Knowing little about Alberta, a group from Mexico packed their bags to spend a month in the province.
Olds College hosted 30 people – a mix of undergraduate students, researchers and teachers – as part of the Proyecta 10,000 program, to help them improve their English language skills and learn more about Canada in July.
“It went by very fast, said student Maria del Socorro Escobar-Chavez. “One month is almost not enough. We had the opportunity to practise our English in all types of situations.”
However, she said, there were some worries for the students as they made the trip to Canada at the start of the month.
The students were concerned that they would not be understood by Albertans.
“We’d get anxious and stressed because of that,” she said.
The classes and other activities such as writing and reading poetry on topics such as love and human rights helped the students overcome their fears.
“It was quite easy actually,” she said. “We thought it’d be hard because we’re not used to poetry, but we could express our emotions easily through the poetry. I enjoyed it a lot.”
One of the biggest surprises for the group was that it wasn’t cold every day, Escobar-Chavez said.
“That was something that surprised all of us because it’s not too different from the weather we have in Mexico. We were surprised of by your kindness and hospitality too,” she said.
Originally from near Mexico City, Escobar-Chavez didn’t know anything about the Town of Olds when she was offered the chance to visit. Now, one month after first stepping on Canadian soil, she envisions herself visiting Canada again.
“All of us have learned a lot … Nobody regrets coming here. It was that good. We’re really grateful for this opportunity.”
It wasn’t knowledge of English that was the biggest hurdle for the students to overcome, said Pablo Ortiz from Olds College.
“They came to the college with an intermediate proficiency in English, but they were shy. They weren’t really confident when it came to oral skills and in four weeks that changed a lot.”
After having students leave Canada Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Ortiz said he’d like to see the program return next year.