By Julie Cole
Isabel Chow is a long way from home.
The Hong Kong native came to Canada to attend Grade 10 at Caronport High School this year. She chose CHS because her cousin previously attended Grade 12 at the school.
“In Hong Kong it’s quite common to go study overseas because we don’t have many universities,” Chow said. “Only 17 per cent of students can go to university in Hong Kong.”
Chow couldn’t have chosen a destination more different than her home.
Tiny Caronport has a population of just over 900 people – except when Briercrest College and Seminary is in session, when the population nearly doubles.
Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated areas of the world, crams seven million people into 426 square miles.
When Chow describes her home and her church she stretches her arms straight up into the air to resemble the sky scrapers that are so common to Hong Kong, making it the world’s most vertical city.
“My church is quite different,” she said laughing. “It’s in a high rise building and 10,000 people come every Sunday.”
Church isn’t the only difference Chow has found between Caronport and Hong Kong.
“In Hong Kong if you say hi to a stranger they seriously think you’re mentally crazy,” she insisted. “They think you’re up to something. Even in the elevator we don’t look at each other or talk. I like being around all the friendly people here.”
Some other differences that Chow has encountered haven’t been so welcomed.
“When I first came to the cafeteria . . . I had never had raw carrots – never raw broccoli or raw celery,” she recounted. “How on earth could anyone eat these? But now I’m eating them every day. In Hong Kong there are lots of fresh vegetables, but we cook them.”
Other common cafeteria foods were strange fare for the Hong Kong native.
“I never had peanut butter on an apple before – or jello – it’s like jelly,” she said wrinkling up her nose. “I miss sushi and Shang Hai food. They are my favourite.”
Chow misses one thing more than all others.
“I miss my parents!” she said emphatically. “I never really knew what miss meant until I came here. (When) I was young I went to camp a lot – three days to two weeks – and I didn’t really miss my parents. Now I miss my parents so much.”
In the midst of her times of homesickness, Chow finds comfort in the dorms at CHS.
“In the dorm you never feel lonely,” she said. “There’s always someone next to your wall – even if you don’t have a roommate. There are lots of dorm activities.”
The Grade 10 student, who plays the violin, piano, guitar, and drums, is fueled by the chances CHS gives her to participate in different musical productions and worship teams.
“There are so many opportunities for worshipping,” she said. “I like to be with music a lot. I enjoy it so much. If there’s no music, I’m gonna die.”
As the school year winds down, Chow is anticipating going home for the summer break. She plans on coming back next year and has positive words to say about her high school experience so far.
“(CHS) is very, very unique,” she stated. “This place helps you understand what Christianity is. This place has totally strengthened my faith. I used to be really scared about revealing my faith (in) Christ. But in this place there’s no fear to do that. When you go out (from here) you’re not scared.”