International students in Sudbury receive truly Canadian experience

Leaving home and coming to Canada to go to school is an adventure many students don’t get to experience.

But here in Sudbury, there are more than 30 students from across the world.

“People in Canada are very friendly and just so nice,” said Grade 11 student Miku Kikuchi, who came to Canada from Japan in April for school.

Miku had to complete courses online to finish up last year, which she said was challenging on top of being in a brand new country.

“I took online class and it was hard, but now I can go to school and meet my friends and teachers and it was nice,” she said.

Although here for school, the past few months have brought her way more than just a Canadian education.

“I went to Toronto and Niagara Falls with my host family, which is nice,” Miku said.

For her host family, Karen Bass, this is the first time they have officially opened up their doors to an international student.

“It’s a lot of fun experiencing things for the first time through someone else’s eyes who have never experienced these things that we just take for granted in our country,” said Bass.

“I think it’s really important that she experiences the Canadian way, which is just hanging out with family, you know, bonfires, we did s’mores, wiener roast, this winter taking her ice fishing, trying snowmobiling, sliding, all these opportunities that she would not have to do in her own country. These are the kind of things I want her to experience while she’s here so she can take these memories home with her.”

The Sudbury Catholic District School Board has students from all around the world, including Japan, China, Germany Spain, and Poland. For this school year, there are 28 secondary students in Sudbury and four elementary-aged students.

Although many of the students are here already, there are five coming over in the New Year.

“We take the opportunity to open up our borders and our schools to everyone and it provides our students with a lot more opportunity to interact and learn things about all over the world,” said Cheryl Ann Corallo, who's with the school board. “We are creating global citizens.”

Corallo said the experience has been well received in the past five years by staff and students from both Sudbury and other countries. Host families play a critical role in making this possible.

“It’s not just a matter of finding a family, it’s a matter of finding a family that’s a good fit for the student that’s coming,” she said. “We have a process that we go through to make sure that the families that are chosen are a fit and welcoming.”

Corallo said families that are interested can call the board office to get more information on hosting international students.

Speaking from experience, though, Bass said hosting doesn’t come without challenges.

“I think that challenge is the fact that she is so shy and so afraid to say anything because there is an insecurity with the language barrier,” said Bass.

However, she said she wouldn’t hesitate to open up her home again.

“As the months have gone by, we see her opening up more and actually communicating," Bass said.

"So in the beginning it is hard. It’s sign language, it’s pointing at things, writing things down because reading and comprehension re skills are much better than the verbalization.”

Bass said that Miku has been an amazing addition to the entire family.

“I went to fishing with my grand… with my host grandfather,” said Miku.

And the family adventures don’t stop there.

“Her best friend is my father, grandpa, and he takes her fishing and so they’ve been having a blast because there’s no talking involved -- it’s just fishing so it’s a lot of fun,” said Bass.

“The whole family has embraced her. We just had a birthday party for her. I’m treating her no different than I’d treat my own child.”

With Mother Nature soon to give Miku a taste of what’s to come this winter, she said she is nervous. But with a winter jacket in hand, she’s ready for the rest of her time here in Sudbury.