By: Justin Humphries
Whether it’s temporary or permanent, travelling is something that a good number of people want to do at some point in their lives. For Ashrafallad Merchant, it’s to help bring the experience back home.
Merchant, a 21-year-old international student from India, has only been Canada for just over a month. She plans to finish her culinary diploma at Algonquin as a stepping stone to open her own restaurant.
“I have a bachelors of mass media and I majored in advertising,” said Merchant. “I’ve always had a passion for cooking and culture, so I thought I should follow my dream and work toward opening my own restaurant.”
According to Merchant, it can be hard to find food in India that isn’t from India. She wants to open a restaurant in Mumbai that can help bring other kinds of food from around the world.
“Some people think I’m crazy for wanting to start a restaurant,” Merchant said. “It has been my dream for many years and now that I’m here, I want to bring my experience back to India.”
Although Merchant wants to one day return to India, she has already fallen in love with Canada.
“Ottawa is the most beautiful city I have ever been to,” Merchant said. “I couldn’t believe it when I heard no one honking their horns in traffic. It’s very quiet, peaceful and beautiful.”
Merchant hasn’t had a bad experience so far in Canada, but she recently began to miss home. Since she came to Canada with no family, Merchant hasn’t gotten used to not being with them.
“I didn’t start to miss home until the Ganesh Chathurthi festival of Lord Ganesha,” Merchant said. “I’m here on my own, so when I knew they were celebrating it, I finally knew what being homesick was like.
Although most people will miss home because of their friends and family, some people miss it for other reasons. He Bingxin, an international student from China, came to study in Canada and be with her husband.
“My husband is in Ottawa for work,” said Bingxin. “I’m trying to use this opportunity to meet new friends and improve my English, but it’s hard to meet new people.”
According to Bingxin, both internet and media are heavily censored in China. She feels like there is a bigger sense of freedom in Canada.
“One thing I didn’t expect was the amount of people protesting in Ottawa,” Bingxin said. “In China, protesting against the government is not allowed. Any information thought to be sensitive is blocked online and manipulated through media.”
Bingxin did hear from a lot of people that Canadians were very kind to each other, but she never expected to see the amount of kindness that complete strangers have shown her on a daily basis.
“I can sense the people here are very warm to each other,” Bingxin said. “I remember when a bus driver noticed I was sick on the bus. He gave me some water and warm blankets. I couldn’t believe it, but I was very grateful.”
Youkang Lee, an international student from South Korea, also came here to improve her English. She was an English teacher in South Korea but she hopes the English environment will help her even more.
“My spoken English isn’t very good,” said Lee. “In South Korea I was an English teacher, but I only taught grammar. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to speak English with others.”
Lee also found the transportation in Canada surprising. For a first world country, she expected it to be a lot better than it was.
“The transportation in South Korea is much better than it is in Canada,” Lee said. “Sometimes I need to wait 30 minutes for a bus in Ottawa. In Soeul, I think the most I need to wait for the subway is 30 seconds.”
Lee feels a lot safer to walk around in Canada than she does in South Korea.
“It’s not for any reason you would expect,” Lee said. “I always see people walking around with their dogs here. I was attacked by some when I was younger, so I have a fear of big dogs.”
“I still consider myself an animal lover,” Lee said. “I love to watch them, but maybe it takes a little courage to approach them myself. I feel a lot safer to watch dogs in Canada since people have them on a leash, unlike in South Korea where they run freely.”
Thiphuong Dinh, an international student from Vietnam, has come to Canada to study more than just English. She is currently studying for her esthetician diploma.
“I’ve always had an interest in makeup and culture,” said Dinh. “Even though I have been here since December, I still feel like I learn something new every day.”
Dinh feels like people in Canada will treat others differently than people do in Vietnam.
“People may ask you things like who you’re with or where you’re going in Vietnam,” Dinh said. “In Canada, my friends always ask me how I’m doing. I never get questions like that in my country.”
It can be a challenge to express herself to other people, said Dinh. Most of her friends are other Vietnamese students.
“It feels like everyone here are professionals at spoken English,” Dinh said. “When I speak, I feel very shy. It has gotten a little better in the past few months but I definitely need more practice.”
Dinh is currently living in Canada with her aunt and uncle. Even though she came here knowing there would be some family to have for support, she still misses home.
“I do miss home because of my friends and family,” Dinh said. “Although being homesick can be hard, being in Canada is a dream come true.”