Cintia Luna admits there was a bit of culture shock when she came to the University of Northern British Columbia in May to take part in the Proyecta 10,000 English program.
The university student from the State of Mexico was a bit apprehensive about going to Northern B.C., but the friendly people she met upon her arrival in Prince George quickly won her over.
“People are always saying hello when they see us,” Luna says, taking a short break from her studies to talk in the Canfor Winter Garden. “It’s not as common a thing in Mexcio to say hi to people.”Luna says, taking a short break from her studies to talk in the Canfor Winter Garden. “It’s not as common a thing in Mexcio to say hi to people.”
Funded by the Mexican government, Proyecta 10,000 sends Mexican students to universities across Canada and the United States to help upgrade their English skills. This year UNBC is hosting 30 students for a four-week program. It included 96 hours of instruction, rooms in the UNBC residence and opportunities to explore Prince George and the region.
The Mexican students are honing their English writing skills with essays and working on their spoken English by interviewing people on campus and in the Prince George community.
“Our instructors are having us do fun activities that help us to talk and speak in English,” Proyecta 10,000 student Estrella Uldapilleta explains.
Rather than solely focusing on grammar and vocabulary, the course also touches on Canadian culture and history. It allows the students to gain local knowledge while they improve their language skills.
“It was a little surprising,” Luna says of the course structure. “When we take a course in Mexico it’s very different, you do a lot of reading about the subject. Here we are learning about the culture and English at the same time.”
Fellow student Marco Perez said field trips, like one to Exploration Place, are exposing the students to even more local culture and providing them with opportunities to interact with English speakers outside of the classroom.
“We have learned a lot about Canada during our course,” he says. “And the museum was beautiful.”
Among the highlights for Uldapilleta have been visiting downtown Prince George, which she describes as very relaxed compared to the hustle and bustle of urban areas in Mexico, and experiencing the traditional Dakelh pit house built by students on the UNBC campus in 2014.
As UNBC looks to increase the number of international students on campus, programs like Proyecta 10,000 help introduce the University to students in Mexico.
“We want to come back,” Luna says with a smile. “Maybe even as soon as next year.”
Pictured, from left: Proyecta 10,000 students Estrella Uldapilleta, Marco Perez and Cintia Luna spent a month at the UNBC Prince George campus where they studied English and learned about Canadian history and culture.