Six Japanese exchange students are currently getting a taste of life in Red Deer through the Muskoka Language International (MLI) group.
The Vancouver-based organization has been bringing exchange students to Canada for over 20 years now. Each student is welcomed for a home-stay with a local family and attends classes in their chosen city. Currently, there are two students enrolled at Hunting Hills High School, two at Lindsay Thurber High School and two at Ecole Notre Dame.
This is the first time students from the Kitatoshima High School in Tokyo, Japan have been brought to the City, according to Liz Kim, high school program coordinator with MLI.
“We are just very thankful for all the wonderful families in Red Deer and the wonderful partnership with the school districts in the City,” Kim said.
“Things have been smooth and going perfect so far, specifically because of the wonderful partnership we have with the school districts in Red Deer and also the wonderful hospitality the citizens of Red Deer have shown. We hope that this group will continue to grow in the years to come, and they may even stay longer in the upcoming years.”
The students come to stay in Canada for a nine-week program of immersive language development and family life experiences. Each day, they attend classes in English with their new Canadian peers before returning to their host family homes.
Kim explained that MLI designs custom programs for high schools and students, not only from Japan, but for students all over the world. She said they work with markets in Asia, South America and Europe to tailor the program for the needs of the students and groups.
She said the girls currently visiting the City have been busy, taking part in activities like skating and tubing, as well as visiting Banff and Edmonton.
“After school the students go back home to their home-stay families. The families are asked to give the students a feeling of what a typical Canadian family is like and to provide for them as they would for their own children. We stress the fact that they students are here to become part of the family, rather than just be a guest.”
Kim said this immersive experience is beneficial for the students and that the MLI model helps to create meaningful experiences during the exchange.
“We are always excited to hear the positive feedback we get from the students and families,” Kim said.
“It’s amazing to see how families and students can form relationships so quickly and they really feel like they are family members by the time they have to leave Canada. We always hear that students want to come back to Canada and visit their ‘second’ families and we always have a lot of happy tears on the departure days.
“The great thing about the girls who are in Red Deer is that they are there for nine weeks so it will be plenty of time to really connect, and hopefully make them want to come back,” Kim said.