Life is full of new beginnings – first date, graduation from school, marriage, first child. A significant new experience for me was my first trip to Asia. Getting off the plane at Narita airport in Japan after fourteen hours of flying time through thirteen time zones left my head spinning with both jet lag and sensory overload. The traffic, the crowded trains and subways, the crush of people on the streets, and, of course, the food that seemed so exotic.
I was there to attend overseas education fairs where Japanese students would learn about opportunities to study in Canada. But for me it was the start of my education in learning how to navigate a previously unfamiliar part of the world. Everything was new and exciting and challenging.
I realized quickly that I had to put aside all preconceptions and stereotypes of Japanese people and culture. Yes, many behaviours and mannerisms were downright puzzling but I was taken with the unfailing politeness and generosity of everyone I had the pleasure of dealing with. I marvelled at the architecture, the public spaces and parks, the spotlessly clean streets, and the high speed bullet trains that made travel around the country so fast and comfortable. And the food! What a delight to slurp freshly made udon noodles at a little family run restaurant!
On my way back to Canada heading east over the Pacific Ocean I smiled at the thought of Humphrey Bogart’s closing line in Casablanca – “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
In subsequent posts I’ll share some particularly memorable experiences in countless journeys around the world over a span of twenty five years.
“I really enjoy the experiences gained in working within the CIS program. The students we teach expand our understandings of our own pedagogy, in working with a cultural background so distinct from our own."
“The program offers students an unforgettable opportunity to see a different part of the world, while developing their English language skills, as they experience Canadian culture through classroom activities, excursions, and interactions with their homestay families.”
"It is very rewarding for me, as an educator, to witness the growth in the students’ language skills over a short intensive period of time. The base of vocabulary they arrive to Canada with serves as a good testament to their English training in their own school system."
"I think the activities that are embedded within the program provide the students a solid means of showing much of the Canadian lifestyle, in terms of day-to-day recreation, but also other features that require the use of larger spaces, that are not as prevalent in their home country. These, in combination with the homestay experiences and dietary differences from home, provide the students with a truly well rounded experience."