January 29, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 66  

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Foreign student sounds off

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

Born in Beijing, China, international student Gisele Chen was one of a lucky few in her family able to study abroad.

“Every generation, my family chose one or two people to go to school in North America,” Chen explains, adding she chose Canada over the United States because “it’s quiet and safe.”

She arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia two years ago, where she attended Columbia College. Although she enjoyed her experience, Chen says her English did not greatly improve as she met many Chinese students willing to converse in Mandarin, something Chen was hoping to avoid.

So on the advice of her business teacher, Chen packed her bags and made her way to Western looking for change.

Now in her second year of administrative and commercial studies at Western, the 20-year-old Chen says she finds London much better, as there are more “Canadian people” who want to engage in conversation. “I already got used to living in Vancouver and was looking for a challenge,” she says.

But for all of Western’s high marks, Chen said the Student Development Centre’s international student services have not been particularly helpful. “They’re not really professional,” she says, adding simple tasks often take a long time to complete.

Living in Essex Hall has generally been good, Chen says, but she is sometimes turned off by inappropriate comments — often ones that are explicitly sexual. “I can accept common joking, but to me it’s kind of rude.”

So what about Canada’s world-renowned weather, coffee and doughnuts?

“I’ve never seen so much snow like this,” Chen says, adding the excessive snowfall has made walking rather difficult. “The weather is terrible.”

As for the food, Chen is equally morose. “I just eat salad and muffins,” she explains, but acknowledges a penchant for the muffins and coffee of Tim Hortons. “It’s good.”



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