When she became an exchange student through Rotary International, Taiwanese native Cherry Chien realized a dream that she’s had since she was in the fifth grade.
She has been in Stettler for nine months, and is gearing up to head home in July, but not before her parents come to visit her and experience Canada for themselves.
“The first impression when I came here was ‘wow, there are no people,’” Chien said. “I remember the first time I went to Red Deer – it was three weeks after I arrived – and I was like ‘There are people here; I missed the crowd of people so much.’”
She’s had a lot of new experiences since being here, including bobsledding just last week. She said that it was bumpy and she felt sick afterwards – so it’s safe to say that she won’t be revisiting that particular aspect of Canada.
Before she went on exchange, Chien had to fill out an application form and then undergo an interview, since exchanges like this are popular in Taiwan. Prospective exchange students receive a mark and are allowed to choose a destination based on how good their mark is.
Chien chose Canada and was originally supposed to go to High River, but was diverted to Stettler because of the flood last summer.
“I’m glad it’s spring,” is the first thing she says when asked about her Canadian experience. She also liked West Edmonton Mall and Heritage Park in Calgary.
The coldest it gets in her hometown is eight degrees, and she gets headaches at 15 degrees, so the winter was an adjustment for her.
She enjoyed celebrating holidays in Canada, and dressed up like she was from the ‘80s for Halloween last year, as Wildcat Theatre was promoting their musical “Back to the ‘80s” at the time.
As part of her Rotary duties, Chien attends luncheons every week and updates the Rotary Club on her experiences. As well, she is tasked with giving advice to the outbound exchange student, a Stettler student who will be going to Taiwan in December.
She said that attending William E. Hay was a bit hard at first since everyone has been friends since kindergarten, but eventually she fit in.
“I made lots of friends in drama class and they’re pretty fun people,” she said.
She added that Canadian schools are a lot more relaxed than schools in Taiwan, where students aren’t allowed to leave school grounds for the eight hour day.
She participated in grad ceremonies this past weekend, and while she admits that she was nervous before the ceremony, ultimately she had a good time.
“It was really cool for me,” she said. “My grad partner was a cowboy. It was a Canadian experience.”
When her family arrives, she’s going to give them a Canadian experience as well. They will see Drumheller, Edmonton for Canada Day, Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, and then to Calgary for the Stampede.
But this may not be the last Canada sees of Chien – she is thinking about attending university here to become a nutritionist.