Student Learning Extends Beyond English Language at QSoE

by Rachel O’Dell

Just before winter break, QSoE ended the Fall 2016 EAP session with graduation — the first one I had ever attended. It was very powerful because it gave those of us who are not in the classroom everyday a glimpse of the passion and care that the talented QSoE instructors put into their work, and of the friendships formed within classrooms.

A couple of the QSoE instructors have been teaching here for more than 15 years, but with the level of enthusiasm and appreciation conveyed in their speeches, you would think that they were fresh out of teachers’ college. As an audience member listening to their congratulations to students on their achievements, I felt like joining their classes, or maybe re-visiting teaching as a career; they are clearly deeply rewarded and continuously inspired by teaching English to students from diverse cultures.

The class valedictorian, Bander Alsekhan, summed up the QSoE experience well in his speech:

“I started this program expecting to improve my English, but I ended up with much more. I got to meet so many people from different backgrounds, and that changed me as a person. I thought I would have teachers, but I got mentors. I started out with classmates and ended up with great friends.”

Although it was a large group graduating, it was never tiring to listen as each student’s name was called. It was quite heartwarming to hear classmates cheering and whistling for each student, and to see all of the smiles, hugs, and a few tears (some students were returning to their home countries that day).

Students come to QSoE to learn English as part of their education or career goals; they want to be able to connect with people of the world as global citizens, and English is the language that opens them to a broader world. As Bander mentioned, towards the end of the sessions, many students find themselves reflecting on how the QSoE experience has helped them to grow and learn beyond just becoming more proficient in the English language.

Leaving your known world in your home country to come to a new place, with new people and a new language is definitely exciting, but also a bit scary and uncomfortable for most people. When you land at QSoE in your small class with caring instructors and staff, you will find yourself among others who are in the same situation, and this gives you re-assurance.


During class, at their homestays, and during socio-cultural activities, students learn to use English to listen and to share their perspectives with others (often from other cultures). As they learn about and experience Canadian culture, students become more aware of themselves, and of their own culture. They begin to think more about and how they interact with others. This is the part of the learning that happens at QSoE that surprises many students –- they leave here with honed capacities, not only with the English language, but also with their confidence in connecting with others.

Here are some highlights of the Fall 2016 EAP Program:

Two of the classes focused part of their learning projects on service to the Kingston community. Read our post about how Amie Pilgrim’s Class 140 supported the Kingston Youth Shelter.

Another class –Rasha Farim’s Class 150 — raised $512 for Immigrant Services Kingston and Area’s (ISKA)  Newcomer Youth Program! Christian Medina, from ISKA, delivered an acceptance speech at the QSoE fall 2016 graduation. He also put out a call for volunteers to help participants in the ISKA Multi-cultural Youth Group to learn about Canadian culture and the opportunities available to them in the Kingston area.

Other highlights of the Fall 2016 EAP Program included a delicious multi-cultural potluck dinner, the QSoE Variety Night, and the Class Competition. Thanks for the smiles, everyone!




Thanksgiving Holiday

This weekend, many QSoE students will have their first experience of celebrating Thanksgiving Day. When Thanksgiving was mentioned to some students, their first thoughts were of excitement for Black Friday, and the spectacular deals shoppers may find. However, Black Friday is a distinctly American phenomenon which coincides with Thanksgiving weekend in the United States. Although they celebrate the holiday in a very similar way, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the third Thursday in November. In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.


Cornucopia or ‘Horn of Plenty’ – a symbol of abundance and nourishment associated with Thanksgiving Day

Canadians have been officially celebrating Thanksgiving Day since 1879, when Parliament proclaimed it as “a day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed”. The practice of having a special feast in thanks and celebration of the harvest at this time of the year has been a tradition of First Nations and Native American tribes, and of peasant societies in Europe for long before any records of Europeans holding formal harvest celebrations. One of the earliest recorded dates of such an organized celebration by European members of society dates to 1578 when explorers in the Arctic wrote of their harvest celebration during this time of the year!

In the United States, much of the origin of Thanksgiving Day as a holiday is attributed to the Pilgrims (early European settlers in Massachusetts) who celebrated their first harvest with a feast of freshly harvested North American foods. These foods likely included wild fowl (such as turkey, grouse, duck, or goose), indigenous berries and nuts, seafood, and foods which Native Americans were cultivating such as corn, potatoes, beans, peas, squash, and onions.


Wild Turkeys

Today, both Canadians and Americans typically celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a day off of work/school, travelling to be with family and close friends, and honoring the blessings of their lives by sharing a feast including dishes such as a whole roasted turkey, squash, potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin or apple pie. Roasting a turkey is something that is usually only done on Thanksgiving Day, though sometimes at Christmas or Easter as well. Although there are wild turkeys living in Ontario (which can be hunted and eaten), generally people buy domestically-raised turkeys from the grocery store, or from a local farmer.

We would love to hear about your experiences and see your photos of Thanksgiving Day celebrations! Email to share.

Fall ’16 Marion Edith Dubin Memorial Scholarship in English Recipient

Queen’s School of English (QSoE) announced that Daniel Carvalho (Brazil) is the recipient of the Fall 2016 Marion Edith Dubin Memorial Scholarship in English!


Daniel is entering his third session in the QSoE English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Program, though his hometown is Porto Alegre, in the south of Brazil. He has a PhD in Geology, and has worked for South African and Canadian mining companies in Brazil. In Brazil, Daniel has his own company for which he designed a specialized product that is used on mining and potential mining sites. This large, tray-like product is specially designed to hold and display physical geological samples taken from potential mining sites, and is used in conjunction with other tools to evaluate natural resources underground.

Because of the international nature of his field of work, Daniel has come to QSoE to improve his English language skills, to learn about Canadian culture, and to connect with people in Canada who are also involved in the mining industry. Since being at Queen’s University, Daniel has discovered an inspiration to pursue studies in business for the mining, oil, and gas industries.

When asked what he has enjoyed about QSoE, Daniel mentioned that the format of the classes at QSoE is different than what he experienced during his studies in Brazil – a refreshing and engaging change. He says that the EAP Program at QSoE has allowed him to learn about the culture in Canada, and “how people here think,” which is very valuable to him.


Poutine: A Canadian Dish!

One of the activities outside of class at the School of English is to make poutine! Poutine is a Canadian dish originating in the province of Quebec, and is made with French fries and cheese curds, topped with a light-brown gravy. Students enjoyed making (and eating) it last week. Thanks to Social Media Club members Honami and Airi for submitting these photos!

Marion Edith Dubin Scholarship in English Winner: Akiho Yatsuda!

Akiho Yatsuda is the Summer 2016 winner of the Marion Edith Dubin Scholarship in English! Akiho, from Chikushi Jogakuen University in Dazaifu City, Fukuoka, Japan, is currently in the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program at the Queen’s School of English. She arrived last Fall, and will be finishing the program in August of this year. We had a chance to sit down with her recently to talk about her experience here:

What were her first impressions of Canada? She recounts her first glimpses of Toronto from the airplane, and compared her view of Toronto to the large cities in Japan. “I’d heard Toronto was a big city, but I didn’t think it was!”

What does she like about Kingston? “I really like Kingston because there is a lot of nature. There are lots of trees, a lake and lots of green space.”

“Kingstonians are also very kind,” she says. She recounts many instances of being lost and fellow Kingstonians helping her with directions.

What experience has she enjoyed the most since she has been here? Her best experiences so far have been ice skating behind City Hall in the winter, and also watching the Kingston Frontenacs hockey team play at the K-Rock Centre. “It was my first time seeing a hockey game. The players were all hitting each other, but it was very exciting!”

She enjoyed her recent winter term when she became friends with classmates who were from all over the world — Brazil, Quebec, Saudi Arabia, China and Libia. “Each person had different opinions, and they all were very motivated to study English.”

Akiho received the highest mark in her class. How did she do it? “The secret is to sit as close to the teacher as possible. If I sit near the teacher I get more opportunities to speak.”

What does she like about the Queen’s School of English? “The teachers in the School of English are really great. They teach very academic English and they have lots of experience. They also give you lots of one-on-one attention.”

What advice does she have to give to students? “Do your best every day. Don’t be lazy. Try to keep doing something every day/month. Always think about your motivation for coming here. I think about my parents and the opportunity they gave me to study here.”

What career goals does she have? Akiho has one more year to complete at university, but would like to work in Japan in communications and perhaps with international students. “I would like to help people using English.”

For more information on Awards, Scholarships and Bursaries or Financial Assistance at the School of English click here.