, far away from home. I have also spent time in university, with the pressures of study and socializing sometimes coming all at once. I get it, and I want to help my students realize that they are not the only ones feeling this way.
Q. Speaking of ‘wearing’ things, how do you feel fashion these days? Tattoos? Super baggy pants? Any opinion there?
A. I’m a big fan of swag! I wear my CultureWorks golf shirt almost every day to school, and after school. Don’t worry, I have more than one and they are clean! It gives me a certain degree of pride to slip on my uniform and go to work. It almost seems like I am playing for the Blue Jays, the Raptors, or the Leafs… but not really.
Q. I’d love to know more about your degree in Linguistics and Japanese studies. For people who may not know, what are these areas of study about? What attracted you to these fields?
A. Wow, so much to say here. Let’s see, I fell in love with Japan when I first went as a teen on an exchange program. At that time I wanted to live the rest of my life there teaching English. Since then, I have been there many times and worked for a span of two years. I no longer live in Japan, but one aspect of my life has remained the same – my love of teaching English. Linguistics helps us to understand the language(s) we use. I like to share with my students the meaning of the language that we share: what and how we say something can affect the meaning of our intended message.
A. Most importantly a student learning English for Academic Purposes needs to be engaged in the language. Talk with others in your program in English. On university campuses that I have been on, it is easy to find students who are talking about academic subjects. It is important for our students to get into this mindset – talk and ask questions. Success begins there.
Q. Lastly, for fun, what Japanese foods do you wish were more available in Canada?
A. My introduction to Japan was in a homestay program. I lived in the countryside and was first introduced to home-style cooking from my Japanese “grandmother.” Her kitchen was always full of pickled vegetables from grandfather’s garden. She would prepare the most delicious soups and rice dishes that I just couldn’t get enough of. My wife and I make okonomiyaki (a cabbage pancake with your choice of meat, seafood and vegetables) at home, but we also crave the simple omuraisu (a mound of cooked, seasoned rice, wrapped in a thin egg and topped with ketchup). I like sushi, tempura and ramen but the simple dishes I just mentioned could really take off here!
Thanks for your time Joel, we hope to have you back on the Hotspot soon!
What do you love about birthdays? Is it the cake, or the gifts? I’m going to be totally honest with you here, and you might think I’m weird if you don’t already, but my favourite part of birthdays is hiding in the dark waiting to shout SURPRISE!!
That’s exactly what CultureWorks did this week! On July 1st it is CULTUREWORKS’ 15th BIRTHDAY!!! To mark the occasion we organized a reverse surprise party for all of our university partners. It was awesome! Even though it was our birthday, we planned a stealth, province-wide sneak attack on the very people who have helped our mighty school to blossom over the last decade and a half.
We decided to celebrate our birthday by giving gifts, rather than receiving them. We wanted to celebrate the gifts our partners have given us over the years. The gift of enthusiasm. The gift of opportunity. The gift of collaboration.
As the first and biggest of its kind in Canada, CultureWorks has grown to become Ontario’s premier ESL & EAP school. Founded by Tina Bax, President, CultureWorks started as one location with four students in 1998 and has grown to six partner schools in three cities with 525 students. Over 3,000 students from 26 countries around the world have studied at CultureWorks. What makes our school so unique and innovative, is that we were the first in the country to offer international students conditional acceptance to post-secondary institutions. It’s ground-breaking innovation in education, and our spectacular students are the proof!
And who doesn’t like a good surprise, right? I tell ya, our partners sure did! Check out these great shots from our cross-campus birthday party.
Q. The idiom ‘happy as a clam’ is an appropriate one for you, Man. Your smile is so big it makes everyone around you smile, too! What kinds of things do you do in the classroom to keep students so happy?
A. I simply try to welcome my students with a smile and ask them how they are doing. It’s usually pretty easy because they’re already smiling at me and asking me how I’m doing!
Q. Do you like clams, by any chance? Do you have other favourite foods?
A. Mmm…clams! 🙂 I usually crave sushi, onigiri, dim sum, Korean BBQ, kabsa, butter chicken, pad thai, kimbab, banh mi, ramen, red velvet cupcakes, chocolate and my mom’s cooking. Nonetheless, I’m always open to trying new dishes.
Q. Wow! There goes my diet! Tell us a bit about your interest in travelling. Where have you been? Where would you like to go next? What would you say is important about seeing the world?
A. I enjoy traveling because it gives me the opportunity to interact with different people from different cultures. It is also nice to visit relatives and/or friends who I rarely see. Over the years, I’ve been to Niagara Falls, Vancouver, Kingston, Montreal, Quebec City, Tokyo, Omiya, Sapporo, Hong Kong, Macau, Okinawa, Kyoto, Dortmund, Rheine, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw, New York City, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Beijing, Lijiang, Kumming, Taipei, Kenting, Sendai, Nagoya, Seoul, Halifax, Charlottetown, Cape Breton, Hopewell Cape, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, and Bali. Next, I’ll be making my way through Mexico. Well, I think traveling opens one’s eyes, ears, mind and heart to infinite possibilities. So, the following quote from St. Augustine is fitting: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” So, get out there, explore and keep learning!
A. We are teaching them how to get organized, think critically and cope with challenges. In addition to Carleton’s wide range of programs, I think the university’s underground tunnels are a huge draw. This network allows students to stay warm and dry as they travel across the campus to places like residence, their classes, the gym and our office. Oh, and of course its library expansion will make it that much cooler to study (both literally and figuratively)! Afterall, it’s a modern design with lots more space, a 3.5 Green Globe rating, exterior sun shades and screens, and a projected grand opening in the fall…now, that is cool!
Q. Lastly, for fun, what are your top three Ottawa restaurants you would recommend?
“Everything you need for success and a better future has already been written. And guess what? All you have to do is go to the library.” Henri Frederic Amiel
The differences between today’s university libraries and the ones ‘in my day’ are crazy. Yikes, I can’t believe I just said, ‘in my day’. Reading that almost made me spit my Earl Grey tea all over my plaid slippers. Honestly, though. Could studying in Canada get any more fantastic? Cafes, wi-fi, and virtual lending? Not to mention the sophisticated search engines available at the touch of a finger tip…amazing!
All of the world’s information is already conveniently cataloged by author, date, and publication. What’s more, it’s cross-referenced and searchable by related sources, from scholarly articles to entire journals. As an added bonus, search engines actually keep a log of all your searches, so even if you’ve forgotten what you were looking for, it’s a snap to retrace your steps and jog your memory. Heck, the software will probably offer ideas you never considered. Visiting ‘the library’ while still in the comfort of one’s favourite armchair at home is a concept I thought only possible in science-fiction stories.
One feature of Carleton’s MacOdrum Library includes access to entire course guides, which gives you access to industry news and trends in a particular field. So if you search engineering you can access additional recommended databases outside of the library’s collection and gain a variety of information on the engineering industry, including recent patents and current standards.
My advice? Never underestimate the effectiveness of a library for studying. And with the welcoming atmosphere of today’s libraries, why wouldn’t you want to use them? Using your phone you squeeze in research on the bus home, and when you go there always seems to be a comfortable place to sit, enjoy a drink, or sneak a nap between classes. Not that I have ever done that before, no sir!…no, no, purely for academic purposes. Ahem…Until next time!
Once upon a time, I had a dream. When I was about 20 years old, I dreamt of becoming the world’s oldest student. That’s right. A student for life! I loved university so much I didn’t want it to end. I was surrounded by other people who love to learn. My parents weren’t around. I didn’t have to work. Um, well. See that’s where my dream ended, unfortunately. We won’t dwell on that.
But think about it. Canada’s university campuses have it all! Not only are they wired with the latest in technology, but countless other modern amenities as well. From Olympic-quality sports facilities to public concert halls and art galleries, Canada’s post-secondary campuses offer you enormous possibilities for learning and leisure. Plus, you’ll have incredible opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and gain valuable experience through student-run governments, radio, newspapers and businesses.
So ‘drink it up’, people! Enjoy every last part of campus life. Meet new people, try a new sport. Canada is a land of opportunity, after all! And see if you can beat my record. Including my undergraduate degree, special qualification courses, and my Masters, I’ve been a post-secondary student for nine years. Yet somehow I’m not a doctor. A few more years should do it, eh?