My first Skyscrapers
The spring 2005 was the right time to choose a summer destination for the "English-improving mission - part II". After I spent (with a huge enthusiasm) two weeks in Ireland the summer before, I was keen on travelling further away and/or for a longer time. After I read through the offers from GTS and compared the prices, I assumed Canada might do it that year. Four weeks in Toronto were for the same price as two weeks in Dublin!
I came to my dad to discuss my idea with him, little bit worried about his reaction. But how surprised I was, when he smiled and almost yelled: "Good work, great idea! Let's do it!" (My family has always supported my travelling-keen spirit. I have never had newest equipment or cool clothes, but I had the travels!) The GTS travel agency offered the language school Hansa Language Centre situated on Yonge street in Toronto.
There were several possibilities of accommodation. Because I had a good experience with living in a family and because it is the best way how to practice the language at any time, I chose the same option.
The family I lived with was nonetheless completely different from the one from Cork. In the house there were living also other students from Hansa, but that were all the similarities. The owners of the house were two Malaysian sisters, who had been living in Toronto for some 30 years and a daughter of one of them. They were extremely polite and kind. Their Malaisian origin brought along two simple facts: I have to admit I was a bit disappointed, when I found out I wouldn't live in a typical Canadian family. Nevertheless, over 80 % of Toronto population are represented by immigrants. So I lived in a VERY TYPICAL Toronto family actually. The second fact concerned the food: for four weeks I spent there we ate rice EVERY DAY! :)
The living in the house was very cool - no traces of Irish exaggerated sense for cleaning, no necessary limitations concerning your arrival, departure to or from the house. We spent evenings together and the overall atmosphere "at home" was very friendly.
Everything was pretty cool at the school, too. At the beginning of each week the students picked up the lessons they wished to participate at. My schedule consisted of four lessons every day. I changed them every week, always attending those where the grammar and phrases were taught. It was useless to attend the conversation classes, as you could practice English on literary every corner!
The afternoon programme was very variable. There were enough of activities organized by the school - visiting some of the numerous Toronto museums or galleries, tours through the city (CN Tower, Chinese town, Kensington Market - defo my FAVOURITE! place in Toronto, Little Italy, Lawrence market ...), on the plan there were also plenty of different sport activities.
In case you felt like you might need some more English learning, you could visit one of the PC labs and study the language with the help of various interactive computer programmes. As Toronto is a very lively (and lovely) city, there was always a party, movie, theater or pub to visit.
At the weekends the school organized trips to some more distant places. I took part in a trip to Niagara Falls, which was actually very impressive. Besides you could visit other Canadian cities such as Vancouver or Montreal.
I am not going to repeat how beneficial the Canadian journey was for me. The truth is, that I will always remember the month I spent there as one of the most useful and eventful in my life. My English got improved extremely quickly, I learned to manage new life situations and more over I got acquainted with many kind people who I have stayed in touch until these days. I got to know a city of a completely different appearance. And I was quite surprised to find out, how much I loved it.
Toronto is by the way a very clean and organized city. Also the people in Toronto are very kind and helpful in general - and it is no cliché at all! Let a story explain:
My very first getting to school was sort of a stressful event for me. It was again something different from what I was used to from Ireland. In Cork the students from the house took me to school on the first day and showed me everything around. Not so in Toronto! I was shown the route to school on the map with an added comment, which buses to take and where to get on/off.
The nervousness hanged above me so obviously that morning, that after I simply asked a lady to tell me, when my getting-off-the-bus-station will come (you actually had to press a button in advance to make the bus stop), she took me under her protection.
She got off the bus on "my" station even though she actually had to get off couple of stops later. She accompanied me to the metro station, bought me a bottle of water and finally pressed a phone card into my hand with the words: "Just keep it." When she was sure I will manage the rest of the route on my own, she left me with the wishes of "good luck." I was amazed!