Typically, before students head out on their big adventure to Vancouver, they wonder about how much fun they will have. There is no doubt that geographically, Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. However, how much fun can we have? If you go to YouTube and enter “no fun city Vancouver” or “how to be a Vancouverite” you will see funny videos that make light of the reputation of Vancouver.
Is Vancouver really a boring city? The answer depends on your expectations and actions.
Cost of living: Almost every big city in the world is quite expensive. New York, London, Tokyo, Sydney and Toronto are more expensive or equally expensive to Vancouver. Rents are outrageously high. Renting a one bedroom apartment can be up to $1800 a month. Alcohol in clubs and bars is expensive! Drinks range from 4 dollars to 8 dollars. If you stay in a home stay, you can pay less than $1000 a month for food and accommodation. If you share a place, you could pay less than 700 a month. If you buy alcohol in a liquor store and go to house parties, you can socialize without spending an arm and a leg. You can even cut your transportation costs by buying an orange transit card instead of a blue one. Saving money on food is possible if you shop at No Frills and markets instead of grocery stores. Either way, if you are crafty, you can find a way to make the city livable.
Night life: Some students expect a super vibrant night life that rivals Buenos Aires, Sydney or Bangkok. These people will be disappointed. Vancouver has only two small nightlife areas: Granville St and Gastown. The bars and clubs mostly close at 2 am or 3 am. This may disappoint the party animals. Most clubs also have cover charges and drinks are expensive. The minimum drinking age is 19. A few desperate party goers resort to scamming their way into the clubs. It is not advisable. Although the nightlife in Vancouver is not spectacular, it has one big upside. You will meet people from virtually any country in the world. Vancouver is such a cosmopolitan city that you may make friends with Vietnamese, Bolivian, Swiss, Russian, Nigerian, Lesotho, Canadian or any nationality people you can think of. For social students, the nightlife can be fun and rewarding.
Nature and Sports: This is where Vancouver is unsurpassed. There are an unlimited number of free spots to visit. Hiking, ocean views, camping, skiing, cycling and even strange sports like paddle boarding are easily accessible. Deep cove, Lynn Canyon, Lighthouse park, Steveston, Buntzen Lake, Grouse Mountain, Burnaby Mountain, Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, The Quay, Ambleside park, Rice Lake, etc. There are a virtually unlimited number of nature spots to explore and Whistler is in range. In fact, you may get bored of picturesque nature spots.
The weather: Vancouver is called Raincouver for a reason. It rains a lot. From October to April, you are more likely to see umbrellas than sunglasses. For a few hardened sun worshipers this is a major drag. Constant overcast weather is a pain for people who have a lot of bikinis. Even though Vancouver is called Raincouver, there is one positive note. When the forecast shows rain, it does not mean heavy rain or all day of rain. It just means rain. Consequently, most of the day is usually pleasant. If you like sports, the mild weather of Vancouver is perfect. If you like walking and picnics, Vancouver is ideal weather-wise. It is never humid, never baking hot, never freezing. You will not break into a sweat in summer nor will you need winter boots. If you have ever experienced the plus 50 degrees Celsius of Saudi Arabia or minus 40 degrees Celsius of other parts of Canada, you will appreciate the weather in Vancouver.
Free and cheap stuff: If you look around, you can find tons of free and cheap stuff. There are a few language exchange programs that run in the evening and cost only the price of a coffee. Check google for “meet up”. Tamwood has almost daily activities that will not empty your wallet. A few pubs are cheap and fun like the Cambie. If you look around carefully, you can find a few cheap restaurants. Picking up a magazine called The Georgia Strait can put you onto more free and cheap activities. There are a lot of festivals including a jazz festival, a Greek festival, fireworks festivals and a Pride parade. There are a lot of community centers that are cheaper than fitness clubs. Either way, if you are strategic, you can fill your schedule with cheap and free activities.
Basically, Vancouver is what you make of it. Everybody wants to have fun, and you can have a lot of fun in the no fun city.
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Living in Vancouver has always been a dream of mine! Now I have it! The beginning was very difficult because it takes a lot of the flexibility, and courage to face the first steps in a new country, with a different culture from mine in Brazil. You need to be available to experience new things, new people, different foods. I have involved myself a lot, living with people from all over the world. In this way, I can understand and accept the differences between us.
Tamwood helps to get started us. After all, here is one of the first places you go, when you arrive here in Vancouver. Here you learn about the city, learn some basic procedures, how to live in the city, receive help to adjust.
Also formulate your resume to what companies require by way of information and continue to learn English! I do not see Tamwood just as a school, but as a place of support for the international student. I always fell welcomed and helped when I require it.
Teachers seek to interact not only about the English language, but also about life in general. For me, Tamwood makes all the difference in my education here in Vancouver (not only with my English, which improves day by day, but in my life in general).
Words & Photos by Bruno Luiz
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I’ll describe to you as best as possible my month of October in Whistler.
The school is a nice place to study English and to meet people from all around the world. It is situated in the Whistler village and it’s easy to access by bus, by bike or on foot. The teachers are really well-meaning and I enjoy learning something with them. Tamwood suggests you do lots of different activities and some special days like Thanksgiving at school. It’s a good occasion to discover food from other countries.
The month of October is during the off-season. The bike park is closed and the winter season hasn’t already started. In any case, it’s good time to relax. You can go for a walk in the village without lots of tourists.
You have indoor activities for the rainy days. You can also enjoy a hike and the fall’s colours during the sunny days. If you were brave, you would keep biking on the many trails that you will find around Whistler. What is more, there are trails for every level of biking and hiking!
Despite the weather, there are enough activities to enjoy the Whistler life. Check out these photos:
To conclude, I want to say that if you are sporty and you like the nature, Whistler will be the perfect place to learn English.
Words & photos: Alex Bart
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I decided to come to Toronto because I had never been in Canada before, and a lot of people told me that the Canadians are really kind and helpful. I chose Toronto because I wanted to try how is the life in a North American big city and also because it’s really convenient to discover stunning places like Niagara Falls and French Canada.
My agency recommended me Tamwood because it’s a quite small school. Therefore, the amount of students in a class is not excessive and it’s easier to improve your speaking and to ask questions to the teacher about subjects you don’t understand. For instance, if we don’t understand the meaning of a word, the teachers explain it in another way to help us to memorize and expand our vocabulary.
I think that the main advantage of Tamwood is that it’s not a common language school. It’s kind of family. Not to mention you will meet students from all over the world and learn about different cultures.
I don’t regret to have chosen Toronto. It’s impossible to get bored. You will always find something to do! The school organizes activities such as eating cheesecake or canoeing to share moments with Tamwood students and keep unforgettable memories!!
Maureen Magnam, Switzerland
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Studying for an FCE or CAE exam can be a really stressful time for students. It’s a lot of pressure to learn all the information you need to pass the different parts of the exam, and for a lot of students, a good exam score is essential in order to get into a good university or get that dream job. Got an FCE or CAE exam coming up? Try these tips for exam success!
Number One: Keep a list of collocations and phrasal verbs! Collocations are words that commonly go together in a language. Definitely one of the most annoying parts of learning English is remembering which preposition goes with which verb or adjective. Once you learn the correct combination, write it down and regularly review the information! Do the same thing with the phrasal verbs you are learning! Don’t just look at the list regularly either – practice using the collocations and phrasal verbs in sentences! You’ll be glad you did the extra practice when you write your Use of English test!
Number Two: Learn and practice the English phrases a native speaker would use to join your ideas together when speaking! During the speaking test it is your job to express your ideas and connect your ideas together, not only to other ideas, but also to the opinions and information that your partner shares! Practice using phrases like, “in addition,” “I agree, and also think…,” and “moving on to the next idea…”
Number Three:Get in the habit of writing an outline for your writing before you start your writing on the topic you choose. Many students think writing an outline takes too much time and isn’t really important since the examiners never see it. This is wrong! Having an outline with help you organize your ideas and will help you not to forget important information! There’s nothing worse than doing your writing exam, getting halfway through and not having anything else to write about!
Number Four:Practice skimming and scanning skills for your reading test. Take the time to skim through the readings to help you understand the main idea. Scan the text to find the specific information that answers the question. A lot of students complain that skimming and scanning a reading is too slow, but if you practice these skills in the weeks leading up to the exam, you’ll be able to skim and scan things quickly and efficiently!
Number Five: Practice your spelling skills! Spelling matters on your Use of English test, on your Writing test, and on your Listening test! Try to get in the habit of leaving yourself a couple of minutes at the end of each test to read through your writing to find and fix your spelling mistakes! Also, when you are transferring your answers to the answer sheet on your Use of English test, pay close attention to spelling things correctly! You don’t want to lose marks for simple mistakes if you can avoid it!
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