I’d like to address something I feel strongly about. Part of your time here in Vancouver is indeed going to be spent in classrooms, but I don’t want you to feel like Vancouver itself has become a big, boring classroom! We often attribute our feelings and reactions to our main purpose for coming to a new city with the city itself. In other words, we’ll attribute our feelings and reactions to our study at VGC to the City of Vancouver itself, and this isn’t fair to you or to Vancouver!
Vancouver, and by extension, the whole Lower Mainland of British Columbia, is one of the most popular Canadian destinations even among Canadians. I myself used to vacation here whenever I could get some free time while working in my native Toronto. You’ll find many “transplanted” easterners like me now living in this beautiful city. We come from Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary, among other places, to enjoy beauty unparalleled in the rest of Canada; we also come for British Columbia’s milder coastal winters.
Whether you’ve recently moved here, or you’re a native of Vancouver, or you’re a student coming here for the first time to study English, it’s important to do a variety of activities in order to keep the city working for you, and not you working for it. Students who only stay in classrooms and libraries are just like natives who stay in basements and play video games or newly-arrived citizens trying to find work all day, every day. Students need to put the books away eventually and sit with a friend in a café, preferably a friend from another country, so you can not just practice your English, but actually live it. Job-seekers will need to ensure they enjoy a healthy diet and get a lot of exercise as part of their job hunt to ensure they’re staying both mentally and physically healthy during a difficult time. Natives will benefit from doing the occasional touristy thing to rediscover their city and appreciate why so many people like travelling there.
The point for students is that if you think of Vancouver as just a large classroom, you’ll be missing out on what it is to be lucky enough to live here. Yes you need to study to pass your exam to move up to the next level, but you also need to make time to go hiking. Have you been on the Poco-Traboulay Trail, encompassing all of Port Coquitlam, yet? Have you climbed to the high knoll in Minnekhada Park? Have you been to the Pitt Addington Marsh? Have you been to White Rock yet? Have you visited Bowen Island or the North Beach at Golden Ears Provincial Park? Part of my joy in now living in British Columbia is discovering these places and taking pictures, making sure to put them on my Facebook to share with family back home in Ontario.
There are things you can do on your own while you’re here. If you’re going to be here for a long time, consider volunteering your time. Are you a soccer specialist? If so, why not coach local youth in soccer, or swimming, or whatever sport you do well? Do you enjoy visiting people in the hospital and talking to them so they don’t feel lonely? Is there something else you can do to help you actually do things in English? Volunteering is a great way to be a part of life in Vancouver while you study here, and it looks great on your resume. http://www.govolunteer.ca/ is all you need to get you started.
Teachers use something called “The Four Strands” when they develop your classes and terms. These are just four parts of a complete language program: equal parts language study, fluency practice, content-based input and content-based output. Your own acquisition of English will require a similar two-pronged attack: equal parts study and living. The living part will of course need to be done in English: listening and reading, speaking and writing, all with locals or fellow students like you looking to live a Canadian lifestyle, even if only for a month or two.
Enjoy your time here. You came to Canada, after all; it did not come to you! Congratulations on taking that first big step! Be active, discover why so many people want to move here, and make your English education more complete than by just sitting in a classroom or hiding in a library all afternoon on a glorious summer day![custom_author=Josh Pirie]