Canadian Compassion
RCMP Officers at memorial

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

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

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

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

For more #wearred pictures:


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

Oshawa Teacher Party
Oshawa Teacher Party



My colleague Christina informed me this week that our “Loonie”, the Canadian dollar, is at its lowest value now since 2009.  “Isn’t that cool?” she exclaimed.  “Wouldn’t it make a neat blog post?”  “Yeah,” I laughed. “It’s a little loonie, but it’d work.”

Loonie is the slang name for the Canadian dollar.  We call it that because it has the image of a beautiful Canadian bird, the loon, on it.  Also, loonie (or loony) is another way of saying someone or something is ‘crazy’.  And let’s face it, there’s a lot of things in Canada that are pretty loonie!

So how is a lower dollar value a good thing for the Canadian economy.  I admit, I am no economist, so I had to do the research on this.  What I learned is rather cool.

1.  A lower Loonie will help our economy

Canada sells a lot of stuff to other countries (export).  This includes manufactured goods and services.  Canada’s tourism and services industry is big, too.  So with a lower dollar, suddenly our stuff isn’t so expensive compared to the rest of the world.  As a result, more countries will want to buy Canadian.

2.  A dip in the dollar will help employment
Oil Field Worker in Alberta, Canada

Our lower dollar will make the U.S. exports more expensive.  This means that other countries won’t buy as much from the U.S., and American workers could lose their jobs.  Meanwhile in Canada our exports are busier than ever, which creates work for Canadians to keep up with the demand.

3.  A bargain buck means ‘buy Canadian’

A lot of Canadians shop ‘over the border’, or in the U.S. because their prices are usually cheaper than ours.  This is especially true for groceries and gas.  But with the Canadian buck (slang for dollar) low, it doesn’t make sense to buy in America.  Canadians will buy in Canada, and a higher volume of business is great for the economy.  Also, Americans will come to Canada to buy Canadian!  It’s a win win!

4.  Cut-rate cash is great for tourism

Canadian music and theatre festivals, ski resorts and summer resorts, will all benefit from a lower dollar.  Why?  Because other countries’ money is higher value, making Canada a great place to travel too.

There are drawbacks, of course.  People with Canadian investments and retirement savings won’t be earning as much.  Bank rates haven’t been lowered either, which means people are paying more on their credit cards while the dollar is technically worth less.  In the end however, this was a good lessen for me.  When people say the ‘dollar is low’, it doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing.  It’s when people say your pants are low, or your marks are low – that’s pretty much always a bad thing.


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

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

5.  Take a picture of something everyday.

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

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

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

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

3.  Spice up your life.

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

2.  Meet people, make friends.

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

Ottawa Holiday Party
Ottawa Holiday Party

1.  Ask questions.

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

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

Show Me the Money Pt.2 ~ Budgeting

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

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

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

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Courtesy of

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

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

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

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Courtesy of

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

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Courtesy of

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

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

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Courtesy of

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

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

Happy saving!

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Study English On a Canadian University Campus!

Once upon a time, I had a dream.  When I was about 20 years old, I dreamt of becoming the world’s oldest student.  That’s right.  A student for life!  I loved university so much I didn’t want it to end.  I was surrounded by other people who love to learn.  My parents weren’t around.  I didn’t have to work.  Um, well.  See that’s where my dream ended, unfortunately. We won’t dwell on that.

Carleton University Student Orientation Week
Carleton University Student Orientation Week, Picture Courtesy of

But think about it.  Canada’s university campuses have it all!  Not only are they wired with the latest in technology, but countless other modern amenities as well. From Olympic-quality sports facilities to public concert halls and art galleries, Canada’s post-secondary campuses offer you enormous possibilities for learning and leisure. Plus, you’ll have incredible opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and gain valuable experience through student-run governments, radio, newspapers and businesses.

UWO Opera, Die Fledermaus, Feb.2012
UWO Opera, Die Fledermaus, Feb.2012, Courtesy of

So ‘drink it up’, people!  Enjoy every last part of campus life.  Meet new people, try a new sport.  Canada is a land of opportunity, after all!  And see if you can beat my record.  Including my undergraduate degree, special qualification courses, and my Masters, I’ve been a post-secondary    student for nine years.  Yet somehow I’m not a doctor.  A few more years should do it, eh?

UOIT Men’s Soccer Team, Ridgebacks, Courtesy of

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