“Goodbye Mom and Dad, you will be proud of me!”
After I said goodbye to my parents the last time, I went to my terminal to get ready to board my plane in the Beijing International Airport. It was August 30, 2010 that I departed on my journey to Canada on my own. It was a complex feeling at the time; I was excited about the various experiences I was sure to have in Canada, but I was also sad that I was going to leave my hometown and things with which I was so familiar. Finally, after 12 hours and 50 minutes in the air, I arrived in Toronto.
During my first week in Canada, I felt like I was living in a movie, many things seemed different. Total strangers said “hi” to me, I had fresh raw vegetables in every meal, and it seemed that nobody drank hot water except me. I was living with a Canadian family in my first year, and I spent seven months in the intensive English Language Program. It’s a great program that provides a sufficient transition period for students who are new to Canada. My English skills improved a lot in that time, and I really enjoyed talking to students from other countries. I enjoyed my first year very much. I learned how Canadians actually lived, studied English and explored this beautiful country every day.
After I finished the language program, I began my “real life” in Canada. I would use the word “intense” to describe my life at Brock University, especially for international students like myself. One of the greatest struggles for me was trying to understand what the professor was talking about in my lectures. At that time, I could only understand 60 to 70 per cent of English words. As a result, I had to spend a lot of time catching up on my courses.
The second challenge for me, and seemingly for most international students, was trying to adapt to being alone. Although Brock is a very diverse university, it is still hard for international students to adopt the environment, especially in the beginning. During the first months in Canada I had heard many international and native students say that the two cultures are extremely different. I totally agreed with the comment in my first two years at Brock, because so many things were, in fact, different. As time went on, after having experienced a lot more, I became more mature. I began to discover that there were many similarities between Chinese and Canadian cultures. While there are many differences between these two cultures, the core values often seem to be the same. Both cultures praise bravery, honour and loyalty, and both cultures hate pretention, cheating and dishonesty.
The story of Sir Isaac Brock particularly stuck out to me as a representation of the shared values, and I feel proud that our university bares such a namesake. I met many great students at Brock. Theepika Srivamathevan, president of the International Student Association (ISA) specifically, spent a lot of time making the ISA better. Seeing successful students makes me realize the long way I have to go in order to reach my goals – I use this to motivate me and push myself harder.
There may be differences between Chinese and Canadian culture, but I see more commonalities between the two. This is my last year at Brock, and I really appreciate the range of experiences that Canada has given me. I used to think about how my life would have been if I didn’t study abroad. Maybe it would have been easier, maybe I wouldn’t have felt as lonely. Ultimately however, I know that what I gained from Brock was more valuable; I would have never gained these precious experiences living at home. I will fight for my dream, and I hope I can be successful in the future to be able to further contribute to the Brock community.