Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fall with the MASSIEs

For the past four months, I had the honour of being a MASSIE Conversation Partner of a student from Kwansei Gakuin University in Osaka, Japan. Ai was my partner, and my friend Julie had Maki as her partner. Our goal was to meet for 14 hours over the Fall semester, to help with their English, show them around Sackville, and introduce them to Canadian customs, while at the same time learning about Japan!

The MASSIE (Mount Allison Sophomore Semester in English) students arrived way back in late August after a very long flight. I first met Ai when the entire group got together to do a town-wide scavenger hunt. It was a lot of fun, especially with all the miscommunications! What we had to do was split into small groups, and take pictures of us doing the things on the 'list'. This list included spelling MASSIE, hanging from a basketball hoop, feet in Swan pond, cramming into a phone booth, and climbing a tree. Afterwards, we went to Jennings for hot chocolate, and to get to know our partners more. The winners were announced, and our group actually won! It was quite surprising as we had contented ourselves with being 5th or so, but we ended up winning movie tickets and gift certificates to Joey's Restaurant!

The rest of the fall consisted of Ai and I meeting once a week doing different things. We went to Bridgestreet Cafe for a hot chocolate, went to Joey's for lunch, two potlucks at Cuthberston House, dinner at Jennings, and watching a movie at my place. It was much fun getting to know Ai and to see her English improve pretty much weekly (though my Japanese did not!). We also went to TreeGo in Moncton which was a pretty brutal workout, but it was a good time altogether!

Ai, Lauren, Maki and Julie at TreeGo!

Outside of getting together with their conversation partners, the MASSIE students also attended classes, had roommates, and travelled very much! They went to Toronto, Niagara Falls, Halifax, Ottawa, New York City, Montreal, and PEI! They also did many activities here in Sackville such as the Wetlands Centre, Sackville Fall Fair, and Shinerama. Doing all these things really gave them a chance to improve their English, learn about Canada, and have fun!

The Graduation Ceremony and Banquet was two weeks ago, as was the Japanese Festival, where the MASSIE students were given a chance to show MTA students life in Japan and teach them traditional dances. The Talent Show put on last Saturday was amazing! All the classes did group dances, and then all the houses did group dances and they were unbelieveably coordinated! It was hard to believe that they had only been practicing for ten days!

MASSIE students performing at Talent Show

And then, yesterday, at 7:45 am, the MASSIE students left to go back home to Japan. Every roommate, conversation partner, and close friend was there to see them off. Most of us arrived at 6:30 and it took an hour and a half for the MASSIE students to board the bus as no one wanted to! It was heart-breaking and everyone was in tears, even the bus driver was crying! Promises of keeping in touch, visiting Japan, coming back to Canada, could be heard everywhere as well as sentiments of being so happy to get to know each other, thanking each other for the good times, and words of comfort.

The MASSIE students may have left Canada, but I doubt they will leave anybody's hearts, nor we them. It was an amazing experience to see the MASSIE students dramatically improve their English over the semester, as well as forming new friendships. As you know though, Canadians don't say goodbye, we say "see you later", which I truly hope and believe will happen.

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