Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Books to Read Before Moving to Teach in London, England: London at Night by Jason Hawkes

Jason Hawkes is an aerial photographer who spent last year photographing London at night. His new book, London at Night is available for pre-order now on Amazon and will be available in bookstores in April 2010.

To see samples of the photographs, check out today's Telegraph and look to the right of the page to scan through the images.  You can also see Jason Hawkes' website and enjoy a few hours of visual bliss.

If I could meet this man and follow him around for just one day, I think I'd give up my Oprah audience tickets with the Glee cast this weekend.  But since that's unlikely to happen, I will leave you with this thought: "OMG! I am going to Chicago to sit in Oprah's audience the same day that the cast from Glee is on her show! Yes, that's right.  ME! Oprah! Glee!"

Resources for Teaching in London, England
Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Canadians & Americans in the UK blog

Monday, March 29, 2010

Teaching in London & Dealing With Foreign Exchange Rates

Money's been on my mind lately, much more than usual.  I know that the "global financial crisis" hit most places more than my own, so I'm very fortunate to have the job I do (recruiting teachers to work in London, England with Classroom Canada).  But, the British pound is dropping and the Canadian dollar is rising, and every day I check the exchange rates & shake my head...

So here it is. My honest two cents about dealing with the exchange rates.

Before I go on, please read these posts about money & teaching in London, England:

First off, if you decide to teach in London you will ask yourself how much it costs & if you can afford it. Well, for you - the pound is on sale! When I first moved to teach in London, the exchange rate was 1:2.5 which meant that every pound was worth 2 and a half Canadian dollars, and my Canadian money hardly took me very far.  I was ridiculously broke when I first arrived in London with all my savings, and cringed every time I spent a pound.  The mental math is heart-breaking and my advice to new arrivals was to "try to think in pounds & not dollars, or else you will drive yourself mad!"

Now, well...the exchange rate today is 1:1.52, which means that every pound is worth 1 and a half Canadian dollars.  For our American readers, it's basically the same since our dollars are practically equal these days.
So, for new arrivals to London, your foreign money goes much further these days.  It's like a giant bargain bin!

But for the teachers & teaching assistants who are now in London, well, they see it quite differently. They're earning pounds, and no longer think in dollars.  The exchange rates don't matter much when you're actually in London as you pay for everything in pounds, and then Euros when you travel, and since you earn pounds - you don't even really notice the difference.  If anything, the financial crisis has meant that prices have dropped, making groceries cheaper, and even lower rent in some areas of London.  So that's all fine & dandy.  

The problem is when you want to send money back to Canada or the USA, to add to your savings, or pay off student loans, mortgages, car payments...that's when the lower exchange rate will really hurt you.

My advice?  

See a financial planner/exchange rate specialist. That's what I'm doing this morning.  My questions will be: "What do I do with my British money?  Keep it in the UK and wait it out, hoping the pound will go back up and the Canadian dollar will drop?  Keep it in my offshore account?  Wait it out?  Or get it back to Canada before the rates change even more?"  

I know they don't have a crystal ball, but someone must know what to do in these situations, where a Canadian earns pounds & needs to send the money from the UK to Canada without cringing at the loss every time.  If you know who that person is, please let me know!

Now, for those of you who are now panicking about cost of living in the UK: don't. It's fine, you'll be fine, you'll travel, have money for rent & food, buy new clothes, go out on the weekends.  But if you're moving to teach in London to save money in Canada, well, I'd re-think that one.  But let's face it - you're going to spend most of your British pounds earned on traveling around Europe. That's just what you'll do.  That's what most of my teachers and teaching assistants in London do anyway.  

Any questions, thoughts, worries, concerns?  Please share your thoughts below.

Resources About Teaching in London, England
Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Canadians & Americans in the UK blog

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reason #57 to Teach in London, England: London Olympics 2012

I just realized that our Canadian and American teachers and teaching assistants who travel to work in London this September will be lucky enough to be in London for the summer Olympics.

Most of our teachers & TA's get visas for 2 years (called the "Youth Mobility Visa" and formerly known as the Working Holiday Maker Visa),  which means that the teachers I am interviewing and selecting now will actually arrive in London in September and October 2010.

Fast-forward two years, and we have the last month of their visas in London at the same time as London's 2012 summer Olympics.  How cool is that?

As if you need another reason to teach in London, England right?

Here are Reasons # 56, 55, 54, 53, and the post that inspired them all: 52 Reasons to Teach in London England.

You can also sign up to hear when the tickets go on sale, so you can try to get first dibs on the London 2012 tickets.  I just did myself.  Or, you can try to volunteer at the Olympics as well.  I also signed up for that.  I missed out on Vancouver 2010 because I was too slow to register for tickets & volunteering, but I won't miss out on London!

Resources About Teaching in London, England
Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
Sign up for our newsletters
Canadians & Americans in the UK blog

Monday, March 22, 2010

London in the Spring & Teachers' Holidays

Every year at around this time, when the magnolias are in full bloom, I reflect on my life in London and wonder if I should move back.  Since I run Classroom Canada, and recruit Canadian and American teachers to work in London, England, I have the privilege of returning to London at least once a year, leaving my life in Victoria, BC for just a couple of weeks.

While in London, I run professional development workshops, visit our teachers & teaching assistants, organize socials and events, visit and catch up with my colleagues in the London office, and of course, see my friends and family.  It's always hectic, but also a really great time.  2 full weeks of west end theatre, pubs, galleries, cafes, walking along the Thames and in the countryside where my family is...I am the luckiest person on earth.

Teachers in London work 195 days of the year, just like we do here in Canada.  But they have their holidays spread throughout the year and enjoy travelling around Europe and Africa as a result.  There are 3 terms in the year, broken up by "half term breaks" which are one week long mid-term.  At the end of every term, the teachers get 2 weeks off (at Christmas and Easter) and then a 6 week break in the summer.  These breaks, along with long weekends, mean that teachers can literally travel to another country at least once every month or two.  Travel is affordable in Europe and teachers that plan their budgets well are able to enjoy a very comfortable and exciting traveling life.

This April, some of our teachers are backpacking around Europe like Mike, and others are off to France and Belgium like Amie & Morgan, or India like Bryn.  Most will spend at least one of the two weeks enjoying Europe, and some will stay in London, exploring the free museums & art galleries and just all 'round enjoying London life.  I always found that it was better to leave London for the April break, because I would end up spending the same amount in London that I would spend in a far-off destination.  I love Vienna myself so I found myself there 5 times during my 3 years of living in London, visiting a good friend from Teachers College.

So, will I return to living in London?  Maybe.  It's tempting!  I can run Classroom Canada from anywhere in the world, as I just need a phone line and an internet connection to do what I do.  I like having the time zones here on my side though.  The idea of doing phone interviews from London isn't really that appealing just because of the time difference.  But Hyde Park is calling my name, as are Notting Hill and Portobello!  Ah, the life of a Canadian expat - once an expat always an expat right?

Resources About Teaching in London, England
Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
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Canadians & Americans in the UK blog

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Great UK Education Debate: Right HERE on Monday March 22, 2010

I just received an email from the organizer of this event, asking me if we'd like to participate on March 22nd by having our readers ask questions & discuss issues in UK education right here on this very blog.  Of course I said that we'd love to!

Here are the details:

The great education debate

Join education specialist Sir Mike Tomlinson and a panel of experts, including Pete Henshaw, Editor of widely respected education magazines SecEd and Delivering Diplomas, as they debate what needs to change in education ahead of the coming UK elections.

The world is changing rapidly but the education system is failing to change at the same pace. As a country we cannot afford to produce a generation of young people who have not had the opportunity to develop their individual talents and explore the many paths to success.

Edge is an independent education foundation, dedicated to raising the stature of practical and vocational learning. Edge believes the education system needs to include a broad curriculum that combines academic, practical and vocational learning.

Edge has developed their Six Steps to Change Manifesto that outlines the changes they would like to see the three main political parties include which will significantly raise the stature of practical and vocational learning in the UK. Read more at:

Sir Mike and his team want to know what you think about practical and vocational learning and whether you agree with Edge’s Six Steps to Change manifesto.

Have your say on education and in particular on practical and vocational learning. Submit your comments and questions to and tune in on the 22nd March at 4:30pm (UK time) to join the live debate.
See below for details on how to take part!

Who is Sir Mike Tomlinson?

Sir Mike Tomlinson CBE is the chair of the Working Group for 14–19 Reform which has been commissioned by the British Government to look into reform of the syllabus and qualifications structure for 14–19 year-olds in the English education system.

Where can I view the live web debate and submit questions, comments?


Here on this Blog:


The live debate will be broadcast at 4:30pm (UK time, which means 7:30am in BC and 10:30am in Ontario, I'll let the other provinces & states figure out their time zones) on Monday 22nd March via a video player embedded in this blog and within a dedicated tab on Edge’s Facebook page at *.

In the run-up to the debate, questions and comments can be submitted to (please include your name in any communications).
Questions?  Comments?  Share your thoughts in the questions box above, or leave me your thoughts here in our comments section.  Personally, I will be asking a couple of questions about foreign teachers in the UK, changes to daily supply teaching (aka "cover supervisors" for Secondary Teaching) and the teacher shortage in London.  I'm not sure quite what my questions will be, but I know they will cover those subjects.  What about you?

Resources About Teaching in London, England

Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians ebook
Sign up for our newsletters
Canadians & Americans in the UK blog

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Different Does Not Mean Bad": Another Coffee Time Interview with a Canadian Teacher in London, England

Thanks to Aleks for completing a Coffee Time interview to help you see what it's really like to teach in London, England.  Aleks is a fabulous writer, blogger and teacher with Classroom Canada

Name: Aleksandra Sagan

University: York University
Subjects: Intermediate/Senior; English and Individual and Society
Ages You Teach: Elementary, Secondary, and Special Needs

How long have you been teaching in London?

I have been teaching in London for exactly three months.
What do you teach?
I started out in London only wanting to supply teach. I really enjoyed walking into a different classroom everyday and experiencing new students, experimenting with different classroom management techniques, seeing different parts of the London suburbs, and observing various school's policies.

Currently, I have found myself committing to a long term placement as an English as a Second Language and Booster teacher for four Year Six students. Each student has his own unique background: a Polish speaking gifted student, a Portuguese speaking student from Africa with no prior formal schooling, and two low level Numeracy and Literacy students. I spend my days jumping from teaching phonics to translating Polish and from explaining geometry to teaching counting. It started as a three week placement, but with how happy I found myself there I was eager to commit for longer.
Why did you chose to work with Classroom Canada?

I spoke with a lot of agencies before choosing and being chosen by Classroom Canada.

Other agencies always left me with unease after I spoke with them. This was not because of how impersonal their process felt, but because they seemed to aim for recruiting the largest quantity of teachers rather than quality teachers. As someone heading in to do supply work, this method worried me because I did not want to be competing for work against hundreds of teachers within an agency that did not know my name.

Classroom Canada never left me feeling uneasy. After speaking to Victoria for the first time I knew that this was my top choice agency. She aimed for quality over quantity. In fact, her interview was the only one that did not feel like a sales pitch to recruit me, but rather I had to prove my worth to the agency. By the end of the interview Victoria knew my name, shared in my love of running, and answered all of my questions. I felt like I had found a reliable service that treated me as individual and would do their best to find me work in London.
What was the biggest adjustment for you to make in your teaching in London compared to Canada?
I think that one of the biggest adjustments that I had to make was accepting that students in London have not been taught to have a lot of initiative and working at not blaming the students for this. For example, students in London will incessantly ask you if they should write the long or the short date, if they should start a fresh page for their assignment, if they should use their maths or literacy pencils, et cetera. In Canada, these are decisions that students make themselves. However, in London these types of things are much more structured and they are used to having the teacher guide them in these decisions. It has been hard not to get frustrated when twelve students ask me the same question, but I am learning to focus on giving more clear instructions that cover these points prior to them beginning their work.
Describe a typical London day in 3-4 sentences.
A London day is anything but typical, with the only predictable parts of my day being my wake up time and my workout routine, and that is what I love about it. Supply teaching and London school children keep me on my toes all day, which means that one day I might be teaching Spanish and the next day I might be reading stories out loud to Nursery students.
What is the one piece of advice you can offer a Canadian teacher considering the move to London?

Ask yourself why you are choosing to come here. Consider another route if somewhere in your answers you do not mention these key terms: to gain teaching experience, to learn more classroom management techniques, to broaden my understanding of teaching practices, and to become a better teacher.

There are lots of reasons why teachers decide to move to London. The location is fantastic, the work is steady, the opportunity to travel is unbeatable, the money is great, et cetera. These are all great reasons to come. But, realistically, you have to be prepared for London schools. They are very different from Canadian schools. Different does not mean bad.

But you have to understand that your classroom management learning curve will sky rocket the second you step into a London classroom and that, some days, your biggest success will be that no one got hurt under your watch. If you're coming for an easy ride, think again, because teaching in London is something that you will have to give your all too and if you're not prepared to do that, reconsider your choice.
Describe the funniest thing that’s happened to you in your year so far:
No matter the year, students will ask you the funniest things. Generally they automatically ask you questions about your origins when they hear your accent (because, don't forget, here it is you that has the accent). Here is a conversation that I had with a student after they heard me speak:

Student X: “Miss, are you from Australia?”

Me: “No. I am from Canada.”

Student X: “Canada?”

Me: “Yes, Canada.”
Student X: [Pause] “Okay, but can you say kangaroo?"

Describe the worst thing:
This question is tough for me because I don't think that I've had anything truly bad happen. Perhaps it's because I refuse to be pessimistic and am able to laugh at the frustrating things that happen during my teaching days, but I don't have anything that springs to mind as the worst.

What made you stay with Classroom Canada, rather than any other agency?

As soon as I got to London, I was certain that I had made the right agency choice. I had accommodations, a working bank account, and a week of social activities with other teacher's planned all thanks to the agency. From the start the work was steady and in the three months that I have been here, I have only not worked for three days. Whenever I stop by the office to drop off my time sheets I am greeted by a roomful of friendly Classroom staff who all know me by name. I have never even considered signing up with a different agency because Classroom has not given me any reason to.
What qualities do you have that make your stay in London more enjoyable?
I think that there are three key things that any London supply teacher needs to make their stay enjoyable: flexibility, a sense of humour, and an adventurous spirit. A teacher needs to be flexible so that when they walk into a school on Monday morning under the impression that they are teaching Year Six, but get placed in the Nursery class instead they can still have a great day with their class.

A teacher needs to be able to laugh at the frustrating situations that they can come across during the day. I told myself that the moment I am no longer able to laugh about my day on the tube ride home I may as well pack up my bags and go home. Like we were taught in orientation week, you can't take it personally and you can't take it home. Lastly, you need a sense of adventure because otherwise, you might as well stay where you are. If you're not going to meet new people, travel Europe, and try new things then their is little reason to move.
Anything else to add?
Moving to London was one of the hardest and best decisions that I have ever made. I'm going to walk away from this experience one day after seeing so much more of the world, with amazing new friends, a more capable teacher, and having grown as a person. It is an undeniably great experience.
Thank you so much Aleks! I really enjoyed reading this interview and look forward to reading more of your stories about teaching in London and traveling aroud Europe. Your reflections are refreshing!
Any questions for Aleks or Classroom Canada?  Please share below.
Resources for Teaching in London, England

Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians
Sign up for our newsletters
Canadians & Americans in the UK blog

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celebrating Misfits...or Not?

I really enjoyed watched the above video that's being passed around amongst my teacher friends around the world.  But after watching it a second time, I had to ask myself, 
"Do we really want to celebrate the misfits?!"  
After teaching in London and trying my hardest to contain the various misfit-like behaviours in the classroom, I have to question whether or not we do want to celebrate those who refuse to follow the rules.  Or, maybe with this video, who we really want to celebrate are those unique individuals trying to make positive contributions to changing our world.

But "misfits" who just refuse to follow the rules or to get along with others and refuse to let others get on with their work - well, no way mister!  That child needs to remember our class rules & consequences.  Or so we would say in England anyway.

What do you think?  Should we celebrate the misfits?

Resources for Teaching in London, England
Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians
Sign up for our newsletters
Canadians & Americans in the UK blog

Monday, March 8, 2010

Guest Blogger: "But Miss I'm Bursting!" from Brand New Socks

Aleks is one of our Canadian teachers in London and recently wrote the post below on her blog, BrandNewSocks.  I asked to "steal" it for this blog as I think you will enjoy it as much as I did.  I also interviewed Aleks for our Coffee Time series and will post it this week.  
Recently, I was asked to do an interview for my recruiter’s blog (Side note: No, it’s not up yet). One of the questions asked me what the biggest adjustment from Canadian to London teaching that I had to make was. I answered, but later realized that my answer was false. My biggest adjustment has been learning the teaching language of London.
So, for all of you prospective London teachers, I have put together a language phrase book to help you survive your first bit of London teaching:
Bin: Garbage Can. Do not call anything other than a garbage can a bin unless you want to hear hoardes of laughter from your students. No, they won’t be laughingwith you. In one of my first days, I referred to the large tupperwear container that held their notebooks as a bin. The students thought that it was hilarious that the Canadian supply teacher wanted them to throw their notebooks away.
Bursting: When a student is “bursting” it means that s/he has to go to the toilet so badly that they will literally burst if you do not say yes. Guaranteed that you will hear this phrase at least a few times a day if you are in a primary classroom and at least a few times a week if you are in secondary classroom. Why so often? Do British children have insanely small bladders? No. This is a lesson in bathroom exaggeration. When a student feels the slightest need to go to the toilet, to stand up and wander, is bored, or wants to cause a ruckus s/he will do the very dramatic pee dance while saying, “But Miss, I’m bursting!” at you over and over again.
Literacy: This subject will eat up a lot of your time if you are teaching Primary and it is what we refer to as English. But, forget about pronouncing it the way you normally would. If you want to fit in you have to learn to say it lit-ra-cee.
Miss: Typically this means an unmarried, female teacher. Not in Britain though. Here “Miss” refers to any supply teacher and boy do I mean any. Being male does not stop them from referring to you as “Miss”. If you are insecure about your masculinity, do not bother teaching in a London classroom.
Numeracy: This is the other subject that will take up a huge chunk of time in any given Primary teaching day. Numeracy is Math. If you want to call it math though, just make sure that you add an S to the end. Math will get you confused looks, but Maths will get you complete understanding.
Packed Lunch: A packed lunch is exactly what it sounds like: a lunch that was packed for the student at home to bring to school and eat. It means that they will not be receiving a lunch at school.
Play: This is the London term for recess. Just try threatening to take away a pupil’s recess. There will be no reaction. Take away a student’s play and their world comes to a screeching halt.
Rubber: This word can provide for some rather amusing incidents until you actually know what it means. It means eraser to the British children, which is amusing because it means condom to the Canadian supply teacher. Imagine my surprise when, on my first day of teaching, a Year Two student confidently walked up to me and asked me for a rubber. As I tried to compose myself enough to answer her question another student butted in with, “But Miss, we’re not allowed rubbers in school!” Quickly I pieced together what they were talking about as other students offered up bits and pieces of information: “Yah Miss, because they make a mess on our tables”, “Yah Miss, she has to just scratch it out instead”, and “Yah Miss, she’s not supposed to be asking.”
School Dinners: Is a term that can only be half figured out through logic. It takes place at school, but it is not dinner. School Dinners are hot lunches that are offered by the school to students who do not bring a packed lunch.
Sensible: This is a word that you will hear yourself say over and over again. Here are the most common examples of its usage by a supply teacher:
“Can I have a sensible student to help me and [insert request]?”
“Thank you [insert student's name] for being sensible”
“That is not sensible behaviour!”
If you were to receive a 10p coin for every time you said the word sensible, you would have enough money to buy yourself a plane ticket home on that truly awful day when not a single student is being sensible.
Thanks to Aleks for allowing me to steal her post and share with you here.  Please do visit her blog - she's a brilliant writer and blogger.

Resources About Teaching in London, England
Classroom Canada website
Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians
Canadians & Americans in the UK blog 
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Friday, March 5, 2010

Teaching Job Interviews & Another Coffee Time With a Teacher from Toronto

Classroom Canada is now accepting applications from teachers and teaching assistants for positions that start in Sept/Oct 2010.  To apply, submit your CV and cover letter to apply AT classroomcanada DOT com.
We are currently booking interviews across Canada & America for these positions:
  • Primary Teachers (K-6)
  • Secondary Teachers (all subjects, and particularly for science, math, computers, phys ed and humanities)
  • Special Educational Needs (Mild Learning Disabilities, Severe Learning Disabilities & Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties)
  • Teaching Assistants (K-12 and SEN)
To help you decide, here's another Coffee Time interview with one of our fabulous teachers currently in London with Classroom Canada.
Grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy!

Coffee Time with Trumaine
Name: Trumaine Jackson                                               
University: York University
Subjects: Literacy, Numeracy, PE and ICT (Computers)
Ages You Teach: Secondary

How long have you been teaching in London?
4 months, November 2009 - Present

What do you teach?   
I teach students in Key Stage 3/4 (aka "Secondary") on a 1 to 1 basis - Key Skills, Physical Education, ICT.  I work in a P.R.U. which means a pupil referral unit for students with emotional and behavioural difficulties who have been excluded from mainstream schools.

Why did you choose to work with Classroom Canada?
Classroom had a straight forward process and offered assistance in getting me ready to make the move to the U.K.  Victoria was always just a phone call away if I had any questions about the move, visa applications, citizenship, etc.

What was the biggest adjustment for you to make in your teaching in London compared to Canada?
There really wasn't a big adjustment coming here to the U.K.  The students are the same as they would be in Canada.  The only thing I had to really adjust to, was the language and terminology.  My students constantly make fun of me because I say "math" instead of "maths", and "period" instead of "full stop."

Describe a typical London day in 3-4 sentences.
I wake up at 6.00am, don't actually get out of bed till about 6.30, jump into the shower, get dressed, get something to eat and then head out to start my morning commute.  I usually arrive at school about 8.30am and do some last minute preparation before my student comes in at 9.30 (10.30 on Mondays).  I have one student in the morning and another in the afternoon.  During the day we try to get as much work as possible done, but it gets mixed in with jokes and discussions about life, sports, and anything under the sun.  School finishes for the students at 2.45 and for me about 3.30-4pm.

What is the one piece of advice you can offer a Canadian teacher considering the move to London?
Teaching in London will prepare you to teach anywhere in the WORLD!  One of my students said to me the other day "When you go back to Canada you'll be able to get any job you want."  I asked him why he thought that, and he replied "If you can hack it with us, then you can teach anywhere."

Describe the funniest thing that's happened to you in your year so far:
The funniest thing that has happened to me this year would have to be the time when a group of students and myself were playing football (aka soccer) and one of them accidentally kicked me in my foot.  My foot was quite swollen and one of the students (who wants to be a paramedic) quickly pulled out his first aid kit (from out of thin air) and bandaged my foot.  The head teacher insisted I go to the hospital and thought it would be a good idea if that student came along so he could get some first hand experience on what it would be like to be a paramedic.  For the next three hours I was in the hospital with this student listening to him argue with the nurse about my X-rays.

Describe the worst thing:
The worst thing about teaching here is the transit system.  Although it is far advanced compared to the TTC in Toronto, there are always disruptions and lines closed due to "engineering works".  And if it rains or snows it's a nightmare getting to and from work.

What made you stay with Classroom Canada, rather than any other agency?
Within 2 weeks of being in London, Classroom found me a long term contract with a school.  I have been with the same school ever since.  There was no need to find work with any other agencies.

What qualities do you have that make your teaching in London enjoyable?
I think I am easy to talk to and laid back, and I think the students really respond to that.

Thanks Trumaine!  

Resources About Teaching in London, England
Classroom Canada website
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Canadians & Americans in the UK blog


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