This article is part of an ongoing series here on Dal News focusing on international voices in our community.
Travelling thousands of kilometres and coming to Dalhousie for an exchange was not a difficult decision for Economics student Carol Tian.
“When I researched universities around the world, I saw that the ranking of Dalhousie University was very high and it had a good reputation,” says Carol, who had a longing to study outside her home country of China, where she's a student at the University of International Finance and Economics of Beijing (UIBE).
“Back home my university only focused on commerce and economics, so I really wanted to go to a comprehensive university,” says the third-year student. “Halifax really appealed to me because of the location. When I started exploring my options I loved the size of Halifax; it’s not too big or too small. I wanted to experience both sides of a Canadian city, a small city and a large city.”
She says there are lots of articles that appear in China about how beautiful a country Canada is and, with a desire to explore, she packed her bags and moved to Halifax for a term abroad.
“I just love being at Dalhousie because unlike home, you can walk down the street and meet people from other departments and talk to them about all sorts of things, not just things related to commerce and economics," she says. “Plus, I was surprised by all the Chinese grocery stores here. I can get all the ingredients I need to cook Chinese food, so I haven’t been too homesick.”
A passion for volunteering
She says one of the most rewarding experiences of her time at Dalhousie has been taking part in the Halifax Startup Weekend with a group of her fellow students to develop software and a business plan for a product called “Catsh.in”
Read also: Students hope to “Catsh.in” on global startup competition
“As commerce students, we viewed the software portfolio and helped technology students promote their product,” she says. “I learned a lot and it was a lot of fun.”
Carol also brought a passion for volunteering with her to Halifax. “Advisors and volunteers at Dalhousie’s International Centre gave me great advice on activities I could get involved in. I got involved with Dal Action, a student society that sends out emails whenever organizations need volunteers.”
That led Carol to even more opportunities, including volunteering for Habit for Humanity and helping out at a fundraiser for the YWCA at the Metro Centre. “It was a great opportunity, and I learned that people from all over Halifax are really passionate about charities and helping. People here are just so nice.”
Her favourite volunteer experience has been with the Loaded Ladle. “I had a lot of food from there and thought I should give back, so started volunteering. The people who run it are very friendly and have created a comfortable atmosphere. It also allowed me to learn about food in Canada and how to cook it.”
Advice for international students
Carol hopes other international students enjoy their experience at Dalhousie as much as she has, recommending that students look for opportunities to get involved via MyCareer (via MyDal), Dal News and through student societies.
Or, she says, just ask someone.
“You can talk to anyone at Dalhousie, people are really approachable and so nice. At first, I felt there was a language barrier for me, but my advisor at the International Centre introduced me to volunteers there and paired me with a Canadian student, Chloe. She helped me get to know the campus and more about university life. There are always people wanting to help you out.”
And how does she feel about choosing to study in Canada as her experience winds down?
“Like I had read, Canada is spectacular — like the snow, I have never experienced this much snow and blizzards. It’s just beautiful,” says Carol, who also mentions her newfound love of Canadian cheeses, poutine and Beavertails.
“I really love Canada and hope to come back after I go home and finish my undergraduate degree. I was only here for half a year and I already know that is not enough for me. I would love to come back to do my master's degree here.”
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