International student Sherry Mao recently received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Brandon University. Her thesis exhibition, A Stranger in a Strange Land, expressed her journey as an international student in Canada. An excerpt:
When I came to Canada from Nanjing, China, in 2014 to study fine art, I had to start a new life in a different world. Everything was new—weather, food, and a diverse culture. It was my first time of being so far from family and friends; I had left my cocoon to become a stranger in a strange land. Unsure about my identity and who I wanted to be, I struggled with homesickness, anxiety, and the language barrier. Sometimes, feeling so lost, I wanted to give up.
I tried to find myself in this puzzle of life by travelling to different places, meeting different people, experiencing things I had never tried, listening to nature’s heartbeat.
Sherry’s description—a combination of confusion, frustration, and isolation—is typical of what many international students experience in Canada. But, As in Sherry’s story, those negatives need not last.
By God’s grace, Norah, Brandon ISMC staff, invited Sherry to join the *FOCUS Club. This regular gathering for international students has given Sherry opportunity to meet new people, learn Canadian culture, and explore her newfound faith in Christ. Sherry writes: “I was greatly encouraged by Norah and other wonderful friends who journeyed with me, helping me adapt to my new culture, sharing Jesus’ love in practical ways.”
Sherry attends church activities and volunteers as an ESL kids instructor to teach English with art and crafts. “One of my ambitions,” she says, “is to use my gifts and abilities to inspire the next generation, and lead them to know Christ.”
*FOCUS stands for Friends of Overseas College and University Students. It’s an international students club led by ISMC staff and volunteers.