Meet Desi Ivanova, the Eager Beaver!

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

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

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

Q.What idiomatic expression best describes you and why?

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Top 5 Reasons to Love CultureWorks!

Welcome to CultureWorks!  Are you excited? Do you have any idea how fantastic your experience is going to be this year?  Well, juice up your laptop batteries and open up your minds, boys and girls!  Our new term begins next week!  And to get everyone in the mood, here are the top 5 reasons you’re going to love learning English at Ontario’s premiere EAP school.

#5.  Experience Campus Life

At CultureWorks, you’re not only getting a conditional acceptance to a Canadian university, you’re also getting an on campus education in world culture.

King’s University College, Brescia University College, Western University, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Durham College and Carleton University all boast a vibrant community of learners who come from India, Europe, Africa, Japan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Korea, China and many, many more countries.  It’s like a buffet of culture! You are going to be learning so much just by going to school together.  How cool is that?

students on campus JUNE CAMPUS 2010 LONDON

#4.  Ontario is an Awesome Playground

Let’s face it.  You can’t *always* be studying, right?  Ottawa, Toronto, and London are filled with satisfying distractions.  Live music venues, tons of restaurants, fabulous parks, a huge selection of movie theatres, and groovy coffee shops are just the beginning to some super fun times!

You might ask, “Yeah, Canada sounds great, but how do I know what to do?”  And my answer is, “Make friends with the great people in your Student Services office!”  Want to know how to rent an apartment?  Have to take a subway in Toronto?  Interested in joining a campus team?  Our CultureWorks Student Services team will help you figure out your life in Canada. Don’t be shy!

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#3.  Rockstar EAP Program


It’s all about our teachers.  They make your experience real, and help make your success a reality.  They have lived overseas too, which makes CultureWorks teachers understand the language learning process and international experience like no one else.  They are  your true Canadian ambassadors.

The CultureWorks’ curriculum is one of a kind, above and beyond what any regular ESL school has to offer.  Academic level Reading, Writing & Grammar, Listening & Speaking, Pronunciation, Canadian Studies and Integrated Study Skills & Exam Preparation are blended so that you are always practicing more than one language skill at a time.   As an intensive, academic program, you will be prepared for the advanced skills required at university.

#2.  100% Authentically Canadian

The central theme to your life in Canada, is….Canada!  Right?  And how better to learn about this amazing country than to experience it?  Three times a term, students embark upon an exciting, different trip to a wide variety of Canadian destinations to share in once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  Grab your camera and upload your pictures to show your new life off to loved ones at home.


#1.  CultureWorks Puts You in Control

The absolute best feature of the CultureWorks experience is that it teaches you how to take control of your learning.  We give you the opportunity and tools to work hard, reflect upon your skills, and ask your teachers smart questions.  “How can I improve my reading?”  “What is the best way to expand my vocabulary?”  “How do I make friends at university?”  When you are aware of your learning, you know which areas to develop, and that will set you on a path to success.

As your excitement builds over the next week, remember that your Canadian adventure with CultureWorks is a unique opportunity.  Not everyone lives in a foreign country, or learns another language, so take every chance to learn and enjoy.  In the end, we show you the culture and how English works.  We need you to put them together and succeed at CultureWorks.  Welcome!


Study in Canada

CultureWorks students, I applaud you! Again you find yourselves at the end of another successful term, glowing from your efforts studying English.  And again, we need to reflect upon why you are able to realize your academic dreams.  Of course, hard work and determination are the key components ~ you should be very proud of yourselves!  But the other component is quite clear too, although maybe too obvious to realize sometimes:  you chose to study in Canada!

I stumbled upon this amazing article today and had to share it with you.  If you need a reminder why you chose Canada, or you know someone who wants to come here to study, read and share this article. It is amazing.

Canada is built to help people succeed.  Our educational policies set out by the government are designed to help students build their future.  Whether you are studying in London, Oshawa, or Ottawa, you have experienced the amazing support our country brings to facilitate your learning.  Furthermore, Canada is proud to have international learners come to our great shores!

Have a spectacular term break!  Enjoy our mighty country and come back to the classroom with stories to tell!



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

jenny think

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Erica & Learning English

CultureWorks ESL teachers often tell their students to watch English TV and movies.  I know, they’re pretty cool teachers.  Of course they are suggesting this for students to improve their skills.  But what shows and films are best for students to watch?  Although Canada doesn’t produce nearly as many TV shows as the U.S., many of our shows tell interesting stories with intelligent ideas that just happen to be perfect for anyone learning English.

The show I’ll present this week is called Being Erica.  It is a popular CBC program that is in its final season.  Read the show’s description and see if you can guess why it would be a good one to watch:

“Being Erica is a one-hour series that explores the life of Erica Strange, a woman who has been given a wonderful gift. Every episode, Erica goes back to relive a regret from her past, in order to come back and make a positive change in her present.”

Firstly, the main character travels in time, so that’s a good enough reason to watch it.  Secondly, because she travels in time, it’s the perfect show to learn about VERB TENSES!  By watching this show you’ll hear it all:

Present Tense Family: the simple present (I live), the present progressive (I am living), the present perfect (I have lived)

Past Tense Family:  the simple past (I lived), the past progressive (I was living), the past perfect (I had lived)

Future Tense Family: the simple future (I will live), the future progressive (I will be living), the future perfect (I will have lived)

Conditionals:  I would, I could, I should…

In addition to memorizing the rules, it is most effective to listen and watch English being used.  Being Erica is the perfect show for this.  Watch this clip to see what I mean, and see how many tenses you hear.  Write them down and say them aloud as you hear them, too. You might want to close the door when you practice though, some people might think you’re crazy! 🙂

You can search through all the seasons of this show and more on CBC’s site:

Happy watching!

At the Drop of a Dime ~ Interview with Matt Devlin, Vice Principal @ CultureWorks Oshawa

Matthew Devlin, Vice Principal, Oshawa CultureWorks
Matthew Devlin, Vice Principal, Oshawa CultureWorks

Name: Matt Devlin

Title: Vice Principal of Oshawa Campus, CultureWorks

Best Canadian Film:  My favourite film set in Canada is Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. It’s such an inventive, unique film, and the city of Toronto plays a major role.

Q. Matt, you’re someone who seems to be able to do anything at ‘the drop of a dime’.  That idiom perfectly describes how you get a job done without hesitation. Outside of your regular duties as Vice Principal, there must be many different, more surprising ways you help students that come up unexpectedly.  What are they?  dime

A. I love a challenge. When a student comes to me with a question or a problem it’s important that I can help them as best as I can, and as fast as I can. I love using technology to help students.  For example, communicating with students through email or instant messaging means students have faster, easier access to me.  It’s great.

Q. Your love of technology seems a perfect fit for UOIT and Durham College.  What apps are you using most often these days?  Is there an app you’d like to develop for our students?

A. There is an app for everything these days and that pretty much describes my app usage. People say we live in the age of technology, which is certainly true, but it is really the age of access. Technology, like smart phone apps, gives us instant access to people, ideas, thoughts and knowledge. If I had to develop an app for our students, it would be one that incorporates these things. It would give students immediate access to teachers, textbooks and other educational tools. Either that, or I’d design an app would give students an electric shock if they are late for class…just kidding.

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Q. Why do students succeed at CultureWorks?  In your opinion, what are a few basic Dos and Don’ts when studying English for Academic Purposes?

A. Someone once reminded me that a successful school really needs three things: a good teacher, an eager student, and a log to sit on…and the log is optional. Our students are hardworking and dedicated to their studies.  Technology is a great tool for students, but it really comes down to a solid student-teacher relationship. At CultureWorks we have a teaching team that is well educated, passionate and empathetic to our students’ needs. Our success comes from there. Basic dos and don’ts? Do: Work hard. Don’t: Make excuses.  Durham Fast Track Program

Q. Lastly, for fun, if you had to eat only one kind of Canadian food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A. That’s a difficult question! I love grilled or smoked salmon from British Columbia. Montreal-style smoked meat is delicious. Of course, this time of year I’m all about Quebec maple syrup. Do I have to pick just one?

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

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Why Homestays Are Awesome

Homestay @Cultureworks
Homestay @Cultureworks

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

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

Awesome reason #1:

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

CultureWorks in conversation
CultureWorks in conversation

Awesome reason #2:

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

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Awesome reason #3:

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

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

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Multicultural Line Up

I was standing in line at the supermarket the other day, waiting to buy my weekly groceries.  In front of me stood a gentleman from India and a young woman from Korea.  The cashier was from Poland, judging by her accent.

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While waiting, the three of us had a pleasant, casual conversation together.  We talked about the weather (of course) and commented a little at the different food in our shopping carts.  When the man from India paid the cashier for his groceries, he invited us all over to his house for curry!

You’ll hear this word a lot when you study at Canadian universities: multiculturalism.  Canada is a country of many cultures, and it’s one of the many reasons people come to study here.  As defined in our national constitution, every individual living in Canada is encouraged to express his or her culture without fear of assimilation.

Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms Courtesy of
Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms Courtesy of

With almost all of the world’s ethnic groups represented in Canada, it’s easy to find ethnic foods and recreation activities associated with specific cultures. In fact, our teachers and student services co-coordinators can help you get in touch with any number of ethnic clubs and associations for you to join while you’re here.

CultureWorks Students, London Campus
Multicultural CultureWorks, London Campus

By sharing cultures and traditions you gain an invaluable education.  In addition to the English you learn, and the university course work you pursue, you are gaining insight  as to how others view the world just by virtue of studying alongside one another.  This in turn gives you a perspective on life that you wouldn’t have normally considered.  What multicultural experiences have you had in Canada so far?  Which cultures would you like to know more about?

What I love about Canada are little experiences like that.  Where else can you have such a friendly conversation with such a diverse group of people?   And in English, too!  The great part is that I learned some tasty new dishes, making my fridge very multicultural!  How diverse is the food in your fridge?  Have you tried any new cultural cuisines lately?

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Opening Ceremonies!

CultureWorks Opening Ceremonies
CultureWorks London, Jan. 2013 Opening Ceremonies

Students always ask me: “So, what’s the first thing that happens when I arrive at CultureWorks?”  I always answer with a smile: “Opening Ceremonies”.

This is a picture of CultureWorks’ January 10th Opening Ceremonies in London, Ontario. It’s one of my favourite days at CultureWorks because everyone has a chance to meet each other, meet their teachers, learn about the program, hang out, eat some good food, and then enjoy a fun activity together.

CultureWorks Oshawa, Jan.2013 Opening Ceremonies, Bowling

A few of the activities we’ve done in the past include: BBQ and summer games, snow tubing, skating, roller skating, and bowling. I have a great memory of one of our Saudi students going snow tubing with only a t-shirt on.  He went blasting down the hill shouting, “I love winter!  It’s a white desert!”

Here’s two of our Oshawa teachers with new students hanging out at the bowling alley during Opening Ceremonies. Below is a great pic of one of our London teacher lacing up before an ice skate.  Good times!

CultureWorks London, Jan.2013 Opening Ceremonies, Ice Skating

Do you have any other good ideas for opening ceremonies?  Moose hunting?  Or maybe a death defying walk along the outside of CN Tower?  No, please, I’m kidding!!  Just thinking about the idea makes me feel ill!

CN Tower Edge Walk. Photo Courtesy of

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