Having roommates from Yemen and Mongolia isn’t typical for most high school students, but then Daphnee Tuzlak isn’t going to a typical high school.
“My roommate listened to Russian music all the time,” she laughs while recalling her first year at Lester B. Pearson United College of the Pacific.
The campus, 29 kilometres out of Victoria, B.C., has 200 students from 100 different countries. All students at Pearson College have been awarded a full scholarship.
Each year, a student from the Yukon is given the opportunity to participate in the two-year pre-university program with funding from the Yukon government’s Department of Education.
“You don’t know the financial status of any of your friends,” explains Tuzlak. “It makes a huge difference that everyone is on the same page.”
Tuzlak has just completed the first year of the two-year program. Students go to Pearson for their Grade 12 year and a year before university to work toward their international baccalaureate. Everyone, including most of the teachers, lives together in a close-knit cosmopolitan community.
“I think it’s an easier transition than going to university, because there everyone knows you by your name,” says Tuzlak, who admits it was hard to feel homesick when her classmates had lengthy plane trips home.
She’ll be returning this fall to a more challenging academic atmosphere. At the end of two years, students take exams covering everything they have learned. Classes at Pearson are different than what she was used to. There is a lot of group discussion with differing perspectives.
“Most of the time people don’t argue; we try to find the common ground or try to understand each other’s viewpoints.”
First-year students are required to take a class called Theory of Knowledge. It challenges students to look at what they are learning, especially in the media, with a critical perspective. Tuzlak has taken the same approach to what she is learning from her peers.
“A hundred different countries [are] represented, but you only have one person representing [each] country. So, in a way, you get a really biased view of their country. It’s hard to remember that’s just one person’s point of view and doesn’t actually represent their country,” she says.
Students there are motivated to learn, but a lot goes on outside of academics. There are six regional days over the course of two years, where Tuzlak was offered the opportunity to learn dances from across the Globe.
At the end of the year, the school puts on a show called One World, which acts as a fundraiser and thank you to the community. Tuzlak says it’s a chance to share with Victoria what they have learned and to promote international understanding.
Her face lights up when she explains how excited she is to meet all of the new first-year students and see her friends from last year. She says it is important to represent the Yukon because most of the students are from the south.
“It was actually really cool seeing someone who had never seen snow before,” she recalls. She hopes future students from the Yukon will represent all parts of the territory.
“Most people live in cities, and just the fact that I live in the Yukon and I spend so much time outside, I can really give a different perspective.”
This column is courtesy of the Department of Education. Robyn Farrow is employed under the Student Training and Employment Program. Her column features other students who are making the most of their educational opportunities.