From Beijing to the Faculty of Education – one student’s odyssey

By: Gerry Rucchin
July 20, 2018

Jiawei Gao graduated with a Master’s degree this summer. He started his journey to the Faculty of Education at an International Expo in Beijing.

Jiawei Gao graduated with a Master’s degree this summer. He started his journey to the Faculty of Education at an International Expo in Beijing.

Finding yourself. It’s a road. But, at the end of the road is fulfillment. For one graduate, the road wound its way through a British university, Beijing and ended at the Faculty of Education.

Jiawei Gao recently graduated with a Master’s of Professional Education (MPEd) degree. He describes life as a soccer match – a game made up of two halves, which are separated by a 15-minute half-time. The first half of his life was filled as a young man going through school and beginning his work career. While working for a decade at a British university, he reached his half time – he needed a change.

“I think I lost my direction and I thought I wanted to try something new and explore new opportunities,” said Gao.

Graduate studies and Canada beckoned. He chose Canada because his cousin immigrated to Toronto in 2016 and several friends suggested he go to school in Canada. In particular, they encouraged him to apply to Western.

Having family connections to Canada, encouragement from friends to apply to Western and Western’s excellent academic reputation in China, led Gao to visit Western Education’s booth at the International Expo in Beijing in October 2016.

Gao was impressed. The faculty’s MPEd in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program interested him. He also liked that it was a one-year program. Western’s close proximity to Toronto as well as being the only university from Southern Ontario at the Expo, convinced Gao to apply to Western.

There were still some bumps on the road to the Faculty of Education. As an international student, Gao needed additional English language training to ensure success at the faculty. He enrolled in the Western English Language Centre’s (WELC) Boost program in July 2017. It’s nine-weeks of training for students who are just below the English standard for admission to their degree program. Gao spent six hours a day in class developing his reading, writing and grammar skills.

“It’s a very good foundation. After I took the Boost program and started graduate studies, it was really easy for me,” said Gao.

It wasn’t just all work during his time at the Boost program. There were opportunities for fun as the WELC team made him feel part of the Western community.

“The WELC office organized a number of activities for us last summer, such as trips to Niagara Falls and Toronto, games and barbecues. This gives us a chance to talk to other people,” he said.

Once he completed the Boost program, Gao started the MPEd in TESOL degree last June. He enjoyed it. He said the facilities were great, the lectures excellent and the faculty and staff were friendly. He graduated with his Master’s degree this summer.  

What’s next for Gao? Well, he wants to stay in Canada because he likes the people and he feels he can contribute to society.

“The people here are warm and down-to-earth. Strangers greet each other and we can have a chat,” said Gao. “I’m confident that I can bring my values, previous experiences and links from China to support my community.”