The teens have come to P.E.I. to experience the culture and develop their English speaking skills. (CBC)

Dozens of international students will be joining high school students on P.E.I. when school begins in a few weeks, thanks to a new government program.

The teens’ families have each paid $10,000 to send their kids to the Island for a year of high school, hoping a year in Canada will improve their English skills.

The program is part of a three-year agreement between the province and a school in China.

Seventeen students from Ganzhou, China were the first to arrive. They’re taking part in a class before the school year starts in an effort to reduce the culture shock of entering a Canadian high school.

"Today we are learning about bullying because that's [doesn’t happen] often in China," said student Dawn Liao.

Education Minister Alan McIsaac said he think bringing in people from other countries is good for the whole island.  

"We have now identified one staff person who is working on this full-time to bring more students here, and a cultural awareness of a country and what the world's really about right now," he said.

The students will be divided between Colonel Gray High, Charlottetown Rural High and Bluefield High.

"The environment here is better for me to study and live better," said Liao.

In another two weeks, 20 more students will be landing in Charlottetown from Brazil.

They'll all be completing their Grade 11 year on P.E.I.

Island families step in to host students

Around 30 families have stepped in to host the international students with the help of monthly allowances.

Alane Kirkham has been hosting students for years through private study abroad programs.

This year, through the government's initiative, she's getting ready to welcome a Brazilian student.

"It's extremely rewarding. The more people you can meet around the world, the better it is. And just remember that it's difficult for them as well as a transition for your family and be very supportive," said Kirkham .

"But I would definitely highly recommend it."

In the next couple years, the province hopes to attract hundreds more students.

"We want to spread it across the province, so we have to find homestay parents, and families for them to stay with," said McIsaac.

The government's hope is that by bringing students here for high school, they will  decide to stay for college or university and perhaps even settle down.