Palliser's International Student Program a win-win situation

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Meir Medeiros takes photos of local landmarks on the Brazilian students' bus ride from the Calgary airport.

Her experiences in southern Alberta should provide Meir Medeiros with plenty to write about in her student newspaper back in Brazil.

The 15-year-old will take home more than memories of time spent with Palliser Regional Schools’ International Student Program, however.  Medeiros should take away a greater understanding of the larger global community she’s part of.

“The basic goal of our International Student Program here at Palliser is to bring students from cultures around the world to southern Alberta to experience southern Alberta culture and southern Alberta schools and participate in a learning environment that is recognized as among the best in Alberta,” says Tom Hamer, Palliser’s Director of Learning responsible for the program. 

Those nine students from Brazil aren’t the only ones who will benefit from their semester of high school in Coaldale and Picture Butte. The students and staff at Palliser will also have the opportunity to build relationships with students from other parts of the world and develop their understandings of the world and other cultures.

“They always say the world is a smaller place now, but this really gives them an opportunity to  experience that first-hand and maybe it will whet their appetite and encourage them to seek opportunities outside of southern Alberta,” says Hamer.

In Brazil such international programs are funded by the government, which allows students who might not otherwise be able to afford the experience to benefit. In fact, this is the first time any of this group has travelled beyond Brazil’s borders.

Given the climate they’re accustomed to, there are some natural curiosities of what awaits them.

“I will be waiting for the winter to see a lot of snow and the seasons,” says 16-year-old Ian Gomez. “I don’t know what is cold.”

The prospect of a Canadian winter and bone-numbing temperatures doesn’t scare Medeiros either – at least, not a lot.

“A little bit, but I think I will survive,” she says, breaking into a grin.

For many the time here is a chance to work on their English and improve their future job prospects. Although Portuguese is their mother tongue, both have a very good grasp on English with Medeiros benefitting from her mother’s work teaching the language to adult learners in their hometown of Caruaru. 

Back home the Brazilian students would be enrolled in “Second Year.”  Here they’ll attend the equivalent Grade 11 classes.

In addition to his studies Gomez is looking forward to trying school sports like “baseball and bowling.” 

“I’ve never played bowling,” says Gomez, who hails from the city of Petrolândia. 

Medeiros was looking forward to her introduction to another school staple in North America. 

“I want to see the lockers in high school. We watch the movies and see the lockers but we don’t have lockers in Brazil,” she explains. 

Other aspects of Canadian culture she’s anticipating are Christmas and Halloween. Although the group got a quick introduction into “Canadiana” with a trip to Tim Hortons upon landing in the Calgary airport, Gomez was looking forward to experiencing more traditional Canadian cuisine.

“The food? The name is ‘poutine.’ I want to try and eat this,” he says.

Seven of the nine students are attending Kate Andrews High School and took part in a Grade 9 and new student orientation before the school year began. In addition to school tours, locker distribution and the like, there were also ice-breaker games and a barbecue.

“It was an occasion to mix with the other students and a way of hopefully making them feel welcome,” says Principal Harry Fritschy. “It was a good opportunity to embrace them into the Kate Andrews community.”

The Brazilian students are taking a shine to the more hands-on classes like art, drama and phys-ed, with several showing off their soccer skills. He says arrangements are being made to see if one student might even be able to experience a practice or two with the University of Lethbridge women’s team.

To view the Global Lethbridge newcast on the international students which aired Oct. 1, 2015 CLICK HERE.

For more information on Palliser’s International Student Program go to