Life as an international student is difficult: coming to a new country, not knowing what’s being said in class, unaware of normal social cues, and having to make new friends with limited knowledge of the English language. Riverside Secondary School receives an increasing amount of new international students each year, with about 200 new students that arrived at the beginning of the school year, and about 20-40 more students coming before the second semester starts.
A number of international students are making an effort to adjust to their new social environment and to make new friends. “I made a lot of new friends in this school and they are very helpful for me to learn English,” said Scarlett Lee, a grade 11 international student from South Korea. “It is pretty easy to adjust to Canadian society if you get used to the culture and the people around you,” said Guillermo de Andréa, a grade 12 international student from Brazil. Both Lee and de Andréa participate in various school clubs and sports teams.
In the past, Open Gym would be hosted during the days when sports teams are not practicing so that the international students can connect with Riverside students through sports. This year, a new program on every second Wednesday will begin where intramurals will be hosted for international students. There has been some skepticism over this new program, with people believing that this will only create further segregation between the international students and the regular students. “Initially, we would like all of the international students to join in all of the Riverside activities,” said Catherine Yamamoto, the teacher in charge of the Multicultural Leadership class in Riverside, as well as the teacher that mainly oversees the international students. According to Yamamoto, many of the international students are unable to join regular intramural teams because the team slots were already filled by groups of Canadian students. This program will enable the international students to play the intramural games and showcase their skills to coaches and Canadian students. The hope is that the international students will eventually find the courage to join the regular school teams. “In the end, hopefully, we won’t need a separate program for the international students and it will all be combined,”
According to Yamamoto, the Multicultural Leadership class is currently planning extracurricular events, such as the Night Market, possible concerts and various outings. “Many of the international students are musically talented, so hopefully we can help them showcase their talents.” The Multicultural Leadership class recently hosted a bowling trip for the international students on October 5. The students enjoyed a few games of bowling, music and dancing. The annual Welcome Dinner for the new international students was held on October 19. There were numerous performances from the international students, and people who attended enjoyed a barbecue dinner.