If only Yan Jiang’s parents could have attended his convocation this spring. Their son smiled ear to ear when he stepped up to receive his bachelor of science degree.
Jiang, 24, is among the first cohort of Green Path students to graduate from U of T. The unique summer program helps students from mainland China hone their English and begin adjusting to Toronto’s vastly different culture before starting classes at University of Toronto Scarborough in the fall. The group lives in U of T Scarborough townhouse residences and takes classes together on campus. “Even though I am far away from my family, Green Path makes me feel I am not alone,” says Jiang, who is looking for a job in Toronto so he can gain North American work experience.
When Jiang attended Green Path in 2005, there were 15 students. This summer, 148 enrolled. Chinese students come to U of T because English fluency and a degree from one of the best international universities is needed to assume a leadership role in China. In Mandarin, Green Path means “the way to success.”
U of T, eager to enrol outstanding students, has partnered with elite high schools in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Tianjin. “We want the best and brightest from everywhere in the world,” says Don MacMillan, UTSC’s registrar and director of enrolment services, who helped start the program.
“[The distance is] incredibly difficult on their parents,” says MacMillan, who travels to China twice a year to interview top Grade 12 students. “Almost all of the students are from single-child families, and these kids are the apple of their parents’ eyes.” Jiang has only been able to go home to Suzhou, near Shanghai, three times. In four years, he has completed his degree (he majored in computer science) and a one-year co-op placement. He accomplished this feat by taking courses over the summers, studying both Saturday and Sunday and frequently pulling all-nighters to finish lab projects.
Green Path readies students for a rigorous schedule. It includes a 12-week academic preparation program, run by the School of Continuing Studies and U of T Scarborough, which requires students to take classes full days Monday to Friday and complete two to four hours of homework each night. “The focus is academic English,” explains Lisa Morgan, senior manager, academic, at Continuing Studies’ English Language Program. “The students learn to write research papers with footnotes and a bibliography. They learn about intellectual property, how to participate in class discussions. We even have profs come in and deliver lectures so they’ll know what to expect when their courses start.”
But on weekends, students visit Niagara Falls, the CN Tower and Canada’s Wonderland. And members of the Green Path Association, made up of former students, help ease the new arrivals into daily life in Toronto. In their 20-page Life Guide, they explain what “business casual” is, and their website gives the TTC routes to Price Chopper and Walmart.
Many students are also picking up basic life skills from Green Path, such as making dinner and doing laundry. “In almost every case, the students have never gone grocery shopping, never cooked, never cleaned,” says MacMillan. “Their parents took care of everything so their child could focus on their studies.”