Punjabi student adapts after a little help from her family and the teachers and students at our ESL school


Harpreet says the CultureWorks teaching style is much more suitable to her than the classes back in the Punjab.

Harpreet Kaur is 22 and a new student in the CultureWorks ESL program in London, Ont.

She is also the only current CW student from Punjab, a state bordering Pakistan in the heart of India’s Sikh community. Punjab, itself, has two-thirds of the population of Canada.

Starting in Level 6, Harpreet’s English is good, her personality vibrant, and her ability to make friends easier than most.

All was well, you would think, especially with her older sister living in London as well.

However, there was a large “but” when she first arrived for her ESL school. It was something you would not have guessed talking to her six weeks after she came to Canada.

Harpreet felt homesick when she first began to study English in Canada

Despite that million-dollar smile, she was no different than any other international student leaving her or his homeland to study English in Canada.

“When I arrived here, for approximately one week, I was just crying,” Harpreet said. “I just wanted to leave Canada and go back to my home country.

“But my sister and brother helped me a lot to be here. I think my sister and brother held me every time, explaining the benefits of being in Canada.”

It was a huge help that her sister Prabhjot Kaur Malhi, 34, is in London and her brother, Jagpreet Singh Sidhu, 30, lives just down the highway in Peterborough, Ont.

Harpreet is now part of the London household.

“I feel very comfortable because my family is here, because my siblings are here. So that is a great moment when I go with them for an outing.

“It is great for me because we get together after a long time of five to six years of being apart. Didn’t spend much time with them. It’s a good time in Canada for me.”

Originally, Harpreet was just coming to Canada for a visit, but her sister was quick to point out the advantages of staying put and working on her education.

“My sister said I could do some study in Canada, then she actually told me about CultureWorks. She organized everything for me because I didn’t know anything about Canada. It’s my first time here.

The other piece of the puzzle that led to solving the homesickness involved the CultureWorks English for academic purposes courses themselves.

One of Harpreet’s CultureWorks teachers, Linda Beckley, says the newcomer from India is an outstanding student, “willing to take risks.”

One of Harpreet’s CultureWorks teachers, Linda Beckley, says the newcomer from India is an outstanding student, “willing to take risks.”

“At the very first time, I just felt very awkward, but when I met with my classmates, and met with my teachers, I felt they were very friendly, because they all respect me and I respect all of them,” she said.

“So I didn’t feel any awkward moments with them. I just felt very comfortable with them in class. It is a good time for me.”

Harpreet wants to follow her older sister’s university path and that involves Brescia University College, where her sister now studies.

Harpreet has many goals for after her English for academic purposes courses

“I want to pursue further study in my field. I just want to get admission in bachelor of food and nutrition program because it is my dream to become a dietician.

“That’s why I am very eager to get into that program and just put all my efforts into becoming a good dietician in Canada.”

She said she would like, however, some help with the weather. The London spring has not been suitable for Canadians, let alone guests from Asia.

“When I arrived here, there was too much cold. That’s rough for me to survive in too much cold because I am not used to this type of weather. But the people are very friendly.”

Harpreet said she will miss India.

“There are lot things we can do with our friends. In India, there is education, there is entertainment, there are religious places, and there are historical places which we can visit.”

She acknowledges there are challenges, however, in every country.

“The environment … obviously in India. Pollution is a big problem and water, air. Mostly air pollution causes many types of problems. Health diseases like bronchitis, asthma.

Harpreet (left front) enjoys a London, Ont., sushi dinner with her parents, her sister and brother, and her sister’s children.
Harpreet (left front) enjoys a London, Ont., sushi dinner with her parents, her sister and brother, and her sister’s children.

“These are the challenges and that’s why we live in Canada.”

And that is where her smile now rests.

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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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CultureWorks students are now eligible for conditional admission to Algoma University


We are happy to share the news that CultureWorks students are now eligible for conditional admission to Algoma University. This new pathway will provide additional options for students studying with CultureWorks in China or in Canada.

Founder Tina Bax says “Our mission is to provide students with access to education. Algoma offers an experience that many other Canadian universities do not, due to its location and program offerings. We look forward to sharing the Algoma story with our students and their parents”.

The tale of how the ‘newspaper guy’ becomes the Daily Boomalang moderator.

The ‘newspaper guy’ heads up the Sun Media team at the 2012 London Olympics. Here they gather at St. Pancras International Station on the final day.
The ‘newspaper guy’ heads up the Sun Media team at the 2012 London Olympics. Here they gather at St. Pancras International Station on the final day.

The year was 2014 when the career of the lifetime “newspaper guy” ended.

But, as it turned out, not his employment dealing with the news of the day.

His one-year stint with the Metro daily paper had come to a stop when the London, Ont., version closed.

That was after 16 ½ years at Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. And two stints at the London Free Press (one stint in which he overlaps with Sun Media) adding up to 24 years.

Ok, yes he’s old, but doesn’t act that way. Sometimes, you wish he would.

Newspaper mail boy and copy boy, sports writer, sports desk editor, photo editor times two, sports editor times two and finally back to sports writer.

The end was not what he wanted, despite the long haul. Where would he go?

Joining the team at our ESL school

Maybe head back to the golf club where he worked in the pro shop as a teenager. Or back to where he started, delivering The Globe as a 10-year-old in Owen Sound, Ont., or the London Free Press in St. Thomas, Ont., as a 12-year-old.

He was too young to retire, too poor to run away to Jamaica, too energetic to not be dealing with people on a daily basis.

Within days, CultureWorks Founder and President Tina Bax invited the “newspaper guy” for lunch. She had an idea how to keep him employed.

And if you know Tina, ideas are not something she has in short supply.

Within minutes, she explained how her “vision” was going to work. At this point, there was no staff for the project, no name attached. But it did sound much like a newspaper position.

A few months later, it became a reality.

An English as a second language class about news and current events

This new online course would allow students to practice their listening and speaking skills anywhere there is internet access. Carried out in real time, this is focused on daily current events, guided by a course moderator. Topics include a mix of international, national and local news.

Students completing their intensive English training have the opportunity to critically reflect upon the news, share opinions and discuss a variety of topics within an intimate class format. The size of the online class – no more than 8-10 students – allows regular conversation in English, helping students build up the confidence needed to reach their goals. And the online forum is always encouraging and never intimidating!

In the fall of 2014, the vision came into play. Plenty of discussion on how exactly the class discussions would be shared with the moderator, ultimately the newspaper guy’s role in this online class.

A name had to be attached and a group of downtown London staffers sat down and worked on the ultimate name game.

By the end of the day, the official name was sent to us from a New York taxi where several members of CultureWorks administration were on their way to the airport and home.

Feelings were not hurt. The suggested name from the taxi was perfect – the Daily Boomalang. Sounded much like a newspaper name, was a takeoff on the boomerang and perhaps had something to do with the newspaper’s guy last name.

The Daily Boomalang started out as a separate project with London, Oshawa and Ottawa students included. Then it became an elective and finally a weekly class for all London-based CultureWorks students.

Three nights, 50-minute classes, several different news stories, too much Donald Trump, too little baseball, too many plane crashes, too little on global warming.

Mornings are spent selecting the news stories for the evening classes. Newspaper guy loves it. Essentially a split shift, allowing him to go for a run in between.

And allows the newspaper guy to step aside for one absolutely necessary Daily Boomalang component.

That would be IT expert Peter Choi who puts together the photos and videos and makes certain all students are connected in each class from their home-stays or whatever site they may have chosen to be seated.

The Masters graduate in computer engineering is required to “baby sit” the newspaper guy, also known as the guy with a Blackberry.

And we also needed the keen students from China, Vietnam, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc.

At this point, the newspaper guy becomes the moderator when the students hit the online classroom. The students have had a chance to review the news stories, links posted earlier in the day. He leads the discussions.

‘Newspaper guy’ on duty for the online classes in London, Ont.
‘Newspaper guy’ on duty for the online classes in London, Ont.

Soon after, the newspaper guy turns into something different as he works his way through the daily online English as a second language classes.

He becomes a fan.

He smiles a lot. He becomes a cheerleader. He watches and listens. He wants the students to do well. He wants to join them in their CultureWorks outings. He wants all of them to not miss a class.

He also combines with Peter to capture the students on video clips, talking about the news stories of the day, the week, the year. He spends time learning how to pronounce Jingxuan’s name.

And now five years later, he wants to meet the alumni and hear about their successes.

The newspaper guy clearly enjoys being part of the CultureWorks family.

Would you like to join the CultureWorks family?

Learn more about enrolling in our ESL school in Canada!

CultureWorks student from Jordan keeps his life simple: ‘Help all people, and all people will help you.’


Mohamad, a Level 6 student at CultureWorks, shares his opinion on reactions to the New Zealand massacre.

Mohamad Abed Alfattah is 19 and has been a student in the CultureWorks ESL program for five months. He is in Level 6 and is slated to graduate in June.

His home is Jordan and his family lives in the country’s capital, Amman. He is the fifth child in a family of eight.

As personable a student as you will find, it had been less than a week after the horrific massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“I am a Muslim person and I am proud of this religion because it is a piece of my identity and personality,” Mohamad said in the CultureWorks office. “What happened in New Zealand is really a sad thing in that country, that great country.”

Mohamad was talking about this news because it was the story of the day, the week, the year. Like the world over, he was shocked.

He made his usual Friday trek to his mosque in London, Ontario, the day of the shooting. Obviously, it was different than the usual Fridays.

“In the Friday prayer, they were talking about this,” Mohamad said. “Actually, it was a lot of people came to the mosque and security people as well. It was really sad; it was a very bad thing. We can see there was no connection here between terrorism and Islam.”

Horrific news from far, far away can be difficult to handle for international students. For Mohamad, the mosque and CultureWorks are always available for his own personal peacekeeping.

Mohamad talks about his experiences in Canada and with CultureWorks

Mohamad said he is cognizant of the fact CultureWorks teachers and staff are close by when any problem – small or large — arises for students.

Mohamad’s father and three of his sisters from Amman, Jordan.
Mohamad’s father and three of his sisters from Amman, Jordan.

“The teachers are helpful. When I ask someone in CultureWorks they will help me; they will answer me; they help solve the problems. And they have time to listen to me and they respect me.

“If I want something personal, I can go to Liz (Macedo), so I can ask her about something, she will help me.”

CultureWorks Founder and President Tina Bax said she is thrilled to hear that.

“That makes me feel good. That means we are doing something right, and hopefully a lot of things doing right so that they feel tied to us and we can see that when they come back for alumni events,” Tina said.

Tina said it is important to have experienced staff available.

“When I go abroad and have frustrating experiences … I want someone to not necessarily parent me because then I really don’t learn how to deal with the next time and it will happen. I am looking for somebody to teach me ‘here is how you can overcome this problem’.”

Meanwhile, Mohamad is more than happy he chose our ESL school and Canada to be his new home.

Mohamad and Moe, his friend of 15 years, out for lunch in London, Ont.
Mohamad and Moe, his friend of 15 years, out for lunch in London, Ont.

“First of all, I decided after my high school to come here because I actually want to build my future by myself. I don’t want my father just to help me and give me money and go ahead in a new country,” Mohamad said.

“My father asked me if I wanted to go to U.S.A. or Canada or Germany. I chose Canada and I talked with my teacher. He is my friend and still is my friend. He told me to go to Canada. ‘That’s what would be good for you. It’s a great country’.”

Staying in Canada after completing ESL school

Mohamad finds London a “beautiful city,” albeit a small city. He doesn’t plan to leave.

“It is really beautiful to see all these cultures (in London) together, helping each other, and living in peace,” he said. “They respect each other. That’s what I want, to respect other people and other people respect you. That’s really a nice thing.”

Tina understands Mohamad’s decision to make London his final home.

Mohamad with his homestay Marilyn Light and her friend Albert.
Mohamad with his homestay Marilyn Light and her friend Albert.

“I think when you go abroad and have an experience when you are living abroad — especially when it’s your first time abroad or when you going abroad for the first time to learn a language, put down roots, being away from your family — you really end up being tied to the first school that you land on whether it be a university or a high school or in this case, a language school, because we are the stepping stone to that education that they eventually want to have at college or university.

Meanwhile, Mohamad confirms that one major decision.

“I don’t think about (leaving). I am staying here,” he said, quite clearly.
“I am not just talking about university; I am not just thinking about studying … I am talking about an opportunity, my future, about people who can respect you, people who can help you.”

Or as he sums up his way of living …

“Help all people, and all people will help you. If you do best for me, I will do the best for you.”

Do you want to learn English as a second language in a supportive environment?

Discover the caring teachers, staff, and students at CultureWorks.

How ESL school can help you tackle the most common English pronunciation mistakes

English as a second language program

Correct pronunciation in English can be tricky. Sometimes, two words that are spelled completely differently are pronounced exactly the same way (such as “write” and “right”). Then there are words that are spelled the same way, but are pronounced differently (such as the verb “read,” which can be pronounced “reed” or “red” depending on whether it’s used in the present or past tense).

These rules can definitely feel confusing. But the good news is that English pronunciation isn’t as challenging as it may appear. Attending an ESL school in Canada is an especially effective way of overcoming the most common pronunciation mistakes. Here’s how.

ESL school can help you spot letters that have more than one pronunciation

The English alphabet has 26 letters, but there are actually 40 different sounds (called phonemes) in the English language. This means that some letters have more than one sound. The letter “c,” for example, can have a hard sound that’s similar to a “k,” such as in the word “cat.” At the same time, it can also have a softer sound that’s close to an “s,” such as in the word “ceiling.” These different sounds for just one letter can be easy to miss if you’re learning English at home out of a book. However, if you’re studying in a classroom with a native English teacher, they’ll be able to spot when you’re pronouncing certain words incorrectly.

English has many letters with more than one sound
English has many letters with more than one sound

Studying in Canada can help you get used to English’s more unusual sounds

Some sounds in English are unusual and don’t appear in many other languages. One of the most difficult of these is the “th” sound. While challenging for many, this is a very common sound in English. It shows up in important words such as “the,” “this,” “that,” and “thing.” Mastering the “th” sound is definitely a challenge, so don’t get frustrated if you have trouble with it. Even young children who are native English speakers often have difficulty with it.

While most people will still be able to understand you if you have trouble with the “th” sound, you should try to master it as best you can. This is usually easier to do if you live in an English-speaking country. Unlike in your home country, where the “th” sound may be unusual, when you study English in Canada, you’ll be hearing and speaking English every day. As a result, you can get used to hearing the “th” and other unique English sounds, which will help you get used to using them yourself.

ESL school will help you feel comfortable making pronunciation mistakes

The best way to learn how to speak English is to actually speak it. That can be intimidating since English isn’t your mother tongue. However, by being in an ESL school where everybody else is a language learner, you’ll feel much more comfortable practising your English pronunciation. In fact, at CultureWorks you can even take elective courses such as Pronunciation & Conversation, where you can focus on improving your English abilities. In these courses, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. By making mistakes and learning from them, your pronunciation will get better!

ESL school allows you to practise your pronunciation in a comfortable setting
ESL school allows you to practise your pronunciation in a comfortable setting

Do you want to learn English in Canada?

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

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.

Would you like to develop your English language skills?

Discover how CultureWorks helps you learn English as a second language.

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.

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From China with love, CultureWorks graduate takes on major role with the Canadian school he started with.

CultureWorks’ Peter Choi and his wife, Nina Dang, are doing what they enjoy most, learning more about Canada each day.
CultureWorks’ Peter Choi and his wife, Nina Dang, are doing what they enjoy most, learning more about Canada each day.

It would be easy to say Peter Choi is a gentleman and a scholar and move on. But that is unfair. He is much more than that.

Peter is a father. He is a husband. He is thoughtful and articulate in two languages. He has Masters degrees from two different countries, neither of which he gathered in his home country of China.

And for purposes of this story, he is a graduate of CultureWorks who has never left the ESL school behind.

While gathering Masters No. 2 in Computer Programming at Western University, he took on part-time duties in IT support for our current events online class known as the Daily Boomalang.

When school ended, Peter stayed. And CultureWorks was extremely happy he did.

Our ESL school is proud to announce that Peter will be assisting full time with technical support

CW President and Founder Tina Bax recently announced that Peter will be using his specialization in computer-to-computer networking in “supporting us full-time as we arrange portions of our course” in new and dynamic initiatives in China.

CultureWorks Chief Operating Officer Amrik Sidhu was impressed from the moment he met Peter.

“When I first met him, I didn’t really have any expectations,” Amrik said recently. “I knew what my needs were and it wasn’t really an interview, I just wanted to know ‘does he even understand the challenges I am having?’

“And as soon as I posed a few questions that we were struggling to answer, he knew the answer right off the bat. Within the first — I would say few minutes — I knew he could help us solve the problems.”

Peter’s role will be helping full-time as CultureWorks arranges to deliver portions of its course through Chinese faculties in Harbin and Xi’an.

Amrik said it always helps when somebody speaks the language when they are talking to technical support.

“It’s incredibly valuable to have him as a resource, not only because he is technically astute, but also because he speaks the language and he has connectivity within China that can help you get around digging for answers.”

Now that’s enough – for now — about Peter, the computer wizard; time to learn more about Peter, the person.

Why Peter chose to study English in Canada

Peter, now 42, came to Canada at the end of 2016 and his first stop was CultureWorks in London, Ont. His English was not good and he admits he lost many well-paid jobs in China because of that. He also thought he needed to learn “even a little bit” about Western culture.

After gaining his first Masters at Seoul National University, he had worked for two Korean companies – Samsung and Kookmin bank – for six years in Beijing.

“To be honest, the last job I had was very good, a well-paid position. I was an IT manager, but I was a little tired. Usually at the company before 7 and back home after 8:30 p.m., 7 days a week,” Peter said.

“I was a little tired and I thought what exactly I want in the next 10 or 20 years, so I thought that was a good time to restart my life in Canada.”

Peter’s experience as a CultureWorks student

He came alone to Canada late in 2016 and was a CultureWorks student for eight months. His wife Nina Dang, now 38, joined him in 2017. The couple who first met at university in South Korea had their first child, Ava Cai, seven months ago.

Peter is proud of his first child, Ava Cai, now seven months old
Peter is proud of his first child, Ava Cai, now seven months old

Peter said the CultureWorks experience was more like a family experience. The teachers, he said, teach you not only English as a second language, but also the Canadian culture and how to survive in Canada.

“The teachers encourage the students to use critical thinking. More questions are open questions. There is no standard answer, especially in the Boomalang class,” he said.

“We don’t have the textbooks; we don’t have the exams. We just encourage the students to open their minds and exchange thinking about the news or something that just happened around them.”

Peter is over-the-top excited about his new role with CultureWorks. To be fair, CW management feels the same.

“CultureWorks has a big project in China and we have a partner in Harbin,” Peter said. “We need an IT person to support this project from Canada. Because most of the resources are in Canada, including the teachers, the materials and also IT support.

“My role is to provide IT support to the manager or to the server based on the cloud technology, remotely to the server in Beijing. My role is like the bridge, connecting Chinese students and Canadian resources for our Chinese partners.”

Peter’s role with CultureWorks is an important one as our ESL school makes major changes.

Meanwhile, here are a few of Peter’s thoughts on three different topics. Enjoy!

1. Peter on Chinese students studying in Canada

I want to say to Chinese students: Open your minds and don’t just focus on the studying. That is just a part of your life. For the young Chinese students, you have more important things that you should enjoy, especially when you come to Canada. This is a place you can enjoy in your life, not only because of the English study, but also you can build your own opinions about this world, about globalization. We need you; your family needs you; China also needs you.

2. Peter on why he chose to move to Canada

Compared to other countries, Canada’s geographical location and climate cannot be called excellent, but this does not stop Canada from being known as one of the world’s most developed countries. Exploring the secrets of Canada’s success is one of the reasons that attracted me to come here. Through the two years of staying in Canada, I think the main reasons for success of Canada are:

  1. Canada’s inclusiveness and openness. As is well known, Canada is a model of multi-ethnic, multicultural integration. It embraces any culture, race and religion. I have seen many churches, mosques and temples in London. This inclusiveness and openness attracts talented people from all over the world and provides a steady stream of blood for Canada’s development. On the other hand, based on a deep understanding of the different culture, Canada can win the respect of partners in international trade, which also promotes Canada’s economic development.
  2. Canadian attitude towards life. The cold climate did not make Canadians have a negative attitude towards life, but instead made Canadians feel calm and kindness. I can’t remember how many times strangers took me to catch the bus. This enthusiasm for life makes Canadians not afraid of any difficulties and always have confidence in life and the future.

3. Peter on the relationship between Canada and China

China and Canada have deep traditional friendships. According to historical records, trade between Canada and China began in the 18th century. In modern times, this relationship has been further deepened. The Chinese people will never forget Norman Bethune’s contribution to China. Grateful of Bethune’s altruistic help to China, the nation’s normal elementary school textbook still has the essay today. Therefore, the Chinese people have a special feeling for Canada, which has always been the first choice for studying and immigration.

I think there is quarreling even between the couple, not to mention two distant countries. What is happening now is only an episode and will not affect the main theme of friendship between the two countries.

Would you like to study English in Canada?

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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!