Cristina Cervilla and Lucia Puche are two of the many international students currently studying in School District 69 (Qualicum), with both attending Kwalikum Secondary.
Like many foreign students, they’re still learning about life and the culture in Parksville Qualicum Beach.
Once the novelty of being in a different country and experiencing new things fades away, boredom, homesickness, depression, loneliness and stress from academic responsibilities can easily set it.
For Cervilla and Puche, who are both from Spain, one of the warmest parts of Europe, dealing with this region’s wet weather is one of the many things that they’re trying to get accustomed to.
“It rains a lot here and sometimes it upsets me, because I love the sunshine,” said Cervilla, who comes from the southern region of Spain in Andalucia.
But amid all the dark clouds and rain, both students have found an outlet that brightens up their day and lift up their spirits.
They are currently members of the Kwalikum Kondors senior girls basketball team and are enjoying every minute of it.
“I like playing basketball because it makes me forget everything from all the day,” said Cervilla, who is in Grade 11. “I also enjoy the teamwork, playing in a team and making new friends.”
Puche, who comes from Madrid, has not played a lot of basketball. But because she’s tall, she was told to join the school’s basketball team when she comes to Canada.
“I played five or six years ago but I forgot everything,” said Puche, who is in Grade 10. “So it’s like new to me. Cristina joined before me and she told me to come and play because it’s so cool. So I joined.”
Puche also turns to basketball as a way to relieve her of the stresses of school and also the loneliness of being far away from home.
“It’s very fun for me,” said Puche. “I work a lot at home so when I come out to play, it’s really fun and I like it.”
Cervilla, who has played club basketball in Spain, said her coach Ruth Stefanek and also members of the Kondors team have all been very helpful in assisting them with improving their games.
“In my country, the coaching is different and here they have their own way of doing things,” said Cervilla. “So we have to adapt to the team and we are learning a lot from them. We practise everyday and I love that because when you practise you become better. And I think we have been improving.”
Stefanek said they have five international students playing basketball.
The School District 69 international program encourages foreign students to be active and to take part in the many recreational and sports programs that they offer. They are important to the well-being of international students.
A 2019 study by The Netherlands-based Erasmus Student Network showed that two out of three international students regularly experienced loneliness.
Ballenas Secondary also has their fair share of international students. They also offer a variety of programs to make their foreign students feel at home in campus.
Sports always draw a lot of participation at Ballenas. When school started in September, the Whalers’ football program had drawn the interest of international students, many of who m have never played the game before. This year the program had 10 international students who joined the junior and senior Whalers teams.
“It’s a bit higher than normal,” coach Jeremy Conn said about the number of international participants this year.
“Usually we get around six.”
Another sport at Ballenas that draws plenty of of international players is rugby, particularly the girls team, which last year had a record participation of approximately 60 players.
Coach Olivia Hill indicated they had many international students playing, some of them for the first time. Last year they had 13 international students who played rugby, coming from Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Japan, and Korea.
Being part of a team or involve in sports activity expands international students ability to make friends and acquaintances outside of their own culture
Having experienced what’s it like to be in a school team, Cervilla and Puche plan to join other sports. Cervilla, who loves to play soccer, wants to join the Kondors soccer team while Puche wants to play golf and badminton.
Both said that they just love the camaraderie, the travelling and the competition.