As a recent Ukrainian immigrant to Newfoundland and Labrador, Alexandra Dubova is eager to improve her English.
But she isn't going about it the traditional way. Instead of hiring a tutor or taking lessons online, Dubova asked people on Facebook if they'd be interested in going on a walk.
"Oh, it was amazing," said Dubova, who moved to the province from Odesa around three months ago with her husband and dog.
"It was unexpected and it was great. I had one week of a hard job to answer everyone."
In a Facebook post in early May, Dubova asked people if they'd be interested in joining her for a one-hour walk around Adam's Pond in Paradise, where she lives, as a way to socialize and help her improve her English.
LISTEN | Ukrainian improving her English through walks around the pond
The post received hundreds of likes, comments and shares. Dubova says people from all over the country responded and that around 40 Newfoundlanders offered to help her practise speaking English.
So far, Dubova says, she's been on walks with 15 people. She sometimes meets with two or three people a day, she says, which equates to about two to three hours of walking.
"I'm very grateful for all people of Newfoundland," said Dubova. "I'm so excited that here, so kind and thoughtful people, it's unexpected for me."
Adapting to new challenges
Dubova has a master's degree in psychology and worked as a human resources manager in Ukraine for about 15 years.
The job was challenging and caused her to burn out, she says, so before the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to follow her passions and become a travel blogger instead.
The blog was put on hold due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, says Dubova, but she hopes to revive the project soon — this time, in English.
While her husband has found employment in the province, she has yet to secure a job, and she hopes that learning fluent English will help her achieve that goal.
Dubova says she still has a lot to learn. But others say she is well on her way to speaking fluent English.
Melissa Howe came across Dubova's Facebook post, and because the two live in the same community, she offered to help out.
Howe says the two have now walked around the pond together four or five times and that they talk about a variety of topics, including Newfoundland traditions and how to ace a job interview.
Howe and Dubova both have dogs, and Dubova says one of the most challenging words Howe has taught her is "leash." Howe says her new walking partner is a quick learner.
"When I first met her, I had commented on how well she knows English and I couldn't believe that she was reaching out to help practise her English, because to me her English is fine," said Howe.
"I mean, it's great that we can converse together."
Dubova says she is constantly discovering new things about the English language and the province, and that eventually, she hopes to become a Canadian citizen and have two homes — one in Ukraine and one in Newfoundland.
Howe says she's also gained a lot from the experience.
"I learned that she's smart and she's bright and has a positive outlook on things and a positive attitude on life as well," said Howe.
"It's a beneficial relationship between the both of us, and I hope that it will continue for a long time to come."