CHI­NESE STU­DENTS BLOS­SOM­ING IN CANADA

China Daily (Canada) - - DEPTH -

For Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties, re­search is cen­tral to their mis­sion. A full 25 per­cent of Canada’s re­search ca­pac­ity is found in its uni­ver­si­ties, a higher pro­por­tion than most oth­ers coun­tries, and the coun­try’s uni­ver­si­ties em­ploy about one-third of the na­tion’s PhDs. Many Chi­nese stu­dents have ben­e­fited from Canada’s ro­bust ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem and re­search re­sources, be­fore and af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

“We have a very open sys­tem here in Canada with lots of sup­port from the gov­ern­ment which pro­motes re­search and en­cour­ages re­searchers to work closely with in­dus­try part­ners,” said Shi Wei, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in elec­tri­cal and com­puter en­gi­neer­ing at Laval Univer­sity in Que­bec. “With the strong re­search pro­grams we do get grants.”

Orig­i­nally from China, Shi said Canada is an ac­com­mo­dat­ing multi-cul­tural so­ci­ety and as a Chi­nese, he has felt very com­fort­able first study­ing and later work­ing at Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties.

“I don’t feel any dif­fer­ence with peo­ple from other coun­tries. I don’t see any dif­fer­ence in na­tion­al­ity or race,” said Shi, who grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia in 2012 and did a year of re­search at Guelph Univer­sity in On­tario.

Shi is now look­ing into high-speed fi­bre de­signs and ap­pli­ca­tions at Laval. The 35-year-old pro­fes­sor has re­ceived more than $5 mil­lion in re­search fund­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with other pro­fes­sors.

Liu Fengjie, a post doc­toral fel­low at INRS’s Eau Terre En­vi­ron­ment Re­search Cen­tre un­der Pro­fes­sor Peter GC Campbell, a lead­ing author­ity on wa­ter and en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies, said Canada of­fers many op­por­tu­ni­ties in sci­en­tific re­search.

Liu came to Canada in 2014 and said over past three years he has been able to fo­cus on lab re­search al­most 100 per­cent.

“This is a per­fect place for do­ing science and the pro­fes­sors give me lots of free­dom to de­velop my own ideas and they help me de­velop my ca­reer,” Liu said. “My work here is rec­og­nized by Bri­tish academia and I have got a new job of­fer from there.”

Liu also hopes to go back to China and work, as the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. “This is a great op­por­tu­nity for me to de­velop my ca­reer back home,” he said.

Jiang Jinglu, a PhD can­di­date in the IT depart­ment of HEC Mon­treal Busi­ness School and a fourth year stu­dent in a joint pro­gram with McGill and Con­cor­dia uni­ver­si­ties, is also ben­e­fit­ting from the abun­dant re­sources in her field.

“I am do­ing in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy stud­ies,” she said. “My su­per­vi­sor has only a few stu­dents and so has more time for us with re­gards to train­ing and re­search skills. Here there’s a more con­densed way of train­ing with a very good knowl­edge foun­da­tion in what we can do aca­dem­i­cally.”

She said lots of fi­nan­cial sup­port from schools and the gov­ern­ment is avail­able here, even for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

Qi Mengjiao, a fourth year bio­med­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing PhD stu­dent at Polytech­nique Mon­treal, de­scribed the French-speak­ing city as a friendly and wel­com­ing place for peo­ple all over the world.

“Maybe peo­ple are con­cerned about French but from my ex­pe­ri­ence, French is not a real prob­lem. If peo­ple re­al­ize you can’t speak French, they of­fer to trans­late into English au­to­mat­i­cally. One ben­e­fit here is that we can switch be­tween the two lan­guages. I re­ally like it here,” said Qi.

Qi has big plans for the fu­ture. One is to grad­u­ate as soon as pos­si­ble and re­turn to China and help out in de­vel­op­ment and act as a bridge be­tween the home­land and Canada.

Jin Feifei is an in­ter­na­tional stu­dent who ben­e­fited from the Stay in Nova Sco­tia Pro­gram, which con­nects fi­nal year in­ter­na­tional stu­dents di­rectly to the labour mar­ket and helps them build valu­able em­ploy­ment skills, work­place knowl­edge and pro­fes­sional con­nec­tions.

For Jin, who is from the west­ern part of China and has the English name of Vic­to­ria, the pro­gram gives her the chance to stay Nova Sco­tia dur­ing her fi­nal year of earn­ing an MBA from Que­bec Univer­sity.

“It is a won­der­ful pro­gram that con­nects men­tor and mentee. We match to­gether those pro­fes­sion­als al­ready work­ing in the in­dus­try,” said Jin, who is now run­ning a restau­rant with her part­ner.

Charles Xu, a PhD stu­dent in bi­ol­ogy at McGill Univer­sity, stud­ied in the US, Swe­den, Nether­lands and France be­fore com­ing to Canada. He said Mon­treal is a di­verse city and a blend of Fran­co­phone and An­glo­phone cul­ture. “No one takes com­plete own­er­ship, thus leav­ing some room for other cul­tures.”

“We get amaz­ing stu­dents from China,” said Matin Bres­sani, di­rec­tor of McGill’s school of ar­chi­tec­ture. “They have the ca­pac­ity to work very hard and be­ing hard­work­ing is part of Chi­nese dis­ci­pline.”

He said Chi­nese stu­dents who have strong aca­demic back­grounds, but typ­i­cally seem not out­spo­ken, have be­come ex­tremely so­phis­ti­cated aca­dem­i­cally.

“Chi­nese stu­dents have demon­strated in­cred­i­ble works and they al­ready have sub­tle and sub­stan­tial un­der­stand­ing of de­signs and con­cepts and de­velop ideas,” said Bres­sani.

For cities like Ot­tawa, Mon­treal and Que­bec City, the multi-cul­tural and bilin­gual uni­ver­si­ties are seen as an ad­van­tage and as­set to in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, ac­cord­ing to Jac­ques Freemont, pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa, a bilin­gual school.

“It is like the im­age Canada has abroad,” he said. “We are able to be com­fort­able with Con­ti­nen­tal Euro­peans, Amer­i­cans and Chi­nese. This is a spe­cial and peace­ful place.”

De­spite the safe and sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment, Chi­nese stu­dents still face a lot of chal­lenges in Canada, in­clud­ing lan­guage bar­ri­ers, cul­ture shock and dif­fer­ences in the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem.

Yang Xinyu, min­is­ter coun­sel­lor for ed­u­ca­tion at China’s em­bassy in Canada, said with the in­crease in the num­ber of Chi­nese stu­dents across Canada, the Em­bassy’s ed­u­ca­tion bu­reaus have pro­vided as­sis­tances to en­hance their aca­demic pur­suits and safe liv­ing.

The as­sis­tance in­cludes a 24-hour hot­line for safety ques­tions and to help to stu­dents in trou­ble. Chi­nese stu­dents as­so­ci­a­tions across the coun­try also help stu­dents adapt and pre­vent them from be­ing iso­lated.

Yang said that English is the ma­jor chal­lenge, even though the stu­dents passed an English-lan­guage exam be­fore com­ing to Canada. Some stu­dents end up choos­ing the wrong ma­jor and sub­jects be­cause they don’t quite un­der­stand the sys­tem. “They need to know what they are al­lowed and not al­lowed,” Yang said.

Geng Tan, a lib­eral mem­ber of Parliament with a Chi­nese back­ground, came to Canada as a for­eign stu­dent 20 years ago and got a PhD in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing from the Univer­sity of Toronto.

He said apart from China be­ing the big­gest source of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents con­sti­tut­ing al­most one-third of all for­eign stu­dents in Canada (more than 132,000 Chi­nese na­tion­als held per­mits to study in Canada at the end of 2016), the trend shows Chi­nese stu­dents are younger, some are even en­rolled in el­e­men­tary schools.

“These young stu­dents who come to Canada might not know much about coun­try and cul­ture and the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. This proves to be chal­leng­ing and dif­fi­cult for them in the first five-to-six months, es­pe­cially when they have few friends,” he said.

PHO­TOS BY NA LI / CHINA DAILY

Shi Wei, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of elec­tri­cal and com­puter en­gi­neer­ing at Laval Univer­sity, dis­cusses his re­search project on high-speed fi­bre de­signs at his lab in Que­bec City.

Chi­nese stu­dents and their par­ents visit the cam­pus of Univer­sity of Ot­tawa.

Yang Xinyu (cen­tre), min­is­ter coun­sel­lor for ed­u­ca­tion at the China Em­bassy in Canada, said the em­bassy’s ed­u­ca­tion bureau has pro­vided as­sis­tance to en­hance Chi­nese stu­dents’ aca­demic pur­suits and safety.

Chi­nese stu­dents study­ing at HEC Mon­treal Busi­ness School share their ex­pe­ri­ences with Cana­dian ed­u­ca­tion.

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