By Tina Comeau
They’re all just 11 years old and they’re attending school in Yarmouth for three months while their families are back home on another continent.
But although separated by time and distance from their families and school in China, a group of six elementary students has been united with local students and families in Yarmouth through language and studies.
The six students are attending Meadowfields Community School as part of a three-month English and cultural immersion program. They have been accompanied by a teacher chaperone from home and are living with local host families.
The short-term immersion program is part of the Nova Scotia International Student Program.
That they are separated from their own families for three months for this educational opportunity is quite amazing when you consider their young age. But this was a welcomed opportunity. The students and their families applied for the chance to be part of this program and so far it’s been a success.
These aren’t the only students studying in Yarmouth as part of a short-term language and cultural immersion. There are a half dozen students from Columbia also here for six weeks. They are attended classes at Maple Grove and Yarmouth high school.
The students from China arrived in Yarmouth on March 20 and are scheduled to go back to China on June 19. Some of the students are in Grade 5 and others are in Grade 6.
While in Yarmouth the students have adopted what they call ‘their English names.’ Their chosen names are Johnny, Christina, Jenny, Lily, Ella, Carl and Daisy.
Daisy Pan (her real first name is Liyun) is the teacher chaperone who has accompanied the students. She says in the short time the students have been here they’ve all already progressed very well. The students could already speak and comprehend English when they arrived, but their grasp of the language is much better.
“I think this immersion program is a very good opportunity for the six kids to improve their English skills, to learn another culture and to do some culture exchange and to have a different experience here in Yarmouth,” their teacher says. “It’s a very good experience for them.”
Aside from coping with the cold weather since they’ve arrived, the experience has been a change from what the students are used to at home.
Coming from Suzhou, which is near Shanghai and located in Jiangsu Province, back home the students attend Fangzhou Primary School in Suzhou Industrial Park. While Meadowfields Community School is the largest elementary school in Yarmouth with 470 students, it’s much smaller than the school these students normally attend, which has around 2,000 students, 43 classrooms and 118 teachers. The school day here is also not as long as their school day in China.
“In our school we don’t have snack time, in this school I like snack time,” says Lily Chen, who says she likes it here so much she’d like to move to Canada. “Yarmouth has a beautiful nature,” adds Jenny Park, who is from Korea but attends school in China.
Because the students are having such a positive experience, it also helps to curb any homesickness. Ian and Jennifer White and their family host the student named Carl in their home. Ian White says while there was some homesickness in the first couple of weeks, that has passed and the young Chinese student is fitting in as one of the family.
White says the progress the youngster has made with his English so far is quite evident.
The students spend most of their day studying in classrooms with their Canadian peers, although one hour each day is spent studying together as their group of six.
The students say they’ve made lots of friends. While they’ll be excited to go back to China in less than two months to see their families, they say they’ll be sad to say goodbye to Yarmouth.