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Program prepares Chinese students for life in Canada

by Don campbell

A unique program at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) is helping prepare students from mainland China for life as university students in Canada.

The Green Path program recruits top students from high schools in mainland China to participate in an academic and ESL program that prepares them for undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. In addition to working on academic skills such as reading, writing, grammar, and listening to and speaking English, they also get help as they adapt to life in Canada.

“Green Path is a special program because it connects students from China with students from Canada in a global village right here in Scarborough,” says UTSC Principal Franco Vaccarino. “It really speaks to U of T’s commitment to internationalism.”

The Green Path students live in UTSC residence for 12 weeks while participating in a range of social activities and field trips to popular tourist sites in Toronto and the GTA. They also receive life-skill training including cooking and food safety, as well as information on personal safety, health services and transit. Students also get to experience the different classroom etiquette and teaching styles in Canada, including instructions on how to avoid plagiarism.

“For many of the students this is their first time living away from home, and the classroom experience is different from what they are used to in China,” says Jack Martin, director of business development and international programs at UTSC. “If you compare this experience to other international students coming Canada in early September and are unfamiliar with the city, it can be quite a challenge for them to successfully adapt.”

Once students successfully complete the program they go directly into first-year undergraduate studies at U of T. Green Path, which translates from Chinese as ‘the way to success,’ is taught by faculty members from the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies’ English Language program.

This year, 196 students from 19 different provinces in China participated in the program and more than 900 students have participated since its inception in 2005. Many program graduates go on to extraordinary academic success, with more than half of the courses taken by Green Path graduates resulting in scores in the B+ range.

“What the School of Continuing Students (SCS) has done through this program is create the gold-standard of English-language education and training,” says Martin.

The challenge of experiencing a new country at one of the world’s top post-secondary institutions is what attracted the program’s valedictorian Frank Mo.

He is impressed by how friendly Canadians are and how clean the country is, but more importantly remains grateful for the life-skills training offered through the program. “Now I can rely on more than just Subway in order to survive,” he says with a smile.

Mo, who is from Hangzhou, China and plans to major in Mathematics once the semester starts, is proud of all the hard work his fellow classmates have put into the program in preparation for the upcoming semester.  “We are ready to take responsibility for ourselves because the (Green Path) program provides us with a chance to get ready for life in Canada,” he says.

The program has been such as success that the future goal is to expand the program beyond China into other countries in Asia and Europe.

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Students from the Green Path program were joined by the Chinese Consulate and UTSC Principal Franco Vaccarino to help celebrate the recent graduation ceremony. Photo by Ken Jones.
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