Winnipeg's Chinese community is getting younger and hipper as post-secondary students from mainland China flock to the Manitoba capital by the hundreds.
The University of Manitoba -- like schools of higher learning around the world -- is seeing an influx of international students from the world's most populous nation. And many of these students plan to set down roots in Winnipeg when they're done their studies.
In 2010, the most recent year in which statistics are available, there were nearly 1,200 international students from China enrolled at the U of M in either undergraduate programs or language training.
Hundreds of Chinese international students are also enrolled at the University of Winnipeg, Brandon University and Red River College. And the International College of Manitoba (located on the U of M campus but not part of the institution) has about 200 language students from China.
Helen Wang, an international student adviser at the U of M, says competition is keen from universities across North America and around the globe for foreign students, many of whom come from China.
Wang, a former international student herself, has travelled to China twice on recruiting missions on behalf of the U of M. Foreign students pay higher tuition fees -- in excess of $10,000 for a full-time student. Those fees are an important source of revenue for the university.
Chinese students come to Canada for the education -- and the job opportunities here. They often choose Manitoba because of its comparatively lower tuition costs and the reputation of its provincial nominee immigration program. The students come from well-to-do families, many of whom buy homes for their kids to live in while they're studying.
Zhibo Yang, 24, a commerce student at the U of M, said he learned about Winnipeg from a former high school classmate who came to study here. He said he plans to look for a job in the city when he graduates in a year's time.
Yang's girlfriend joined him in Winnipeg once he was established here. She's studying accounting at Red River College.
Yang, who wants to be an accountant or a financial analyst, said he's not tempted to search for work elsewhere once he graduates. "If I move to another city, it will be a brand-new start and I won't know anyone," he said.
Beibei Lu, who worked as a travel magazine editor and photographer in Shanghai before enrolling in a master's program in recreational management last year, said she's found Winnipeg to be a friendly and welcoming place.
Canadians are unconcerned about social status and don't treat her differently because she's an international student, she said. "They just treat you as who you are."