Canadore College is a home away from home for 48 students, a handful of teachers and a principal who has traveled from China to North Bay for a two-week stay. The group of high school and university students are enrolled in English as a Second Language Summer Camp offered at the college.They represent four schools from Beijing, Xingyi, and Kaili.
"The instructional part of the day is in the morning, so from nine until noon.We teach them English, and we teach them the different provinces and territories," explained ESL teacher Frank Ricciuti.
"Each day is a different theme. We've taught them about our money, our food, our culture, education, and government."
Afternoon activities tie into the morning lessons. One class concentrated on the three levels of government, that afternoon they visited the Mayor at North Bay City Hall.
"They were a little nervous at first, but they've become a lot more independent and are more confident speaking English," said Ricciuti. "They have expressed an appreciation for North Bay and Canada. We've taken them hiking and canoeing, strawberry picking, to the library and to the waterfront. It is all very rewarding for the staff. I think we sometimes take our country for granted, and we don't realize how much we have here."
Eric Yu is one of the trip organizers and translator.
"Their language has gotten better, they have more confidence in the class rather than back in China because they don't do a lot of the group work, or the activities with the teacher a lot. So after they came here the students became like friends, so they relax and they learn more."
He says the students are benefiting from their time in Canada.
"I'm seeing more Chinese students learn about Canadian cultures, especially the multi-cultures and also to know the difference between China and Canada, the different education system, the law, that kind of stuff." said Yu."They learn more about Canadian culture like maybe hold the door while the people are behind him, these little changes they have learned."
Most of the young people come from large, overcrowded cities. They are amazed by the amount of open space that is available, the fresh air, and the natural environment; the trees, lakes and clean water.
"I really like this city. It is beautiful and I like the air, it is very clean, and people are always very friendly. And it has wild animals. Yesterday I see a deer," Yue Yun Zhou said excitedly.
"I feel very surprised and I take pictures for my parents and my friend," she laughed.
She is making the most of her class time.
"In here I can practice my speech and my writing skills and speaking skills. I don't have very good English so I will try my best to practice it. One day I will live in Canada."
Many of the students have similar aspirations to return.
"The view is very beautiful and people are very kind.I liked Ottawa because Ottawa is Canada's capital. I want to move to Canada to study economics and I want to be a CEO of a company, said Dehua Xiao.
The weekends are spent learning first hand what Canadian cities have to offer, at the same time affording them the opportunity to practice their English. The group has so far traveled to Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls. This weekend will be spent in North Bay attending Summer in the Park and taking a cruise on board the Chief Commanda.
Their Chinese translator said the students have plenty of questions concerning life in Canada. They were curious to know why Canadian drivers don't honk their horns when driving as they do back home. They were excited to try Canadian food, but after a few days found it isn't as salty or as spicy as they are used to eating. As for those decadent desserts, most people can't seem to get enough of, they're just too sweet for their liking.
Canadore College has offered the ESL program for the past two years.
"The big thing is we're trying to introduce them to the culture, but at the same time we hope for them to return and study here as well," said Riccuti. "The aviation program is a big program a lot of the international students end up coming here for, but there's also nursing, and graphics, those are areas we'd like to make bigger as well."