My Life as an International Student: Becoming Different in a Different Culture

My Life as an International Student: Becoming Different in a Different Culture

By: Liu Siyu | OLC Project Assistant
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11:06 am.

This is a typical Friday morning. I am in the SFU Work Integrated Learning office, sitting on a chair and looking at the laptop screen. Everything looks normal and familiar. On my left-hand side, there is a co-op student, busy working on some PowerPoint slides...

If it was five years ago, I would never imagine this would happen to me. Looking back on the past few years, I cannot stop thinking about how surprising it is to have walked through the winding road of my life and reach the point of where I am.

When I first arrived in Canada and enrolled in Fraser International College (FIC), I was considering taking Psychology as my major, and started to go to FOCUS club, a club in SFU for the international students. I like knowing other people and their stories. However, after taking several semesters and watching a few videos, I gradually figured out that I don’t enjoy studying psychology or talking to patients. With bemusement, I decided to give up chasing the psychology degree.

Having a Christmas Party with My Friends in FOCUS Club

Are there any other majors I could have a try? I asked some of the elder club friends. Their suggestion was that I should do something I find passion in. I thought about the courses I had taken: Literature, Kinesiology, Economics…I talked to myself, what about Economics? It’s easy and interesting.

Then I hesitated. My family sent me to Canada and expected me to learn front-end psychology knowledge. How would they react if I told them that I changed my mind. I called my family and falteringly told them about my decision, they were angry and annoyed but finally agreed to compromise. I became an Economics student! Soon after that, I took a further step and got into the Beedie School of Business.

As my study career was proceeding, I was enrolled in a large range of volunteer and part–time jobs, like weeding in public parks, giving out leaflets, measuring water quality, serving in a restaurant, taking care of children in a summer camp, teaching in a primary school...

Volunteering at Sperling Elementary School

Each of the volunteer experiences, long or short, was very precious for me. Not only did they give me a sense of being connected with others from a different culture, but I was also able to develop ideas about what I like and dislike, and got to know my strengths and weaknesses a lot better than before. For example, I found that: weeding is ok for me; I hate giving out leaflets; measuring and learning about water quality is interesting; I am not physically strong enough to work in a restaurant; I like children but don’t like teaching them...

Then it came the time to choose my concentration. Before I decided on my future study and work plan, I went to the “Self-Assessment & Finding Your Fit” workshop from Business Career Passport, which, I think, is one of the best choices I have made in my life. During the workshop, the advisor recommended a career test website to us and suggested us to do the questions online. With curiosity, I finished the questions (they are mostly about what I like and dislike, and my strength and weaknesses) and got an astonishing idea that I am most suitable for the career in marketing, right inside the business major.

Several semesters later, I did my first co-op job in marketing in China. I learnt about the functions of a marketing department in a real company, and really enjoyed doing marketing research and making reports. This experience narrowed down my interest, and convinced me that I should set my career goals in marketing.

Being an international student and studying in a second language is not easy. It means that we need to face many more challenges we have never thought about: study, work career, financial issues, cultural shock, and language barriers. At the same time, it also means that we have more opportunities to be exposed to a lot of new ideas and knowledge. This reversely guides us to figure out who we are and helps us to engage the world in better ways. 

As you may guess, I am now a fourth-year student doing the joint major of Economics and Business (Marketing) at SFU, and working as a project assistant at the Online Learning Community. On my left-hand side, there is a co-op student, busy working on the Photoshop…

At the end, I’d like to share one of my stories about cultural shock:

The first time I bought a monthly bus pass in a shop, the cashier gave me the card and asked me to pay $91 (at that time). I was surprised about how expensive the bus pass was (compared to the prices of bus passes in China), so I asked: is it for a month or for a year? The cashier laughed and said: For a month, of course.   


Beyond the Article

  • Connect with Liu Siyu on LinkedIn
  • To learn more about opportunites like Siyu's, visit SFU's Co-operative Education home page
  • Siyu found her job with the Online Learning Community (OLC) through SFU's Work-Study program. To learn more, see here. 
  • International Services for Students provides support for students seeking information regarding international learning opportunities. 
Posted on October 20, 2017