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How international students experience study in British Columbia

Studying abroad has always been an important decision in life, you should think carefully before putting it into action.

I’ve been studying in Canada for the past three years. When I talk to my classmates back in Hong Kong they envy me and say studying in other countries must be more easy and relaxing. But is that the reality?

I spoke with two other international students to get their point of view. [The students’ comments have been edited for clarity. -Ed.]

Paul, a grade 11 student from Korea says he is really happy to experience an advanced educational level and support in totally different environments. “It’s a great privilege for me to learn both English and culture in a class with such a great teacher and multicultural classmates.” 

When he first came to the new school, he needed to take two English Language Learner (ELL) classes which helped him to improve his English writing and reading skills. In the ELL class, all students are from different countries, giving students exposure to different cultures and improving their oral language skills as they attempt to communicate with each other in English. 

Paul mentioned Canadians enjoy a lot of freedoms, such as freedom of speech. He can express his opinion of politics on the Internet without worry about retaliation from the government. 

He was also impressed of how respectful and caring the people were.“It was a fresh shock for me that the people in the school were so caring about me and each other.” In his English class, when he told his teacher he had difficulties because he was in ELL, the teacher gave him more time to finish his assignment.  

Paul also says he discovered what makes the difference for Canadian to be able to study less and yet achieve a similar level of knowledge as Koreans. ”It was all because the class was focused on self-directed learning. We decide what we want to do, even selecting our own courses, which Korea does not offer commonly.”

Ivan Chan, an international student from Hong Kong currently studying in a Canadian post secondary institution, says that Canada’s education system is certainly more relaxed compared to his home country. ”The education in my country is primarily focused on teaching to a test, and I face a lot of pressure from my parents to get an excellent grade.” The student also says he really enjoyed the classes he took, and he found the career he wanted in the future through various subjects in Canada’s secondary school.

Ivan says he learned to live independently after these years of living with home stay. Since his parents needed to go to work in Hong Kong and he is a minor so he needs to live with a host family.  While living in a host family, he learned to clean up his own room, make food for himself and plan his daily schedule.

“As a high school student, I think studying abroad is a great experience in my life, but there are certain things you need to know before you get into the action of studying abroad,” Ivan said. Although he mentioned a lot of benefits of studying abroad, he also pointed out some disadvantages.

“I know most Canadians are kind to people of any nationality, unfortunately, something unpleasant happened during the epidemic.” Ivan said. During the pandemic, while he was on the way to school waiting for the traffic light, there was a driver passing by raising his middle finger and swearing in front of him. He was shocked because of the driver’s actions and wondered what he had done to offend that driver.

Still, his overall experience has been a positive one. “During the time I studied in Canada, I found what I really like and learned that I should be responsible for my life; because opportunities like study abroad are not easy to come by,” Ivan said.

“I will cherish every moment.”

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