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Bringing the world to Sarnia-Lambton

By September 22, 2018 No Comments
International Student and School Board Administrator

LKDSB welcome event held in Canatara Park for international students

Author: Tyler Kula, Post Media

Riko Fujiwara, 16, from Tokyo is staying with Denise Poxilly as Fujiwara attends school at Great Lakes Secondary. She and Poxilly were among dozens at a welcome event for international students in the Lambton Kent District School Board Saturday. Tyler Kula/Sarnia Observer/Postmedia Network TYLER KULA / TYLER KULA/THE OBSERVER

Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent have become more popular for youngsters from places like Spain and Japan looking to study abroad.

Last year 198 from countries around the world paid tuition to come to the area, stay with locals, and attend classes in the public school system.

This year, about the same number are expected.

They stay anywhere from one to ten months – in 2017/18 the full-time equivalent of 105 students attended – learning English in an immersive environment and sharing their cultures with local students, said Kirsten Ramsay, international education administrator with the Lambton Kent District School Board.

“The students love the Lambton-Kent County area because everyone is so welcoming and that we’re able to really allow for that full immersion experience,” she said, noting the number of international students per school caps at around 25 to limit the number of same-language speakers.

“Sometimes if students go to a larger urban centre like Toronto, they may not be able to have that total, complete immersion with language,” she said. “We have to speak English if there’s no other language around.”

The number of international students attending the school board was about 70 full-time equivalent (FTE) two years ago, she said, and 15 FTE the year before that.

The vast majority of international students who come here are high school students, Ramsay said.

Last year’s graduating class included about 13 international students, and 22 more are expected to graduate come June, said school board superintendent Helen Lane.

The growth is thanks to building relationships with agents for international students from countries around the world, she said.

Learning English and making new friends is what Riko Fujiwara, 16, said brought her here from Tokyo for the school year.

Studying at Great Lakes, she was one of a few dozen international students and their homestay families at a welcome event in Canatara Park Saturday. The introductory event to the area is building off a similar event in Chatham-Kent that municipality started three or four years ago, Lane said.

Chatham’s is next Saturday in Kingston Park.

“It’s just an opportunity for everybody really to come together and start to get to know each other,” Lane said, noting that includes board personnel.

Plans are to attract community agencies as the welcome event in Sarnia grows in the years to come, she said, giving students a sense of available community resources.

This year’s included food and a welcome from Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who talked about Canada’s multiculturalism amid some unifying traits and quirks.

“Practice with me for a second; everyone say ‘Eh,’” he said. The chorus followed.

Denise Poxilly was there with Fujiwara, whom she’s hosting at her Sarnia home for the school year.

Poxilly said she has been hosting students from China, Mexico and now Japan for seven years.

“I love sharing our culture. I love learning about their culture,” she said, noting it’s also a good experience for her two sons, ages 20 and 13.

Staying in Sarnia offers a different experience for students used to large cities, she said, noting in her experience they show up on her doorstep – a stranger’s house – in the middle of the night.

“What courage for them to do that,” she said.

“So I want to give them a safe place and a good experience while they’re in Sarnia.”

When they leave, they stay in touch, she said.

“It’s been a really great experience that way.”

International students pay tuition to attend school here, in the neighbourhood of $13,000 per year for a full-time student, said Jennifer Jarrett, international education clerk with the board.

Tuition money goes into the program, and towards Canada Homestay, which helps match students with families, she said.

More homestay families are always needed, Ramsay said.

The board also sends students abroad, in the past organizing trips to places like Taiwan and Sweden, Lane said. Similar trips are planned this year.

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