Among the many stories of homesick international students, a Chinese international student in Toronto appears to have finally settled in.
Erick Fang came to Canada in 2019 to complete his undergraduate degree in economics at the University of Toronto (UofT). From early on, he knew he was going to leave China to study, so he and his parents decided that Canada would be the right place for him.
“I was excited to come to Canada because I was kind of tired of where I was living. For me, the excitement was the different cultures.”
After arriving in Canada, Fang’s excitement quickly gave way to happiness when he realized how much he fit into the Canadian culture than he had in China.
“Back home, the people I dealt with were very close-minded, in a sense. They’re not [fans] of new things or opposing opinions,” he said. “Here, it’s a diverse country and diverse city and you meet people from all over the world and you talk about different things all the time, and it just keeps you fueled up because you are always experiencing new things.”
Accepting people and their decisions in Canada stood out to Fang, who feels comfortable studying economics.
“All the people I meet here, they’re doing different things in life, and I think that is very exciting. Back home, people stick to one thing, like [a] doctor or [a] mathematician.”
Over the course of his time in Canada, Fang has built a network of friends that have helped him make the most of the place he now calls home.
“My friends have become an important part of my life in terms of support. I can talk to my Chinese friends, but I feel like they don’t understand what I go through because they don’t try to relate to western culture; they want to head back to China after [obtaining] their degree[s],” Fang said. “Having someone local will [help] understand what you’re talking about and provide guidance.”
According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, From 2010 to 2020, there was an increase of about 135 per cent of international students from Canada, 17 per cent being from China.
Fang and his parents chose Canada for his studies due to Canadians’ reputation for being inclusive and polite. Fang’s parents felt assured that as a minority, he would be safe from prejudice.
His experiences in Canada have lived up to his parents’ expectations, he says.
“My parents are happy with this place too. The people here are pretty nice and the city I live in is inclusive. I think Toronto is a great city to get started in my career too.”
Even though studying abroad is mentally challenging and tuition is expensive, Fang says he never wants to return to China.
“I have a lot of things for me here now and I don’t want to risk that. There are a lot of bad things happening there [China] and I’m not a fan of it.”
While many international students can feel homesick after leaving their home countries, Fang says he does not miss his life back in China.
“I had been in boarding school since grade two so everyone is pretty used to living independently in my family.”
As he wraps up the last semester of his degree, Fang is looking forward to starting a full-time job in February and building his career in Canada.
“I definitely achieved what I … expected but with a lot more to come,” he said. “A solid social circle and career trajectory definitely helped!”