Grade 8 Taiyang (Dirk) Liang received a brisk welcome in Canada after travelling from Guangdong, China to Lacombe as part of Wolf Creek Public School’s (WCPS) international learning program.
When he left China, with 15 other students ranging from Grade 6-8, the temperature was 20 degrees Celsius — when he landed it was -30 degrees Celsius.
Despite having a bit of frost bite on the tips of his ears, Dirk said his trip has been pretty nice so far at a welcoming ceremony at the Lacombe Memorial Centre — which was also a celebration of the new Chinese lunar year.
“I am experiencing a really different life so far. It was shocked at first but then you get used to it,” Dirk said.
Dirk and his classmates will spend the next five months in schools throughout WCPS, which is the second phase of an agreement between Guangdong Province and and the Province of Alberta.
“We are the first K-12 school school system to work on this agreement,” Mark McWhinnie, assistant superintendent of learning services, said. “The first step was the summer program, where we had 65 students and now we working on during the school year programs.”
Students are staying with host families in Blackfalds and Lacombe and will be attending school where they will work on their English and immerse themselves in Canadian culture.
”Most of these students started learning English in Grade 1, so they have had five or six years of English,” McWhinnie said. “The conversational level of English will be practiced more while they are in school and with their host families.”
Once this phase is completed, WCPS will move on to their next phase — which will be sending 24 students from across the district to Guangdong.
“They will stay for two weeks and that will happen in March,” McWhinnie said.
For both the current visit and the future one in China, there will also be an exchange of teachers so that the school divisions can share practice and strategies.
McWhinnie added the students are already taking in the many things Canadians take for granted and Dirk says he looks forward to being a student both now and in the future.
”I am here for a different life maybe,” Dirk said. “I am looking forward to studying her for senior high or college in the future. I am really glad here and my host family are really nice to me. I love them.
“I think it is nice and I think it is a different type of education experience. I want to try out different kinds of life to broaden my horizons.”
McWhinnie said the program brings a new level of diversity to the school division and hopes to ensure that the students feel at home while they are in Canada.
“These students are away from their families for the first time.,” he said. “Several of them have travelled to different countries but not necessarily been away for that long.
“They also haven’t been away at a celebration time of year like Chinese New Year. That is an important time in their culture, so we wanted to make sure they felt at home and that the community was praising them.”
Dirk added he his looking forward to, “Fun and friends. I have heard the Canadian education style is really about team work. Which is a big difference from Guangdong. I am really looking forward to experience that.”