Students from 15 different countries have studied at Brooks Secondary School this year. During this time they have learned a different language and culture, and made a positive impact at the school and in the greater community, according to School District 47 International Student Program district principal Shannon Behan.
“These kids come here and engage in a really positive way,” she said. “One of things I really like to celebrate is the addition of the diversity in our schools and communities.”
16 of these students, from Mexico, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Norway and Japan, graduate this June and are reflecting on their experiences in Powell River.
Rieka Takeuchi, 18, from Sapporo, Japan, has studied at Brooks for two years. She improved her English, achieved academically and even had the chance to travel internationally with the school.
“The best decision I made here was joining band,” said Takeuchi, who learned to play drums. “I made lots of friends and did the Cuba trip. That was so exciting.”
This fall she will be going to the University of Tasmania to study zoology. Yuhan Kim, 18, from South Korea, said the best choice he made at Brooks was becoming involved in many extracurricular activities.
“My English was really bad when I first came here; I couldn’t say a word,” he said. “But I just joined the track and field team, soccer team and tennis. I did all these athletic things and made lots of friends and they improved my English.”
After graduation he is heading to Thompson Rivers University in the Okanagan to study kinesiology. His hope is to become a physiotherapist with a famous soccer team, he said.
Pia Bertram, 18, from Germany, said coming to Powell River was a major leap of faith for her.
“I’d never been over the ocean, never taken a plane,” she said. “Canada was my first flight and travel experience.”
The time here built her confidence, she added.
“Before I came here I was really nervous because I’d never had speaking experience in English,” said Bertram. “But I met new friends, learned a new culture and my English improved a lot.”
She has applied to universities and hopes to attend school in Western Europe.
Xinyi Feng, 18, from Xi’an, China, said her time in Powell River was unlike anything she’d previously experienced.
“I became more independent living here,” she said. “In China my parents were doing everything for me. I just studied. But in Canada I make my bed and clean my room every day. I clean dishes and help my homestay mom.”
Feng said what struck her most was the proximity to nature and wildlife here.
“In China I live in a city and we don’t have any chances to see different animals or we go to the zoo to see them,” she added. “But here, oh my gosh, I always see deer through my windows; it’s amazing.”
This fall Feng will attend University of Victoria and study social sciences. She said she recommends studying abroad to all young people. Her biggest takeaway from her time in Powell River is to approach new people and ideas with an open mind.
“We have different cultural backgrounds, so we can have different ways of looking at things,” she added. “That is so cool.”
The biggest component in the success of the international student program is the families who take the students into their homes and care for them, said Behan.
“The homestay parents are amazing and they play a huge role,” she said. “They take the kids in, make them part of their family and they take on the role of pseudo parents; that’s a big role.”