Japanese students in Barrie enjoying taste of Canada
Four local high schools — Barrie North, Bear Creek, Eastview, Barrie Central and Nottawasaga Pines in Angus — are hosting 120 Japanese students through Muskoka Language International (MLI). Taking a break from their busy schedule at Barrie North on Tuesday were, front row from left, English teacher Nahoko Oishi, students Kazuki Saito, Shingo Masaki and Momoka Sekine. Back row from left are Cathy Volpe, of MLI, Yoshihiro Hoshi, vice-principal of Kasukabe Kyoei, Japanese language teacher Takeshi Masuda and MLI co-ordinator Laura Tieken. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/QMI AGENCY
Japanese students visiting the Barrie area are getting a taste of what Canada, and its winter, have to offer.
Approximately 120 students from the Saitama prefecture of Kasukabe City, about an hour from Tokyo, arrived on Jan. 30 and are staying with host families of high school students from Barrie North, Bear Creek, Eastview, Barrie Central and Nottawasaga Pines in Angus.
This is the ninth annual visit for students visiting from Japan through Muskoka Language International, according to MLI co-ordinator Laura Tieken.
"They are in English as a Second Language classes for half the day and then are integrated into regular classroom lessons for the other half," she said, while Japanese students took part in the ELS class of Ariana Whitman at Barrie North earlier this week.
Through translator Nahoko Oishi, Kasukabe Kyoei vice-principal Yoshihiro Hoshi said Barrie is an ideal Canadian destination for the students.
"This area is very safe for the students to stay and the host families are very kind," he said. "When we go to other parts of Canada, sometimes (our students) can talk to Canadian students in Japanese. Here in Barrie, nobody speaks it so the students are more encouraged to speak English.
"In Japanese society, English is a top priority to learn for the future," Hoshi said.
Tieken said the 14 and 15-year-old students have been studying English for two years and that it's part of the Japanese curriculum to go to an English-speaking country.
But the Muskoka Language International program is not all about just the classroom, she added. The Japanese youngsters have gone to Snow Valley Ski Resort for snow tubing, visited Toronto's CN Tower and the Eaton Centre and will be checking out the sites of Niagara Falls later this week.
They also enjoyed Barrie Winterfest.
Student Kazuki Saito said he doesn't mind the cold weather.
"A lot of us do winter sports, so maybe we'll go skiing and I like hockey but I haven't played it yet," he said.
Classmate Shingo Masaki said he's enjoyed meeting new friends and experiencing Canadian cuisine.
"I like the different kinds of people I've met from different countries and I like all the different kinds of food," he said.
And Momoka Sekine appreciates the hospitality Barrie has to offer and what the family she is staying with has done for her.
"The people are very kind and thoughtful. My host family has a 20-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old daughter," she said.
And what did the girls do when they got together?
"We went shopping," she said, smiling.
Tieken said the Japanese students' interaction with their hosts makes the Muskoka Language International program possible.
"Without our host families we wouldn't be able to run these programs. They take these kids into their homes and adopt them as their own," she said. "You really see a bond between these students and their Canadian families."
A farewell party is planned at Bear Creek Secondary School on Wednesday, Feb. 25.
"During the farewell event you see a lot of tears because they've really bonded and such strong relationships are formed," Tieken said. "For most of them, it's their first time away from home and their families. It leaves a lasting impression."