Elena’s Blog: A Canadian International Student in China



"I am so happy to be here and I can't wait to see what the next five months bring."

- Elena, Canadian international student in China

Pictured outside the residence of her homestay family in Suzhou, China, Elena is enjoying the experience of adapting to Chinese culture and attending a Chinese high school which offers Canadian curriculum courses.

At the end of August, Elena, a Grade 11 student at Ottawa’s Glebe Collegiate Institute, travelled to China to study in Suzhou, a city of 4 million people near Shanghai.

  • Arriving in China

My arrival in China was among the most overwhelming experiences of my life! Everything was so loud, so big, so full of people and so incredibly different. After a full summer of camp in Canada, followed by a five day turn around to pack and say goodbye to everyone for five months, I had just enough time to remember how much I enjoyed their company and forget why it was I wanted to attend school in China in the first place. I figured it all out soon enough; with each new place, face, and experience in China, I got more and more excited to be here and live the next adventure of my life.

  • Adjusting to a new culture

Things like using chopsticks to eat French fries, tasting new fruits I have never heard of, and eating rice with literally every meal have made mealtimes one of the most intriguing parts of my day. In general, the food has been delicious, but situations like thinking I was ordering chicken wings when instead receiving a duck’s head (eyes, beak, skull and all!) have left some shocking impressions. In those instances when I need a small taste of home there is a Starbucks right around the corner from the homestay where I am living.

  • Adapting to a new school

There are many differences between school here and home, such as the 7:30am - 5:15pm school day, though it’s the more hindering differences like the inch too long, two-ring hole punched paper that does not fit in any of my binders that have driven me the most insane. My classmates have all been very kind and welcoming, though communication is sometimes challenging for obvious reasons. The tonal nature of the Chinese language is proving difficult for someone who is totally tone deaf(!), though I’m happy to report that I am making some progress.

The people are warm once you get to know them, but first impressions are sometimes less than encouraging. For example, smiling at someone in passing is often met with a blank stare rather than a “Hello” or smile in return. Regardless, I’ve fortunately made new friends.

  • Putting it all in perspective

While I miss home and all the things that come with it such as family, friends, my ice and field hockey teams, and familiar food, I have a list of the things I want to experience while I am here, including Suzhou’s beautiful gardens, canals, temples and history. Five months away is not really a long time at all, and I remind myself everything will still be waiting for me when I return to Ottawa.

Elena’s blog will continue in future editions of Global Connections.


Do you know someone interested in being a Canadian international student?

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