Thirty-six Japanese homestay students said sayonara to the Harbour City during a going-away ceremony this week.
The students, all girls between the ages 14-17 from Yamanashi, a prefecture located 115 kilometres west of Tokyo, spent the last two weeks living with host families in Nanaimo and attending ESL classes at Nanaimo Alliance Church, which were taught by teachers from the Nanaimo school district. Their stay was orchestrated by MLI Homestay, an organization that brings students from around the world to Canada for various periods of time to help them improve their English.
During Monday’s ceremony, which took place at the church, the girls thanked their host families and teachers for their time in Canada, performed dance routines and were presented with completion certificates from Alex Brennan, one of their teachers.
“I am very thankful for my time here in Canada. I am thankful for the time I had here,” said Japanese student, Hikaru Sano told a crowd of about 100 people.
Speaking to the News Bulletin afterward, Sano, along with Rin Takahashi, Nozomi Wakao, Minori Miura and Iori Shiota said they really enjoyed their time in Canada. They said they had the opportunity visit places such as St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Westwood Lake and Woodgrove Centre.
“Canada is a great place,” Shiota said. “My English is better now.”
The girls, all students enrolled at Yamanashi Eiwa College, said they learned a little bit about First Nations and Canadian history, were impressed with how many rabbits and deer they saw roaming around the city and enjoyed Nanaimo’s blend of urban life with nature.
Steve Crowhurst and his family were one of a number of Nanaimo families who hosted students this summer. His family hosted two girls and said the experience was great learning experience.
“Not having 15 year-olds at home, they taught me a lot about having teenagers,” Crowhurst said. “Regardless of where they’re from, we know that teenagers are the same whether they are from Japan or Canada.”
Crowhurst said he took his two students on short day trips to places like Parksville and Chemainus. He said he was surprised at how much his two students liked visiting the mall and going to Starbucks.
“Our girls really enjoyed shopping, more than anything else,” he said. “We’ve had other students before. Some students enjoy getting outdoors, some students enjoy sports, some students enjoy going for hikes and some students enjoy staying at home playing games. These girls, they could shop all day.”
The Crowhursts have been a host family five times before and said they love being able to forge relationships with people from all over the world.
“To make a relationship with a young person from Japan and to be able to carry that relationship even after they return home is so meaningful,” Crowhurst said. “It’s like having another member of the family.”