A story of two Peters and how they are planning their passage to priesthood, minus the pickled peppers.

CultureWorks students Peter Tran, left, and Peter Nguyen, right, are heading down the road to priesthood. Here they accompany CultureWorks graduate and staff member, Peter Choi, at a CW event.
CultureWorks students Peter Tran, left, and Peter Nguyen, right, are heading down the road to priesthood. Here they accompany CultureWorks graduate and staff member, Peter Choi, at a CW event.

In this case, a very well known alliteration does not really come into play.

However, it sure is fun when we introduce two charming CultureWorks students.

Neither Peter Tran nor Peter Nguyen, who hail from Vietnam, have ever picked a peck of pickled peppers in their lifetimes.

(And our newest CultureWorks staff addition, Peter Choi, assures us he also has never gone deep for peppers in his home country of China. See photo above)

What the two Peters from Vietnam have in common, in addition to being CultureWorks students, is the lifetime goal to be Catholic priests. And the route they are taking is through St. Peter’s Seminary and King’s University College, next door to each other in London.

Peter Tran talks about coming to Canada to study English and theology

Peter Tran, the older of the two at 27, was recruited from St. Boniface in Winnipeg and he could not be happier. And before King’s, he has to improve his English writing and speaking by taking the ESL program at CultureWorks.

“They told me the (CW) English program in London, Ontario, is better for me, a reason for me to choose study here,” he said. “And another reason is St. Peter’s Seminary is here and the main reason to come here is to study theology.”

While the Canadian weather would never stand in his way, he was somewhat surprised, nevertheless.

“When I came here, I was very shocked about the weather. The weather is so much colder than Vietnam. Now I think Canada is a good temperature. The people are friendly. I think it is good for me to serve here and meet people in Canada,” he said.

Now in Level 7 at our ESL school and most likely graduating at the end of June, he will head to Winnipeg for the summer and return to St. Peter’s and King’s University College in September.

“For me, CultureWorks means a lot of work, but now for me it is a good English program. It makes me do a lot of work … practice, practice every day,” he said.

“Now, I feel CultureWorks is good and I feel comfortable and I enjoy my studying here.”

Peter Nguyen shares what he loves most about the ESL program

Meanwhile, Peter Nguyen, the younger of the two at 20, will be working with the Hamilton, Ont., diocese. He has eight years ahead of him while the older Peter has five years of training.

Peter Nguyen said the program at CultureWorks is difficult, yet fair.

Peter Tran (above) and Peter Nguyen talk about their days at CultureWorks.

“But I think those assignments have helped me to study hard and to gain more knowledge. And it has prepared me for the skills before I go to Western,” he said.

“The teachers in CultureWorks are nice and are fun and they always take care of the students when they have difficult questions. And another thing is Boomalang. That is a good program. After we study in CultureWorks, we can study at home. We can practice our speaking and listening and we can study from the news.”

He, also, has adjusted to the weather.

“I like the environment here, because Vietnam is a little polluted,” he said frankly.

Discussing the bombing in Sri Lanka

Recently, the two young men heading down the road to priesthood, had to face — emotionally at least — the mass bombing in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. More than 250 people died in the explosions at St. Anthony’s Church.

“For me, as a Catholic person, they are like my relatives,” Peter Tran said. “For me, I had a lot of passion for the people in Sri Lanka. They are Catholics, too.”

Peter Nguyen, like his fellow countryman, felt the same.

“The first thing is my emotion,” he said. “I felt so sad for that, but another thing as I am a priest and when I saw a lot of people who died by the terrorism from some crazy people, the first thing I thought is they were not lucky.”

Two fine young men, picking the path to priesthood.

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Teaguen gives us a lesson ‘Onn’ the independent study program at our ESL school

CultureWork students, teachers and staff mingle through the independent study poster presentations in the Andy@Helen Spriet Learning Commons at The Darryl J. King Student Life Centre on the King’s University College campus. Photos courtesy of Peter Choi.
CultureWork students, teachers and staff mingle through the independent study poster presentations in the Andy@Helen Spriet Learning Commons at The Darryl J. King Student Life Centre on the King’s University College campus. Photos courtesy of Peter Choi.

Teaguen Onn is a teacher, a good one as a matter of fact. That does not make him one of a kind at CultureWorks. It’s a talented group from top to bottom.

If some of his teaching philosophies may be unique, however, they may have started with his two favourite studies in school, history … and philosophy.

Degrees in education and English literature at Western and Waterloo, respectively, and international teaching time in South Korea helped to round out his background. And being a CW teacher since 2011 doesn’t hurt either.

Teaguen Onn has been a teacher at CultureWorks since 2011.
Teaguen Onn has been a teacher at CultureWorks since 2011.

Teaguen sat down recently to talk about the independent study course outline, a path he has guided students along many, many times since joining CultureWorks. It is something he enjoys doing and where the teaching uniqueness comes into play.

What students can expect from the independent study course at our ESL school

In short, here is what we are talking about, using the course description as a guide.

Students work in pairs to propose, research, conduct, and report on a project of their choosing. This project will take the entire eight weeks of the term. Throughout the term, students will be responsible for meeting project milestones. They will be required to reflect on the project weekly and to produce a final learner portfolio explaining their contributions to the project and reflecting on their own learning throughout the process.

At the end of the term, they have created a show-and-tell poster presentation that they share with the teachers and fellow students.

“The main focus would be in using all the skills learned from all the other core subjects that we teach at CultureWorks,” Teaguen said in outlining the ESL program.

“So we are looking at listening and speaking, the reading, and then the writing as well. And I am also doing research. All of this is kind of rolled into one package… and it gives them more freedom to express these different skills, outside the parameters that we would normally assign to them with those specific classes.”

The poster presentations and the road to get there begin with their first days at our ESL school, Teaguen said.

“This is their chance to show kind of a final product, I guess, from what they have learned throughout their time. And I don’t even think this is necessarily cumulative just from a Level 7 or Level 6, but really from whenever they started in the CultureWorks program.

“To show ‘I’ve come this far and this is my end product. This is my big finale’.”

CultureWorks independent study teachers Paul Findlay (left, Level 6) and Teaguen Onn (right, Level 7) assess student poster presentations.
CultureWorks independent study teachers Paul Findlay (left, Level 6) and Teaguen Onn (right, Level 7) assess student poster presentations.

Allowing students to learn English as a second language in a more authentic way

Level 6 and Level 7 students take this eight-week program, with the expectations higher for the final-term students. Teaguen has the Level 7 group this term; fellow CW teacher Paul Findlay has the Level 6 group.

“With the Level 6, it is more of a rigid structure. With the Level 7, it’s more of about what can you do outside of the structure and how can you get people interested and engaged in your topic. That is the goal.”

The students’ subject choices cover a wide range and environmental subjects seem to top the list. But you may also find the proper way to operate a hot-pot restaurant in London, Ontario!

“The reason we introduced this program initially was we were trying to look for some more authentic ways for people to express the skills and the things that they have learned throughout the time of the program,” Teaguen said.

“They are supposed to be feasible and realistic solutions to these problems. So in that sense, it is an authentic assessment of what would you do in a real world like this.”

The benefits of completing the independent study course

Teaguen said the full-term project helps the students in many ways.

“It gives them a sense of working on something throughout a term. That’s important because when they do get into university, there will be some assignments that require bigger presentations, bigger reports, bigger essays. They will need sustained focus and concentration in order to be successful.”

Now back to Teaguen’s teaching philosophies. Some involve the ongoing teacher-student relationship in the independent study program.

“I would say it is a different relationship, because it allows me to not be the — for the lack of a better term — the all-knowing teacher preaching from the front of the room, telling people what is right and what is wrong.

“It’s me facilitating; it’s me closer to a peer — obviously not a peer — but closer to a peer and being able to communicate with them on a different level.

“It’s me working with them, discussing with them about the problem. It’s just a different scenario where I actually feel more comfortable doing that because I actually think it’s more helpful to talk people through things and feel that they can learn a lot more. It’s actually a different way in giving them feedback.”

Brian and Ruby, two current CultureWorks students, share some thoughts on the independent study program

At the end of the day comes satisfaction. Not always, however.

“With that sense of satisfaction can come with some dissatisfaction, depending on the experience. I am not going to lie. But the opportunity for the ultimate award is there.”

More often than not.

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After seven years, CultureWorks and former student Amy Lin reunite for the greater good in two countries.

Amy Lin is CultureWorks’ newest employee and she could not be happier.
Amy Lin is CultureWorks’ newest employee and she could not be happier.

Recently, CultureWorks Founder and Chief Executive Officer Tina Bax made a staff announcement about two new employees who will not only help in the new creative initiatives in China, but also be key players on the home front.

We recently introduced Peter Choi as the new IT mastermind.

Today, it is time to spread the word about Amy Lin. Let’s leave the official wording to Tina.

“Ms. Amy Lin will be joining us as an Associate Project Manager for China. She’ll liaise with our sales team there, and focus her efforts on enrolment for the in-China programs. Amy is an alumna not only of CultureWorks, but also of Brescia and Ivey!”

Amy Lin will help CultureWorks expand and grow operations in China

Amy will be based in London at the CultureWorks main office, but she will also play an important role as CultureWorks spreads its wings at Chinese faculties in Harbin and Xi’an.

“CultureWorks in China is pretty new,” Amy said in a recent interview.

“Right now, we don’t know what we don’t know. We are trying to figure that out as well. My main role will be working with the China partners, trying to work out the procedures with the two different partners.”

On the home front, she will be the “face” in London, dealing with Chinese agents, many of whom do not speak English. In addition to speaking with the agents, she will also translate any brochures or marketing tools required.

CultureWorks Chief Operating Officer Amrik Sidhu was heavily involved in the two hires and – just like he had with Peter — he has nothing but terrific words about Amy and the role she will play.

“There are several gaps that she is filling, but her primary role is to support the Chinese market for the in-China program,” Amrik said.

“So what does that mean? That means she is working with the agents; she is doing all the training; she is communicating the programs; all that kind of activity around sales. So she is working with our Chinese sales team to package information to make sure that we are on track.”

Amrik said one way to look at is Amy will do everything related to that program between the sales team in China and the agents and London registrars. She will answer questions for them and she will be in training sessions when agents talk about the ESL program.

“That’s her primary goal. Her secondary role is really filling in for a lot of gaps we have around Chinese language,” Amrik said. “So for example, PYP information packages we put out. She is going to help us translate and she’s also going to communicate with agents around that.”

“So she is kind of that missing link between the registration process, our registrars and the agents. She can speak the language, she can connect with our team — and China — and she works evenings and mornings to be in the right time zone.”

An important addition to the team at our ESL school

Amrik said when he and Tina met Amy they knew right away they had to find a role for her, knowing they had a gap in the CultureWorks team.

“It worked out well and the more she gets engaged, the more we realized we needed that position filled a long time ago,” Amrik said. “To not having a Chinese-speaking staff member as part of the sales team is a bad thing.”

Amrik is also thrilled with Amy’s age (26) and her connections to the Chinese community in China and London.

Amy takes part in the bridging program at Brescia University College where international students adjust to the campus.
Amy takes part in the bridging program at Brescia University College where international students adjust to the campus.

“She has friends here, she has people who go to school here and she uses all the social media tools that people use. So in one way, it is a fresh perspective because frankly, a lot of our organization is not tech savvy.”

Amrik said Amy will be getting more and more coaching and training with Tina when they travel to China. She will be ultimately doing agent training and meeting with people on her own.

Meanwhile, Amy will be joining a company that she started with in 2012, as a student. She came to our ESL school in London for a grand total of four weeks at King’s University College in what is now the Fast Track/Be Ready summer program.

“Best part is I made lots of good friends from CultureWorks,” Amy said. “The girl I spent the afternoon with at McDonalds today also graduated from CultureWorks.”

Next stop was Brescia University College where she spent two years and continues to remain close friends with Christina Lord, the International Student Program Coordinator.

Amy is a graduate of CultureWorks, Brescia University College and Ivey Business School. Here, she has just graduated from Western.
Amy is a graduate of CultureWorks, Brescia University College and Ivey Business School. Here, she has just graduated from Western.

“I have a very good relationship with Christina. I always consider her my second Mom in Canada,” Amy said.

Her final stop in Canada – before her new position – was two years at Ivey Business School where she worked on obtaining her HBA.

All these schools in two different countries led Amy to exactly where she wanted to end up.

“Education is where my passion is,” she said quite succinctly. “A lot of friends ask me why I want to do education, because I graduated from Ivey. I think because when I started my Canadian journey, I had a lot of international friends and my previous agents asked me to help other students or I have my family friends who asked me for support.

“So when I was in university, I already knew that for a lot of students it was not perfect for Chinese to study abroad. It is challenging for them to become successful as international students.”

And while she was in university, she travelled to Italy and then Ghana. That was so that she could learn more about different education systems and international students.

Amy made a stop in Ghana as part of her goal to learn different education systems.
Amy made a stop in Ghana as part of her goal to learn different education systems.

“I think this probably really matches my background because I am Chinese. I am very proud of the Chinese community, so I think this job is perfectly matched with my passions of international education and also helping more Chinese students to be successful.”

CultureWorks; education; China; London, Ontario; travel; international students. Together, they are a series of words that seems to fit CW’s newest employee quite nicely.

Would you like to learn English as a second language?

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CultureWorks, Brescia teamwork paying off for EAP students.

CultureWorks teacher Melissa Douglas and her PYP students take a break for a photo-op …
CultureWorks teacher Melissa Douglas and her PYP students take a break for a photo-op …

The relationship between CultureWorks EAP school and Brescia University College is a solid one.

To begin with, you don’t have to look any farther than the CultureWorks home office — located on Brescia property known as the Mary Manor – to see the educational teamwork.

It was back in June of 1961 when the Ursuline sisters of Brescia purchased the Mary Manor to help house some of the students and sisters.

Several decades later, CultureWorks rented the space. Teachers and staff moved their day-to-day operations into the building, now referred to by CW students as the “White House.”

Other than bricks and mortar, there are many other reasons for the ongoing relationship between the two organizations.

A special English as a second language program

On this occasion, it is a time to remind all of a special ESL program that began with Brescia and now has language training support from CultureWorks.

The program we refer to is the Preliminary Year Program, or PYP if you prefer.

… And now, the photo-op is over and it is time for the CultureWorks students to get back to their classroom work.
… And now, the photo-op is over and it is time for the CultureWorks students to get back to their classroom work.

“All PYP students are Brescia students. Officially, they are Brescia students. We come in at the language level and we are teaching them English language skills,” CultureWorks Academic Director Meredith McGregor said, in explaining the relationship.

Meredith said it has been many years since Brescia started the PYP program. It was established because there was a need for students who wanted to go to university, but they did not have all the required high school credits.

“So it gave students an opportunity to come in, do the credits needed just to enter university, and then also pick up a credit or two prior to starting their first year of university.”

There are four options for students taking the English as a second language program, Meredith said, but for this purpose we will focus on the two major ones involving CultureWorks. (All four are outlined at the bottom of this story).

CW Academic Director Meredith McGregor walks us through the PYP program.
CW Academic Director Meredith McGregor walks us through the PYP program.

“Language only: It’s for students who are only focusing on English language skills. They are not taking credits. They are not allowed to yet. Those students come in with a certain level of proficiency and are just focusing on reading, writing, listening and speaking and all the academic skills they need.”

Meredith said it’s one semester and as soon as they finish successfully, they advance into the second semester.

“Language-plus credit: Now they are taking fewer hours of English-language training – goes down to 14 hours, 24 hours in the lower level —- plus a credit, so they can take a university credit. It could be a math, could be sociology, could be physics.”

An ESL program for students who want to attend Brescia or another Canadian university

Brescia, an all-women’s university, allows males to take classes at Brescia.

“I am not sure when that started, but for many, many years. Even when I was going to Western, I took a course at Brescia where there were guys in my class. They can take a course. They just can’t be enrolled as full-time Brescia students.”

Meredith said the PYP program was never intended just to join Brescia, although you could take your PYP program and go right into Brescia.

It is meant to go anywhere and Brescia will help you with the process of applying to other institutions.

Meredith said the PYP track was a large CultureWorks success in September with three cohorts and about 50 students.

“It’s really been an important part of our student body this year. I think the goal is for it to continue to grow. I think that is a goal CultureWorks has and that is a goal Brescia has as well.

“So we are working together.”

Here are the details for the four PYP options.

Option 1: Language + Preliminary Year Credits

  • Students needing English language courses can combine that coursework with Preliminary Year credits to satisfy university admission requirements.
  • Students with a 6.0 IELTS or equivalent can take English courses + Preliminary Year credits. Students with below 6.0 IELTS may be eligible to take this combination, but will be subject to individual review and approval. Students presenting below a 5.5 IELTS can study language full-time, and add Preliminary Year credits once a higher level of English is obtained in the program.
  • Students will be assisted in applying to the final university of their choice as part of the program.

Option 2: Language + First Year Credits

  • Students needing English language courses can combine that coursework with first year university credits to receive advanced standing into year one or two.
  • Students with a 6.0 IELTS or equivalent can take English courses + credits. Students with below 6.0 IELTS may be eligible to take this combination, but will be subject to individual review and approval. Students presenting below a 5.5 IELTS can study language full-time, and add credits once a higher level of English is obtained in the program.
  • Students will be assisted in applying to the final university of their choice, as part of the program.

Option 3: Preliminary Year Credits Only

  • An opportunity to complete first-year university admission requirements and learn the skills you will need to succeed in university: essay writing, taking lecture notes, writing examinations, etc.
  • Students are enrolled in 5 academic subjects plus a non-credit course designed to provide study skills and transition support
  • Students will be assisted in applying to the final university of their choice, as part of the program.

Option 4: Preliminary Year + First Year Credits

  • A co-educational pre-university qualifying year.
  • Students will be assisted in applying to the final university of their choice, as part of the program.

(More information on the Preliminary Year Program can be found in the CultureWorks website. https://cultureworkstheschool.com/english-program/preliminary-year-program/)

Are you interested in taking the Preliminary Year Program?

Learn more about how CultureWorks can help you learn English as a second language and prepare for university!

Studying an ESL program? Learn 4 ways Canadians celebrate Valentine’s Day

learn English as a second language

In Canada, Valentine’s Day falls on February 14 and it is a day to celebrate love and romance. While most Canadians don’t get Valentine’s Day off from work, it is still considered an important holiday, especially for those in romantic relationships. If you study English in Canada, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Canadian culture, including the many holidays it celebrates. Here are just a few things Canadians like to do on February 14.

1. Students in an ESL program in Canada will see many full restaurants on Valentine’s Day

About a third of Canadian couples celebrates Valentine’s Day by going out for dinner at a restaurant. So if you plan on going to a restaurant in February, you better make a reservation far in advance! Many couples also stay at home and cook a romantic meal. Certain types of food are definitely considered more romantic than others in Canada. French, Italian, Spanish, and sushi restaurants, for example, tend to be really popular for a romantic night out. Hamburgers, fried chicken, and fast food, however, are considered a lot less romantic!

2. Both children and adults exchange Valentine’s Day cards in Canada

Valentine’s Day isn’t just for adults. In elementary schools, young children often make valentines and give them to their classmates. A valentine is a small card decorated with hearts and flowers. It is usually sent anonymously, so that the person getting the valentine won’t know who sent it. Even adults sometimes exchange cards on Valentine’s Day, although usually they are for their romantic partners and not for friends and acquaintances! When you study in an ESL program in Canada, you will often find entire aisles of department stores and pharmacies filled with Valentine’s Day cards for sale in February.

ESL program
Young children often make their own valentines and share them with their classmates

3. Couples will often give gifts to one another on Valentine’s Day

Many couples exchange gifts, like chocolate or flowers, on Valentine’s Day. Red roses are definitely the most popular flower to exchange on Valentine’s Day. If you are from a country that celebrates White Day, you may be used to women giving men gifts on Valentine’s Day. Canada does not celebrate White Day, therefore on Valentine’s Day there is no expectation that only women give gifts. Instead, couples are free to exchange gifts however they want. In fact, many couples don’t exchange gifts at all and prefer to just spend the day together.

English as a second language
Roses and chocolates are some of the most popular gifts to exchange on Valentine’s Day

4. Many Canadians prefer memorable experiences on Valentine’s Day

When you learn English as a second language in Canada, you will encounter many people saying they dislike exchanging gifts on Valentine’s Day because they find it too commercial. Instead of exchanging gifts, a lot of couples prefer doing fun and romantic activities together on Valentine’s Day, such as going to the spa, taking dance lessons, or going ice skating together. For many people, these experiences tend to be far more meaningful and memorable than flowers or chocolates.

Do you want to learn English in Canada?

Contact CultureWorks to learn about our English as a second language program!

CultureWorks students take the test, tubing all the way.

English as a second language in Canada

A test tube is usually known as a common piece of laboratory glassware consisting of a finger-like length of glass or clear plastic tubing, open at the top and closed at the bottom.

However, in this case it was a reference to 55 CultureWorks ESL students making their maiden runs down a 30-metre high, snow-covered hill on custom winter tire tubes.

Located on a beautiful piece of property outside of St. Marys, Ont., the River Valley Winter Tube Slide is wide open at the top and closed at the bottom where the thrill seekers come to a rest.

The test tube, at this point, was complete for the students on this Spirit Day experience.

CultureWorks teacher and Spirit Day coordinator Joel Melton took time out to make several runs down the glorious hills.


An activity for teachers and students at our ESL school to enjoy

But it was not the end for the students — along with our ESL school’s teachers and admin staff – as they made several more trips down the hill with smiles almost as large as the tire tubes themselves.

English as a second language in Canada

CultureWorks teacher Joel Melton has been with the CW team since 2007, but it was his first time as Spirit Day coordinator for this event. He, like the students, was enjoying himself all day long.

“I’ve been doing this activity for years — I’ve been trying to figure out how many years — but I’m really enjoying this one,” Joel said. “And not because I had a personal hand in it, but because it’s a just a nice balance of inside and outside events.

“It’s not about forcing the kids to be outside and face the Canadian winter, but instead just to have everybody together and enjoying themselves. We didn’t have many absences which also speaks volumes to the teachers communicating with the students.”

Students had plenty of activities to enjoy inside and out

Rounding out the outdoor experience was roasting marshmallows on the traditional open fire. Meanwhile, the inside experience was numerous games for students in our ESL program, including the cards variety.

And making new friends at the same time!

English as a second language in Canada

“I find that some of the students just like to stay with their friends, but I am also seeing the students, they are not level here,” Joel said. “In the classrooms, they are in their own levels, but here they are all the same.

“I really like to see that because then you clearly see students that are from different classes, different campuses, coming together, talking to each other. That’s what makes it better for us in terms of spirit.”

Joel’s observation of the students sharing the good times with each other, regardless of classes, was supported by many student comments during the day.

English as a second language in Canada

“This is my first time trying this tubing and I tried it four times. It’s a very nice experience with the snow,” Maggie, a Level 7 student from China, said.

“And with this event from Level 4 to Level 7, students can play together and we can make some new friends, not just our classmates.”

Thanh Duan is in Level 6 and a budding priest from Vietnam. He agreed.

“I think today was perfect. The outdoor activity helped me improve my health and the Spirit Day like today gets everyone together and I made friends with them,” Thanh Duan said.

Mohammad, in Level 5, is from Jordan.

“It’s helping me to know new friends and to make a lot relationships with the CultureWorks students, so it’s really fine. I had fun,” Mohammad said.

Howard, a Level 6 student from China, said he found the tubing a fun experience, with the snow-covered hills grabbing his attention.

“I am from the south of China. It’s pretty close to Hong Kong. The temperature is never lower than 15. So it’s pretty warm. I think (the snow) is pretty awesome,” Howard said.

“This year is my first year to come to Canada. It’s the first time I have seen the snow. In China, I never see the snow. When you are on the top of the hill and you go down to the bottom, it’s crazy and exciting.”

Howard said it was also a great experience meeting students from different countries.

English as a second language in Canada

“This is a good change for me to find another friend, somebody from Vietnam and Brazil. I can make other friends, not only from China. This is pretty good for me,” Howard said.

Yes, the “test tube” was indeed a treat for all. And no glass was broken.

CultureWorks students comment on the ESL program.


China. Level 6

“Personally, I can pass my language tests through the CultureWorks, and they also have some activities like this one. Can make some friends or play with my friends on this trip. I think it’s very good.”


Vietnam. Level 5

“At first, I had a lot of work to do and it made me depressed, but now I am enjoying my studies and a lot of work makes me study a lot. In two months, I feel I have improved my English skills. I had a lot of challenges when I came here, like weather, like the food, the culture. I think CultureWorks helps me with my listening skills a lot. When I came here two months ago, my listening skills were not good. I can’t hear anything from teachers, but I don’t know how. Now I can hear clearly.


China. Level 6

“I think CultureWorks is a good school and we can learn English skills and make more friends. Also, teachers can also teach life skills to us or other countries that don’t know English. That’s very good. The teachers are also always teaching us how to do the grammar and writing skills and how to speak to other people.”


Jordan. Level 5

“I have been in CultureWorks for two months and really it’s the best people experience in my life, because there are a lot of communities here and the teachers are also helpful and they help the students and that’s what I want, to improve my English for university program. The level of teaching is professional and they are such good teachers and I don’t have this in my home town. It’s really different. First thing I had was culture shock when I came here because this is the first time in a new country without my family. They are helpful and they help me to move on and get more comfortable.”

Would you like to experience fun activities while learning English as a second language in Canada?

Learn more about the programs offered at CultureWorks!

Why study English in Canada?

ESL program in Canada

English is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world. It is spoken by approximately 1.5 billion people, and is the official language of over 50 countries. This presents a world of opportunity for students who would like to study English. However, it also presents a world of choice. How do you choose which country to study in?

Here are some of the reasons why more and more students are deciding to learn English in Canada.

Experiencing Canada’s four seasons is a lot of fun

Not many countries around the world experience the four seasons seen in Canada. While it’s true that winters can get quite cold, it’s also true that summers can be very warm too. Temperatures can be as cold as -20°C in the winter, as warm as 30°C during the summer.

Each season in Canada brings fun new activities and adventures
Each season in Canada brings fun new activities and adventures

Each season brings its own joys. The first snowfall of the winter is a wonderful moment that many ESL students treasure. Winter sports such as tubing and skating are also activities that students can look forward to.

The spring is when maple sap is harvested and turned into maple syrup, which is why many Canadians and ESL students enjoy visiting a traditional sugar shack during this time of year. In the fall, many ESL students can marvel as the leaves of trees change colour. And in the summer, the warm temperatures make it easier to enjoy camping, visiting an amusement park, or spending a day at the beach. For students who want variety and a unique experience, studying in Canada is a terrific idea.

There is so much natural beauty to enjoy in Canada

Even though Canada is the second largest country in the world, it has a relatively small population of 37 million. It’s no surprise then that much of the country is unpopulated, and that many large woods and natural preserves exist for students to enjoy.

Canada also has many beautiful natural wonders, including the breathtaking Niagara Falls. Whether enjoying parks and bike paths in the city or travelling to a beautiful preservation nearby, there are many ways you can appreciate Canada’s natural beauty during your studies.

Canada is a very safe country

For many students who choose to study abroad, safety is a top concern. It’s important to feel safe when studying in another country, especially when you may have difficulty speaking the local language.

This is one of the reasons why many students are choosing to study English in Canada. Canada is one of the safest countries on the planet. According to a recent survey, Canada is the 8th safest country in the world—ahead of both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Canada is a welcoming and multicultural country

In addition to being very safe, Canada is also very welcoming and multicultural. In fact, multiculturalism has been an official policy in Canada for decades. Canadians also welcome diversity. As former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau once said:

“Uniformity is neither desirable nor possible in a country the size of Canada… What could be more absurd than the concept of an “all-Canadian” boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate. A society which eulogizes the average citizen is one which breeds mediocrity. What the world should be seeking, and what in Canada we must continue to cherish, are not concepts of uniformity but human values: compassion, love, and understanding.”

There are many high quality ESL programs in Canada

Of course, for many students one of the most important aspects of studying abroad is enrolling in an excellent ESL program. It’s important for students to get plenty of practice speaking English, and to learn from experienced and highly qualified instructors.

A high quality ESL program can make all the difference
A high quality ESL program can make all the difference

Fortunately, Canada is known for the high quality of its programs. For many ESL students, this, along with the many other benefits that come with studying in Canada, make our country an excellent choice.

Would you like to enrol in an ESL program in Canada?

Discover CultureWorks and its many different programs.

Recent CultureWorks graduate from China leaves a trail of soul searching during his ESL experience.

Zekun (Kuhn) He is a treasured member of the CultureWorks community
Zekun (Kuhn) He is a treasured member of the CultureWorks community

There is something special about Zekun (Kuhn) He.

Kuhn is a recent CultureWorks graduate who asks questions, and lots of them; he takes routes not often traveled; and his smiles are large and often.

Yes, there is plenty to be learned from this 23-year-old from Xi’an, China.

At the beginning, he applied for his Master’s degree in three countries – Great Britain, Australia and Canada. He is aiming for a mechanical engineering degree. Australia was dropped early, and Great Britain was not far behind.

“The Australian school gave me an offer in one day. And they even used Chinese people to show me their welcome. I say why are you giving me it so soon? Do you ever consider about me? British gave me an offer in one week. So soon!”

Next task was choosing which school in Canada. Western, McGill and Toronto were on his list.

Why Kuhn chose CultureWorks to be his ESL school

Kuhn ultimately chose Western. Kuhn’s cousin was at CultureWorks before him, allowing him to know about the ESL program before coming to Canada.

“He told me CultureWorks is better than other language schools, because the teacher will provide more good designed courses for you, not just follow the books. So I think it’s better. And mostly CultureWorks classes are not bigger classes as other ESL schools. Small class size so you can talk to teacher more often.

Making friends from all over the world

Kuhn tested into CultureWorks’ Level 5, and his route to graduating from there was not traditional for a Chinese student. Instead of spending most of his time with students from his own country, he did just the opposite.

“If you want to stay by yourself, why go to Canada? You can enjoy your room in China. I told (any fellow students) I meet, but most of them don’t care. They just want to stay by themselves.”

Kuhn said his goal in coming to Canada was making new friends at ESL school. He did just that in a large way.

“People are very high social animals. I am social. My goal in going to Canada is make friends, international friends. So now I have Congo friends, Arabic friends, Brazilian friends, Canadian friends, Japanese friends, Vietnamese friends, Korean friends.”

This all helped Kuhn avoid any problems about being so far from home. Loneliness was never a problem and CultureWorks helped him with that as well.

Now, six months later, he is on the move to Western. But not before he left a large, positive mark at CultureWorks.

“Actually, I never feared being lonely in London because Canada has lots of activities here. If you want to participate, there are many places you can do that, but sometime students don’t want to play. They just want to stay in their house playing games. That is why they have loneliness.

“For me, it doesn’t matter because in my free time, my home stay will take me to apple picking, go to Niagara Falls, buy something in downtown so I think the half year is very quick for me. I never feel lonely.”

Kuhn’s teachers are impressed with his positive and outgoing attitude

CultureWorks teachers were also impressed with the graduating Kuhn. Paul Findlay and Joel Melton were just two of the many on that list.


“He is a very inclusive student, works well with everyone. Outgoing, he has become more so as he has become more comfortable here at CW. He always speaks English in class, has made the effort to actually become a part of society here!” Paul said.

“Kuhn is a very independent worker, however, he loves to connect to others; both from his native China, but also with students and teachers from other countries.

He always carried a positive attitude and curious nature which lead him through his new city of residence,” Joel said.

In this short clip, hear Kuhn participate in one of our ESL classes:

Kuhn shares what he loves most about our English as a second language school

At the end of a 25-minute chat, Kuhn was asked if he had anything else to say before he moved on to his next stop in life.

“I want to say something for next class of classmates. That Canada is a very peaceful and beautiful country. It will give you a very impressive experience of your life.

“I think it’s very good. In my personal thoughts before, I think the language schools are very small, without any of their own culture. But CultureWorks is different. CultureWorks has their own blog, they have many of their own many activities, many festivals.

Kuhn said this all leads to something, frankly, that was soul searching.

“So I think they have their own culture. That is why CultureWorks has their soul. I think for me the soul of the culture is very important for the company.”

“It’s like the inner context. It’s not like just teaching, just like giving you a diploma and like educational product of students. That is not the soul. Soul is made after you study here. You can get lots of different things. They can give you some fresh ideas. They can give you gifts, like special CultureWorks gifts to you and you can hold it for the rest of your life.”

And finally, from an exceptional student ….

“From CultureWorks, the hugest thing I learned was to have critical thinking about everything.”

More great words from the CultureWorks soul man.

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Learn more about why Kuhn and so many other students love CultureWorks!

CultureWorks students ready themselves for busiest time of the year, keeping their calendars close by

CultureWorks Award winners for this term
CultureWorks Award winners for this term

At this time of school year, the most watched device for ESL students is not a computer. And no, not the student behind or in front of you either. Even pizza at lunch is set aside.

The key now is the calendar. It may be on the wall, but many are still planning where that wall may be and when they have access to it. A smart phone is a likely place to find the dates required.

CultureWorks students are no different than anyone else in the busiest time of the year.

So let’s take a look at some events in August, most of which play into September.

Events taking place at our ESL school

CultureWorks students will be beginning a new term or joining the classes for the first time in London, Ont., or Ottawa.

Wednesday, Sept. 5. No problem.

But what happened in August?

Well, some were packing their bags and leaving their homes in sites far away, getting prepared to come to Canada for the first time.

Others were making certain they graduate from CultureWorks so that they could enter university, either down the street or in another Canadian city.

And some, unfortunately, were heading home to Saudi Arabia.

(More on that in next week’s blog as we look at the recall, along with the tale of one CultureWorks student who managed to stay in Canada).

Meanwhile, last day each term for CultureWorks students includes the delightful poster presentations, where Level 6 and Level 7 two-person teams show off the results of their eight weeks of work.

A closer look at the poster presentations and Independent Study class

Wednesday, Aug. 15. Let’s get started.

In the morning, teachers, moderators and even the CW management wandered through to gaze at pieces of work that seem out of this world in the degree of talent required.

CultureWorks teacher Karen Preston headed up this term’s version of what is known as the Independent Study class at our ESL school.

Karen said the focus of the program is to let the students select a project they are interested in and “run with it” from beginning to end.

“They start Week 1. They are putting together an idea, working with their partner if they have one, perhaps doing a bit of background research,” Karen said.

“By second or third week, they have put together a project proposal where they have to put all their ideas together, look to see how they might put together a project and depending on what level, they will have to present that information in one way or another, either just to the teacher or to the teacher and other classmates to give them feedback and further ideas.

“And they continue to build from there to Week 8 when they actually present their entire project to everyone.”

All sounds simple? No, not really.

Corina and Yiding share their poster presentation project

Corina and Yiding, both in their graduating term, took on a tremendously interesting subject in which the legal and trading name was MC-Dicer. It is an application software that is designed to solve “people’s small decisions that are difficult to make in life.”

Whew, sound tough? That would be true.

“At first, I think it’s a important topic,” Yiding said. “Because it’s a normal situation in our life and we have to face the situation in decisiveness every day, every time in our life. Like what kind of clothes do I have to wear? I prefer Chinese food or Korean food for my lunch? On and on.”

Yiding and Corina designed an app for their Independent Study class
Yiding and Corina designed an app for their Independent Study class

Why choose this subject?

“Because we think it’s an interesting topic and Yiding agreed with me,” Corina said. “At first, we just think it’s interesting and second because we just think that way works for us, so we wanted to make it more professional. We wanted to create an app and we will create more games.”

Yiding and Corina’s poster presentation
Yiding and Corina’s poster presentation

Karen said the effort put forward by such students as Corina and Yiding is noted each term.

“I love how much effort they put into it when they have something that they want to work on, that it’s not us assigning a textbook page or us giving them a topic to work on,” Karen said.

“They are choosing something that they find interesting and then they tend to put more energy into that and want to share and are proud of what they are sharing on this day.”

Corina and Yiding talk about their experience with the CultureWorks ESL program

At the end of the morning presentations and before awards were handed out and the cake consumed, Corina and Yiding took time out to talk big picture about the CultureWorks ESL program. Both are entering King’s University College in September.

“I think it’s a good time because it helped me to seek the life in Canada and CultureWorks helps us to make friends,” Corina, now 20, said.

“We can just enjoy some of the local life and we have activities. And actually it just makes us feel better. We are not afraid of going into the university in September.”

Yiding noted the fact that their final day at CultureWorks ESL learning was on Brescia University College property.

“I think the biggest part is that it’s located in Brescia and we know that most of the students who study in CultureWorks are prepared for their university life,” Yiding, 21, said.

“You can see and talk with the university students: ‘What do you think of the university life? What kind of study habits do you have?’ We can learn from these students who are already studying on this campus.”

Next up for Corina and Yiding? First day at King’s?

Thursday, Sept. 6. You’re welcome.

Would you like to enroll in an intensive English program in Canada?

Discover why so many students choose to study at CultureWorks!

A strong Iranian wind brings Saba ‘good news:’ A successful CultureWorks ESL program, entrance to Western University and a new home in Canada

ESL school
Saba Serat on her experience at CultureWorks: “It was a great experience for me. I got to know Canadian people, like my teachers. It was a good first impression of Canada.”

“(Saba Wind) is a wind that blows in the spring in the morning,” Saba Serat said. “He (Hafez) uses my name a lot in his poems: ‘Saba Wind, bring me good news.’”

Saba Serat is a recent graduate of CultureWorks ESL program in London and these days she is biding her time in Canada before she enters Western University in the chemical engineering program in September.

Her name, Saba, comes from the often-used term in Hafez writing. The legendary Persian poet “lauded the joys of love and wine, but also targeted religious hypocrisy.” He was born in Shiraz in 1325 and died in 1390.

Saba’s journey to CultureWorks

The CultureWorks Saba is 27, is from Iran, and her family lives in Tehran.

The good news she refers to came in bunches at the end of 2017. Once she decided Canada was going to be her country of choice, she received a conditional offer at Western and entrance to CultureWorks.

But there was a Canadian visa to be had. Everything was not perfect, but it was coming together. Hurry up and wait, some people might say.

For the visa, she had to go Turkey because there is no Canadian embassy in Iran. The process—including obtaining all the documents associated with the offer of the university, the acceptance of CultureWorks, other financial documents and fingerprints—took longer than expected.

“I went back to Iran and I was going crazy. Four months was a long time to wait.”

Then it was off to London and a one-term stay in a CultureWorks ESL program. Her English speaking was already strong. But she still needed some work before entering Western. She was not sure she needed the ESL help.

“I wanted to go straight to the university and start my program. I wasn’t happy with it. But after about a week or two, I changed my mind. I was so happy, actually, that I came to CultureWorks first,” Saba said.

Saba voices her opinion on smoking in a CultureWorks online class.

“It’s a practice for me to speak language and study in English and have a teacher who speaks in English because it’s my first time. I didn’t have that experience before. And the skills that they taught were actually some things I didn’t know of, like academic listening skills, and writing, or academic reading. These are all important skills.”

Enjoying Canadian culture while studying English as a second language

She appreciated her first taste of Canada.

“It was a great experience for me. I got to know Canadian people, like my teachers. It was a good first impression of Canada. I could see Canadians are good people. They are not racist. They are not against international students. They are friendly. They try to help you. If you ask them one question, they try and help you as much as they can.”

Olivia Trzcianowski is one of those CultureWork teachers. She was impressed with her student.

“Though she has completed a degree in Iran, her academic skills in the area of research were lacking,” Olivia said. “Her speaking skills were unbelievable. She learned English only in Iran.”

Saba and her classmates receive awards on her last day at CultureWorks.
Saba and her classmates receive awards on her last day at CultureWorks.

Olivia said Saba had no trouble fitting in, despite the fact she was the only Iranian student during the term.

“She (Saba) wasn’t self conscious about talking with other people. She was always friendly and willing to work with everyone.”

Saba has decided to stay in London during the break she has between ESL school and Western. This gives her time to reflect on what she leaves behind in Iran, other than her two sisters and two parents. Incidentally, three of the four are engineers.

“It’s kind of a family tradition. If your father is an engineer, you become an engineer. If your father is a doctor, you become a doctor.”

Saba discusses soccer, religion and staying in Canada

Meanwhile, her summer stay has also included watching her country compete in the World Cup of soccer. She watched the Iran-Portugal match at a jammed North York, Ont., sports bar.

“When we scored a goal, or there was a penalty or something, the whole place exploded. Everyone would scream,” she said, enjoying every minute despite the fact Iran lost on this day.

“The Iranian players played perfectly. And Ronaldo did something. He should have got a red card, but the referee gave him a yellow card. Everyone was so mad. He put his elbow on somebody’s face. It was so hard. It wasn’t fair.”

Always hot topics when it comes to Iran are religion and politics. Saba is comfortable talking about both.

In the ongoing tricky religion situation in Iran, Saba can best be described as a non-practicing Muslim.

“As you can see, I am not wearing a hijab. I dress the way I want,” she said.

“In Iran, it’s a not a choice. You can’t choose not to wear a hijab or wear a hijab or be a Muslim or not be a Muslim. You have to wear your hijab. It’s not just me. Most of the people don’t believe in that. They just cover their hair because they are supposed to; they are forced to. And if they don’t, they will get arrested.”

Saba intends to stay in Canada after she graduates from Western, unlike her two sisters who returned to Iran after obtaining their engineering degrees in England.

“I am different. I want to stay,” Saba said.

“Saba Wind has many communicative roles in Hafez’ poetry: an informed source; a sender giving information; it conveys the message; as a channel, it transmits concepts and messages; it is sometimes a harbinger; it receives messages; it shapes meaning in the mind of the receiver.”

— Courtesy of University of Wollongong, Australia.

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