Tori Sutton, Stratford Gazette
For the last few weeks, a group of nine exchange students from Salavat, Russia have been soaking up Canadian culture.
It was time for them to share their own Thursday at Stratford Public Library.
The students were on hand with local teacher and storyteller Gail Fricker as part of the library’s Imagine Travelling Around the World series.
Youngsters in attendance were taught how to say a few words in Russian – including hello and thank you – and were treated to a reading of a Russian folktale about witch-like character Baba Yaga.
There were also crafts, a song and storytime.
Russian teacher Tatiana Luneva led a lesson on counting to 10 in her native language.
“It is great,” said Luneva, of the visit to Canada thus far. “It’s a very interesting program … every day we have lessons.”
The trip is part of the first-ever i AM International Summer Camp, and was planned through the Avon Maitland District School Board.
The 17-year-old students are spending three weeks in Stratford and one week at King’s College at the University of Western Ontario.
The focus of the visit is to improve the students’ English, and has included several activities including specially themed classes at Stratford Northwestern, including drama classes, music, dance and a culinary arts session at the Screaming Avocado.
Luneva has noticed some big differences between the Canadian and Russian education systems, and has enjoyed learning more about the teaching style.
But it hasn’t all been work. The students have been treated with trips to the Quarry in St. Marys and Niagara Falls. The group had some fun at Canada’s Wonderland earlier this week.
“I’ve never tried such a big rollercoaster and I was really excited about it, said student Alexey Osipov, who described being in Canada as “amazing.”
He’s noticed people here tend to be a bit more laid back than at home.
For example, he met a Russian woman working in a store. When she told the other customers in line to wait a moment so she could meet the Russian students, none of the customers seemed to mind.
“To be honest, I couldn’t imagine this situation in Russia,” said Osipov.
He’s also noticed fewer fences between houses. When you a build a house in Russia, the first thing to go up is the fence, he said with a laugh.
Overall, his experience in Canada has been positive.
“Every day I am here I enjoy it very much,” he said. “If I have the opportunity I will visit again.”