Students from abroad who study in Montreal can find it difficult to be away from family at this time of year. This year, because of the pandemic, many students will remain in the city for the Holidays.
But thanks to the staff at Lester B Pearson School Board’s (LBPSB) International Youth Program, students are experiencing a little more holiday cheer. Earlier this week workers organized a Christmas cookie decorating session.
“We really wanted to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere and make them feel as if this is a home away from home,” said Shalini Dowlani, manager of LBPSB’s International Youth Program.
Fourteen students took part in the evening held at the John Killingbeck international pavilion dormitory in Pointe Claire. Among them was 16-year-old Mahshad Taleb Zadeh from Iran who said the activity wasn’t as easy as she thought it might be.
“I found out that I’m not that much creative,” she said, laughing. “But it’s good. I’m not good at art and these kinds of things, but here I experience this kind of thing a lot, and I’ll get better.”
The students come from all over the world and enroll in the program for a minimum of one school year, attending high schools within the board’s jurisdiction. According to Dowlani, last year, the dormitory was closed due to COVID.
“It’s just really nice to have the students back in the building and liven up the place,” she smiled.
She said one way to help them integrate is to have them participate in aspects of Canadian culture, such as Christmas cookie decorating, but there are other ways.
“For example for Haloween we have pumpkin carving,” Taleb Zadeh said, pointing to photographs on the dorm’s bulletin board of her and others with the carved gourds.
Some students, like 16-year-old Nano Leeteerachot from Thailand, have never done some of the activities. Beyond the activities, though, he’s had to adapt to other aspects of living in Canada.
“Like how people are open to talk to you about anything,” he said. “I think that was quite new for me.”
Learning to interact with people has been his biggest challenge, he said.
“Because in Thailand, most people are private and they don’t speak about things that much, like here,” he said.
Leeteerachot and the other students stressed that the cultural and friendship bonds they’ve formed are the best parts of the experience.