There are many reasons for kids to attend Mini-U. It's fun, social and educational. But for a group of nine students from Taiwan, it's much, much more.
"Not only do they get to participate in the camps, but they also get to immerse themselves in a whole new culture and learn English as well," says Brenda Reinhardt, school program coordinator, Children's Programs, Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, about the group of students aged 11 to 13 who have traveled over 10,000 kilometers to attend the university's popular kids program.
"They've really been enjoying themselves. A couple of them were a bit shy for the first day (of the two-week camp), but that didn't last," says Reinhardt.
One example of the students' desire to dive right into Western culture is their adoption of English names, such as Andy, Shelly, Ryan and Tina, while at Mini-U.
According to Jamil Lutfiyya, one of two chaperones traveling with the group, the students are loving every minute of their time in Canada.
"The time is just flying by," he says. "And in the evening when they're all talking about the day, no one is complaining. There's no homesickness. They're just talking about all the great things they did that day."
Dana Wang, the group's other chaperone, says just being on campus is a treat for the students, who are staying at Mary Speechly Hall during their time at the university.
"There are so many fields on campus where they can just go out and play. They don't have that in Taiwan," she says.
The Taiwanese students finish their two-week stint at Mini-U on Friday, July 13. They will remain in Canada for another two weeks after Mini-U, taking in some of the local scenery and even visiting the West Edmonton Mall before returning home.
This year the University of Manitoba is celebrating 29 consecutive years of its Mini University program, one of the largest, most successful children’s day programs in the world.
Since its debut as a summer sport camp in 1979, the unique work-study program has exposed more than 50,000 children aged four to 16 to physical activity and educational programs that foster social and skill development in higher learning. Mini U has also repeatedly been a model for similar university programs across the globe.
Photo caption: Dana Wang, third from right, is chaperone to nine Taiwanese students who are in Winnipeg to participate in the University of Manitoba's Mini-U.