An Academic Adventure
Ittakes a special kind of person to have the courage and sense of adventure, especially at the age of seventeen, to go to a new country to live and go to school with strangers, and it takes a special kind of person to welcome them into their home for several
months, to be part of the family. I had the pleasure of meeting four such people, last week in Stanstead, when I went to the home of Louise and Ron Lacroix to do an interview about the ETSB’s International Student Program.
/' " . the city of Monterrey, Mexico, and Vera Yuwei Qin, from Changchun, China, both arrived in Stanstead about two months ago as participants in the program and are being hosted by their ‘temporary parents’, the Lacroixs.
“We’ve never done anything like this before. Our kids have moved away and I always wanted to learn about different cultures,” said Mrs. Lacroix when asked why she decided to get back into the parenting game, but with an international twist. “We’d thought about it for a few years but wanted to be in a position to help. You have to have the time and have your life set up to help these kids when they come to Canada,” added Mr. Lacroix.
As we sat around the Lacroix’s big kitchen table, where the two guests were obviously comfort ' " : told me why they wanted to go to a school, in this case Alexander Galt High School, in Canada, far from their home and . " lenges. “For the first week, I was tired in the day and I couldn’t sleep at night,” said Vera about the time change. Then there’s getting used to our food. At first, Vera only ate sandwiches, a food that she had tried back in China. That led to an unpleasant digestive experience and now sandwiches are off the menu and Vera is learning how to cook, sometimes with help from her Mom back We soon realized that she was talking about the Galt Winter Carnival! “And if it snows here – no school! Even in China it snows a lot but we always have school. They just sprinkle some mystery stuff on the snow and it goes!” (Maybe we should find out about this stuff!) coming to Stanstead had lived all her life in a big city, answered: “Because I wanted to feel more independent and I wanted to learn French. I wanted to experience a different culture.” “And are you doing that?” I asked. “Oh yes!” she laughed, looking at Vera who started laughing also, in agreement. Vera enrolled in the ETSB’s International Student Program mainly to learn English. “Here I have to speak English. If I went to Montreal or Toronto to go to school, I would be able to speak Chinese with people. I have many Chinese friends who went to school in Canada for a few years but never improved their English,” explained Vera, slowly and carefully.
The Lacroixs are having a lot of fun introducing their guests to Canadian culture, having a few new experiences of their own along the way. “I have gone on trips to Quebec City, Montreal, and North Conway with my fam "; " ) about the Lacroixs. “I’ve gone snow-mobiling and dog-sledding,” she added. < 0 ) ‘polar plunge’ in Beebe at Winter Fun Day,” said Louise, like a proud Mom. “I’ve never been so cold in . =; " 0 - ering with the memory.
Vera, who described her hometown of Changchun as “not a very big Chinese city” although it’s the size of Montreal, seems to appreciate the rural side of the Eastern Townships. “I like the wild animals like the deer. I had never seen deer running. And I like visiting the horses at the farm but I didn’t like the chickens. I think they are scary!” said Vera in her humorous way, causing everyone around the table to laugh, something that happened often during the interview.
Naturally, living in a foreign country for the first time has its chal- # " 0 34
Making new friends can also be hard. “I’m in a special English class with two other international students so I don’t have much time with other students. I don’t understand everything but I don’t want to make people repeat and repeat. They will get annoyed and they will hate me!” said Vera with honesty and humour, making us all laugh again.
“It’s like starting again from the beginning, trying to make all new friends. And you’re separated from . "; " adding: “The food here is not that different from in Mexico. But when Louise brought tortillas home from the grocery store, I almost cried!”
When asked what has surprised them about our # & " answered: “The girls that are 12 look 15. When I was 12, I watched cartoons; here they’re watching MTV. I was surprised that people are so crazy ' &) =; mentioned how “quiet and safe” it was here.
Vera was surprised by some of the activities at school. “Remember when we dressed in green and the students were very & * >; )
: learning more than just how to speak English and French better. “I’m totally more independent now – I can do things by myself. And if an international student comes to my school, I will talk to them,” said </ parents did everything. Now I can wash clothes and I can cook food,” said Vera proudly.
Because both girls mentioned how hard it was to make new friends at their temporary school, I asked if they would have liked to see a ‘buddy’ system to pair them up with a Galt student. “Yes, if they volunteer to do it, if they wanted to do it. That’s a good way to make friends,” they agreed.
Ron and Louise have made a point to not only plan outings with their young charges, but also to include them in all ‘extended’ family activities. “We’re very lucky to have such nice girls. They’re easy to get along with and have great attitudes – the adjustments they’ve had to make! And they laugh so much; it’s nice to hear that in the house again,” said Louise. “They are both totally different people but they get along so well,” added Ron.
“We treat the girls like our family. This makes it more comfortable and I think their parents are happier that we do that,” Louise commented. “It’s working out well. The girls are getting more independent without all the worries of being out on their own,” said Mr. Lacroix.
There are presently more than 60 students in the ETSB’s International Student Program. Anyone interested in hosting an international student can call Ilze Epners for more information at 819 8683116.
Mexican student Karen Ibarra (left) and Chinese student Vera Yuwei Qin (right) with their ‘adopted’ parents Louise and Ron Lacroix, from Stanstead.