Matt Collingwood and co-owner Tamsin Plaxton recently took on the daunting task of hosting IALC’s flagship annual event, the Workshop, which is being held in Toronto in April 2012.
Today we spoke to Tamsin to find out how the behind-the-scenes preparations are going and to reveal what Toronto has in store for the hundreds of study travel professionals who will be attending the IALC Workshop.
Q: Hello Tamsin, between running your schools and preparing for the Workshop, it must be a busy time for you?
A: Absolutely! This is always a busy time of year for school owners/managers as it is the main selling season for the coming year. It is also the time we review our year-end financial results, clients’ feedback from the high season, projections for the coming year and our successes and challenges from the year just ending, and then plan for any changes to our programs and operations for the next year. Having the workshop responsibility added to the mix is certainly a challenge from a time management point of view but one we are up for.
Q: The spotlight will be firmly set on Toronto, with the press and many agents and schools converging to do business there. What do you think they will make of the city?
A:They will find that Toronto is a young and vibrant city with high energy! As Canada’s largest city, it is big enough to offer something for everyone. One of the unique features of Canada, and of Toronto in particular, is our international population and that makes for great dining, entertainment and festivals in the city.
Q: Which single attraction or site should visitors not miss when they come to visit?
A: Wow that is hard to say as there are a few famous and not so famous sites that people would not want to miss. Of course the CN Tower and Niagara Falls come to mind first but there is also the very popular and beautiful Art Gallery of Ontario, the water front area in the “Beaches” neighbourhood, the trendy night life in the “Entertainment District” downtown (check out the after work drink scene there on Fridays!) and the great shopping in the Eaton’s centre and in the boutiques of Yorkville and Queen Street. If you had time, you could also visit the McMichael Gallery north of the city to see the paintings of Canada’s famous painters referred to as the Group of Seven, take in a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game, catch a concert or play or take a ferry over to Toronto Island to get the best view of the city’s sky line.
Q: As the IALC Workshop host, the event organisation is always a challenge. However your school has the opportunity to showcase its facilities and services. What are the main benefits of learning English at your school in Toronto?
A: Students who study with us always remark on a few things:
1. The professionalism of our curriculum, staff and facilities;
2. How friendly and welcoming the teachers and staff are at Tamwood; and
3. The amazing job and internship opportunities offered through our work and study programs
4. Students also benefit from our personal coaching program, which is free to all students and ensure they leave Tamwood having achieved their language learning goals.
Q: Which countries do the majority of your students come from?
A: That depends on the program. Since we run three language schools, 5 summer camps, and a large Work & Travel , Internships and Volunteer programs division, we get a lot of nationalities in our programs, more than the standard English school in Canada. Last year, over 30 nationalities studied at our schools. We have students from all countries in Europe, the Caribbean, Thailand, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, even Canada (the French part).
Q: What are the most popular student activities?
A: Students love parties, that is true any where! They also like trying new things and activities where they can meet Canadians and experience “Canada”
Q: What are the biggest attractions and advantages for students learning English in Toronto?
A: The city has so many attractions for students – great night life, amazing festivals and events, lots of good homestays, a big international airport making it an easy place to reach from anywhere, it is centrally located in Canada so a good starting point for travel in Canada by plane, train, bus or even boat...
Q: What would you say are the biggest challenges facing your school and language study in Canada?
A: The main challenges as I see it are:
1.The shrinking margins in our business. Price discounting in Canada started after SARS when students were not coming to Canada and it has meant lower revenues while at the same time costs are going up, especially staff costs and marketing costs.
2.Visa challenges. Inconsistent rulings on visa applications by immigration officials, sometimes long visa processing times and for some countries and for some work programs, not enough visas to meet the demand.
Q: Moving on to find out more about you, which is your favourite city in the world and why?
A: After Vancouver, I would say Barcelona. I love Spain and especially its architecture, its design industry, the food...
Q: Your favourite pastime?
A: Hanging out with my daughter who is only 5, and after that, I guess skiing and cycling.
Q: Your favourite meal?
A: I love food so it is hard to choose. Also, it depends on the weather and my mood, but dinner is my favourite meal and for that I would say some favourites include butter chicken, green papaya salad, anything with Dulce de Leche in it for dessert...
Q: Your dream dinner guests?
A: Not anyone too famous, as I would probably get tongue tied. I would love to have a meal with all my international friends and family, who live far away and who I have a great time with but do not get to see enough. That would make me very happy. That said, I would not turn down a dinner date with George Clooney or Clive Owen!
Q: Finally, what would you say are the main benefits of learning English in Canada?
•The quality of the English schools in Canada is very high,
•The cities are modern and lively,
•The people of Canada are quite open and really friendly to international visitors
•The country is vast and has so many exciting outdoor adventure opportunities
•The pathways created by our school and others in Canada to Canadian universities are strong and higher education in Canada is world class and yet still affordable
Founded in 1992, Tamwood International operates a number of carefully designed and managed English language schools, camp programmes and work experience programmess across Canada and in the United States. All of the Tamwood International programs have been selected for their excellent locations, their modern facilities, their proximity to popular attractions and their professional environments.
Tel: + 604 899 4480
Tamwood Language Centres