Yitong Guo, or “Susan” as you may come to know her during her stay here in Saint John, is a 17-year-old language student from Haribin, a city in Northeast China.
Susan fell in love with Canada after travelling to Victoria, BC in February of 2012 on a school trip. The friends she made there and the scenery she took in left such an impact on her that she came back after a brief absence in November 2012.
Having returned to Victoria, Susan began to attend language classes, but they were only the beginning of the young student’s encounters in this country.
In December of 2012, Susan decided to stay in Canada and made her way from the West to the East Coast where she settled here in the Port City to continue her language studies and then possibly move on to her first year of university.
“The travel agency [I’m with] represents UNB; if I [chose] this school, it [was] easier to get [my] VISA,” she says of making the journey over.
Right away, Susan noticed a variety of differences between her home country and Saint John, “Asian food is [tastier]!” she says, describing the variations between Canadian food and the meals she was used to. In Canada, food is made to be quick and easy, whereas in China, people take much longer to prepare a dish.
Susan speaks of how her father spent a great deal of time cooking food and the numerous methods he used to make the same meal, each time achieving a different flavour. According to Susan, Chinese food—and we aren’t talking take out, here—is richer and more diverse back home. “I do like pizza, [though].” she promises.
Learning English was also a challenge, as she became completely immersed in a new culture with a whole new language and a great deal of slang words that she had to pick up.
In Canada, most people are content with calling those handy ol’ disposable handkerchiefs “Kleenex,” but having only learned the proper name for a tissue, Susan found herself confused when asked for one, but she is picking things up very quickly. “I wanted to learn about Canadian culture,” she explains, “and the excellent language; I love English!”
Susan says there isn’t much of a difference in the type of weather she encounters in China compared to Saint John, “We don’t have an ocean, so we don’t have strong winds like here, but it is very cold and [though we get snow] we don’t get snow storms like you do. In the summer, we are very hot; the spring is cold, too.”
Susan expressed a deep affection for Canada, but she did comment on what she missed the most about being at home, “China’s clothes are more fashionable, to me and they’re much, much cheaper!” she laughs, “but I also miss my family.”
She says her mother allowed her to come here because of our reputation of being safe and extremely friendly. So far, based on the amount of friends she has made and the experiences she has had, Susan says she has not been disappointed.