How is the Integration of Germans at a Canadian school
By Irina Beck, Grade 12, Garden Valley Collegiate, Winkler, MB
(Irina was born in Fergana, Uzbekistan and later immigrated to the Nordrhein – Westfallen region of Germany where she lived for twelve years. She and her family came to Canada in January 2003. Irina will study next year at Canadian Mennonite University and then begin training in journalism.)
I have been wondering how German kids are integrating and getting involved at school here in Canada. I came from Germany, too, and I made friends quite fast, both German and Canadian. I have never had any problems meeting new people and talking to them. In my opinion, it's very important to meet new people and to get in contact with one's surrounding. I came into Garden Valley Collegiate in Winkler, Manitoba in February 2003, and I was introduced to German students. After a few days, I also met Canadian students and we became friends.
During the first weeks, I observed my new classmates and the relations between students, but I did not understand then why the German students dissociate themselves from the Canadians. So I asked both the German and the Canadian kids and I came to the conclusion that one of the problems of the missing communication is the language! There can't be integration, if there is no capacity to communicate. German kids need to have the opportunity to learn English as well and as quickly as they can.
I have also wondered about the separation of girls and boys among the Germans. When I asked the German students, they told me they don't do it with intention. I was told that probably the separation happens because of different interests of girls and boys. They assure me that when they attempt to do something together in church and at the weekends, they usually are in a group of boys and girls.
The German students like to be in their own group because then they don't need to talk in English. German is their first language and they can speak freely and not have any pressure to verbalize what is on their minds. One student told me that when she first came to Canada (and she was one of the first Germans here in Winkler), she used to have more contact within Canadians. Then, when more German students arrived, she lost her Canadian friends and stayed with the German kids.
Prejudice is the number one problem which influences opinions and viewpoints. That is really a big minus point in our Canadian society. Every time some German students behave inappropriately, Canadian students think all Germans are the same kind of ‘stupid'. They begin to stereotype all German students and avoid their company. That is very sad! Many Germans are just shy and don't have the courage to make the first move and go to Canadians and ‘just' talk.
In my further inquiries, I wanted to know if they have Canadian as well as German friends. The answer was ‘yes' and I think that is the first step in the right direction. Integration can only take place when there is a will. There's a German saying ‘Wo ein Wille ist, ist auch ein Weg,' which means "Where there is a will, there is a way."
I encourage all German students not to exclude themselves from their new surrounding, their new life! Try to get more involved with Canadians and stop thinking how bad your English might be. If you came to Canada to start a new life, you should try new things and make a difference in your life.
I have been here in Canada since January 2003, and every day I have learned more and more, be it the language or about my new friends. Of course, my English is not ‘perfect' but I try as best as I'm able to communicate and get more integrated. It's an adventure, which you should not miss. Life is full of surprises and this experience is one you should not miss.
The most important thing is how you feel about yourself and how you can get along in new situations. A main point of one's mood is one's life motto. Mine is ‘Carpe diem'! That means ‘use every single day'!
Every day I try to learn a few new vocabulary words. If you start to read books in English, that will help you a lot. And watch TV. It helps me a lot! When you watch TV, you not only learn new words, but you also learn how to use them, in which situation. Try to think in English and not in German and then translate it! However ‘bad' your English might be, it will get better. I'm the best proof for it.
If there would be more classroom group-work for German and Canadian students, it would be easier for the integration. Germans need to get involved more with Canadians, and likewise, Canadian students need to get to know that German students want to speak English. They are only too shy, too ashamed, or even too afraid to talk. Maybe there also could be more sport events or other school competitions where German and Canadian students could work together, getting to know each other better and making friendships.
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