An Aca­demic Ad­ven­ture

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead

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.

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Mex­i­can stu­dent Karen Ibarra (left) and Chinese stu­dent Vera Yuwei Qin (right) with their ‘adopted’ par­ents Louise and Ron Lacroix, from Stanstead.

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