They couldn’t come from a place more different than the Heritage City.
A crew of 21 students from Sao Paulo, Brazil is in Nelson this month as Trafalgar middle school plays host to the captivated visitors.
“For me it’s most different having snow here,” said André Campos. Added André Arana. “Here, I wake up and see the snow. I just want to dive in.”
The two foreign Grade 7 students are from a city of 11 million people where the sun shines year round and subways and cars are main modes of transport.
“Here we can walk the streets without any trouble,” said Arana happy to be footing it around town touring with Trafalgar students. “It’s nice to be in a small city.”
The group has been downtown, to the skating rink and bowling alley and will make trips to Ainsworth Hot springs and Camp Busk to go snowshoeing. They will also get a chance to dive into the snow at Whitewater Ski Resort in the next couple weeks.
Teacher coordinator Val Holtz said for these visitors, “it’s all about the snow.”
She explained these youngsters are fortunate to come into such a receptive community considering how far they are from home. And Trafalgar students enjoy the learning that comes along with hosting.
“Kids are just so curious, they easily start talking right away,” said Holtz.
First they talk common interests and “once they become comfortable together” language and culture conversations come next.
Grade 6 student Abby Jackson is pleased that the Brazilians are “open to telling us about where they are from.”
“I like it,” she said. “It’s fun having them here — it’s a new experience.”
Word of mouth is a great salesman as Kootenay Lake school district attracts foreign students to the area. This is Dylan Luscombe’s third time hosting a student from Brazil. In 2010 and 2012, his family opened their home to cousins of Campos who is currently staying with them.
“We had a lot of fun with them and they had a lot of fun with us,” said Luscombe.
Kootenay Lake has been “brining the world into homes” in the district for over 10 years, said Sandy Prentice. She spoke at a recent school board meeting as the international program undergoes a review.
“It’s grown and flourished in ways we don’t always communicate,” she said.
What started as a way for the district to generate funds, has become more about the “globalization factor,” explained Prentice.
“We’re in a valley that doesn’t reflect globalization,” she said. “We’re preparing Canadian kids for the world by linking arms.”
The review, slated for completion by June 2014, is to ensure the benefits of the program are still clear. It’s also about accountability and finding ways to improve.
“We will be gentle but we will be persistent,” said Prentice.
Korean students make up a large portion of international students coming to the local district. Most students are in Grade 11 and the Brazilian visit taking place annually after Christmas is another substantial component to the home stay program.
The Brazilian students will be in the West Kootenay until January 25.